Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Workplace bullying in the early years - is there a problem?

Whilst I was doing a bit of research for a chapter I am writing, it struck me here is a lot of literature about being the leader or manager of a team in the early years. But there isn't much about people's actual experiences of being led. Looking back at my own time as a young teacher working in nursery and reception classes, it struck me that there is quite a big grey area between inspirational leaders who expect - and achieve - the highest standards, and over-bearing, obsessive types who pick up on every little thing and make the team feel terrified of making a mistake.

Perhaps the stakes are much higher now, too: back then, there was less pressure. With poor Ofsted outcomes leading to schools being forced to become academies and early years settings losing their funding for two-year olds, things might well be a lot worse now.

I have not been able to find anything specific about the problem of workplace bullying in the early years, but there are several reasons why it is likely to be significant.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, it seems that bullying is more of a problem in the "caring professions" than it is anywhere else, though reliable information is hard to come by.

For example, the UK National Workplace Bullying Adviceline reported in 2004 that staff from education, healthcare and social care were the most likely to contact them about being bullied and other reports have claimed that workplace bullying is rife in education (e.g. Guardian, 2012; BBC 2011)  and healthcare (e.g. Nursing Times 2013, . Indeed, David Prior, chair of the Care Quality Commission, noted in 2014 that many hospitals had a “toxic” bullying culture that “stigmatises and ostracises those who raise concerns or complaints”. 

Could much the same could be said of schools and early years settings?

P.S - since I posted this, Laura Henry has emailed me about her own post on workplace culture in the early years which is well worth a read.



Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Cambridge Primary Review Trust - challenging aspects of early child education

Every now and then, a major piece of research is published which is so important that we should stop just 'doing what we do' and pause to reflect and review.
For example, over the past two decades the reports from the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) project have influenced almost every aspect of early years practice, from pedagogy, planning and assessment, to leadership, resourcing and buildings, all the way up to local and national government policy.
The New Zealand government's seminal review of research into provision for children up to the age of two, written by Carmen Dalli and others, prompted many of us to rethink the conventional view that the focus for children up to two should be solely on care, leaving early education until later. It strengthened too arguments against the view that lower-skilled and lower-paid practitioners might be suitable to work in baby rooms.
Now to give us pause for thought is 'Children's cognitive development and learning', a research paper from Professor Usha Goswami, director of the Centre for Neuroscience in Education. Published earlier this year, the paper is part of the Cambridge Primary Review Trust research survey, and is highly significant. Here, I will focus on just a few of the important areas of research that Goswami covers and consider the implications for early years practice.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

EYFS practice: mentoring

The biggest motivator for practitioners working in the early years must surely be the desire to make a difference to the lives of children and their families. There are few things more satisfying than seeing young children make big steps forward in their development: to see a child bouncing in happily, who only a week ago seemed reluctant and overwhelmed at the nursery gate, to hear parents say that the work of the nursery has really helped their child with something tricky like beginning to play alongside others, or starting to say a few words.

If we pause and think some more about this motivation, we can see that it is really a dynamic situation which results from how different elements interact: an individual practitioner may come into work with energy and enthusiasm, but all of that will be lost if the workplace does not enable that individual to feel confident, supported and able to make good use of their ideas and their skills.

Read more (requires subscription to Nursery World)

Photo: Justin Thomas

Saturday, 7 March 2015

‘A day in the life’ – Tackling inequality in Newham

It’s a typical Monday morning at Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre. In the reception space, the flow of parents and young children surges and then trickles. First there are the 90 children coming to our nursery school, some stepping up their pace and looking excitedly for friends, others hanging back or clinging that extra bit more tightly to their mum or dad for a few last moments. The nursery team are making porridge with the children this morning. Soon, the Forest School team will be getting ready to spend a couple of hours with a group of children in the wild corner of the local park we’ve made our own. Just once in a while a parent needs a reminder that we are a no-mobile zone – we’re all here to listen and talk to the children. These are just some of the ways the nursery school has worked closely with health colleagues to boost children’s health and development in early communication, nutrition, fitness and stamina.

Read the rest of this post on Viv Bennett's blog (Department of Health)

Friday, 27 February 2015

Friday, 19 December 2014

Being an early years practitioner...one historical perspective: a presentation to the PGCE students at UEL

It was very enjoyable to return to the University of East London this year through a kind invitation from Fran Paffard and talk to PGCE students about some historical perspectives on early education and the changing ways that children and practitioners are seen. You can download my PowerPoint or view it in the player below -