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17th EECERA Annual Conference Exploring Vygotsky’s Ideas: Crossing Borders Prague 2007 Symposium III /22 Policy of Early Education in Different Countries.

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Presentation on theme: "17th EECERA Annual Conference Exploring Vygotsky’s Ideas: Crossing Borders Prague 2007 Symposium III /22 Policy of Early Education in Different Countries."— Presentation transcript:

1 17th EECERA Annual Conference Exploring Vygotsky’s Ideas: Crossing Borders Prague 2007 Symposium III /22 Policy of Early Education in Different Countries

2 Professional Identity in the Early Years Workforce in England: Introducing Voice and Visibility Gillian McGillivray Senior Lecturer in Early Years Newman College of Higher Education in Birmingham, England.

3 ‘The only freedom that is of enduring importance is freedom of intelligence, that is to say, freedom of observation and of judgement exercised on behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worth while’ (Dewey 1938 p61)

4 Political context Reconfiguration of children’s services: delivery of education, health and social care in each authority (region) now unified under the leadership of a ‘Director of Children’s Services’ Regulation and inspection regimes becoming standardised and universal across childcare and education providers Reforming the children’s workforce: research shows ‘that the key workforce factors contributing to the quality of this (early years) experience are: staff with higher qualifications, staff with leadership skills and long-serving staff’ (DfES 2005a, p34) Early Years Professional Status was introduced in 2006: a graduate profession, to be assessed for EYPS - ‘professionalisation’ of the workforce Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce published (DfES 2005b)

5 Historical context Those working with young children were known mostly as nannies or nursery nurses (McGillivray 2007) Low paid, low status employees with poor conditions and few progression opportunities (Cameron 2004, Sylva and Pugh 2005) No significant focus for research or debate until the 1970s (McGillivray 2007) Accepted qualifications levels varied by sector (private, voluntary, statutory, independent) but usually ranged from unqualified to level 3 (Bertram and Pascal 2001, Starting Strong II 2007)

6 Personal context Professional experience in further education, working with students on training courses at levels 1-4 Conversations indicated reasons for entering the EY workforce were sometimes opportunistic, cultural, connected to personal histories, convenience, vocational, gender Other conversations indicated that some of those who advise young people about careers in EY had views that perpetuated gender bias and low status

7 Research focus What discourse has shaped the professional identity of the early years workforce in England? Historically, sociologically, culturally: what has ‘gone before’ to influence professional identity? What notions (constructs, discourse) of professional identity are held by members of the early years workforce themselves? What notions (constructs, discourse) of professional identity are held by those on the periphery of the early years workforce? What is the interplay/ interface between the discourse of the workforce and the discourse of those around them? What are the implications for members of the workforce (current, potential workers); parents and their children; policy, and others connected to the workforce?

8 What is professional identity? ‘The relationships between social structures and individual agency; between notions of a socially constructed, and therefore contingent and ever-remade ‘self’, and a ‘self’ with dispositions, attitudes and and behavioural responses which are durable and relatively stable; and between cognitive and emotional identities’ (Day et al 2006, p601).

9 Professional identities Use of ideological effects to shape the discourse of the ‘official’ (through social policy etc) to determine the potential ‘treatment’ of children Link between prevailing discourses and contemporary priorities and practices Dynamic tension between ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ levels- roles, relationships expectations Influence of training- changing curriculum objectives and methods of assessment Figure 1. Factors involved in the construction of professional identity (Tucker 2004, p88) What is Professional Identity?

10 Historical Discourse (McGillivray 2007) Documents reviewed for discourse that related to the early years workforce in England, 1940s to 2006 Periodicals, magazines, text books were the main sources consulted (Gillis 1981, Griffin 1993, Fealy 2004) Revealed that there was scant mention until 1970s, possibly due to economic and political factors such as increasing numbers of mothers seeking employment and changes in government Discourse suggests issues of professional values, personal qualities, ideology, status, gender, training, qualifications and careers are significant for the workforce Authors tended to be academics, researchers, experts in education and politicians

11 Continuing Research Group and individual interviews with practitioners Practitioners with varying levels of qualification; experience; in different sectors Interviews with those more peripheral to the workforce Interviews designed to explore themes of professional values, personal qualities, ideology, status, gender, training, qualifications and careers Also to explore constructs of professional identity, role conflict, tensions, day-to-day lives, ideologies and power relationships

12 Group Interview Findings Initial interviews undertaken,but refinement and modification required Tentative themes of subversion, isolation, frustration, division, change and uncertainty within conversations with school based practitioners working in Foundation Stage (FS) Units (children aged 3-5 years)

13 Discussions include: ‘Well, I decided to do it anyway’ ‘We’re not able to use the staff room at the same time as everyone else’ ‘We’re (Foundation Stage) not mentioned in staff meetings or when discussing prizes for children’ ‘There’s a real ‘them and us’’ ‘The teacher I work with is very supportive, but the Headteacher isn’t interested’ ‘They (other staff in the school) don’t know what we do here (in the Foundation Stage). There’s no animosity, just a misunderstanding.’ ‘The FS teacher likes having me as an extra voice alongside (against?) the Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 teachers.’ (teachers of 5-7 and 8-11 respectively)

14 Themes and theories to support analysis Tucker (2004): professional identity Lave and Wenger (1991): communities of practice and situated learning Bourdieu (1990), Foucault: social and cultural capital, power and social control Giddens (1979, 1991): self identity, modernity, agency and structure Gilligan (1993): feminism Eraut (1994), Freidson (2001): professionalism Schon (1987) : reflective practice Kelly (1963): personal construct theory

15 References Bertram T. and Pascal C. (2001) The OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care: Background Report for the UK. Available online at, accessed on Bernstein B. (1996) Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: theory, research and critique. London: Taylor and Francis Bourdieu P. and Passeron J-C. (1990) Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. London: sage Publications Cameron C. (2004) Building an integrated workforce for a long term vision of universal early education and care. Policy Paper Number 3. Daycare Trust Day C., Kington A., Stobart G. and Sammons P. (2006) The personal and professional selves of teachers: stable and unstable identities. British Educational Research Journal. Vol 32, No 4, August, pp 601-616. Dewey J.(1938) Experience and Education. New York: Simon and Schuster Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2005a) Children’s Workforce Strategy Consultation London: DfES DfES (2005b) Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce. London: DfES Eraut M. (1994) Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence. London: Routledge Falmer Evetts J. (2006) Short Note: The Sociology of Professional Groups. Current Sociology. Vol 54, No 1, pp133-143.

16 References (contd) Fealy G. M. (2004) ‘The good nurse’: visions and values in images of the nurse. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 46 (6), pp 649 – 656. Freidson E. (2001) Professionalism. The Third Logic. Cambridge: Polity Press Giddens A. (1979) Central Problems in Social Theory. London: Macmillan Giddens A. (1991) Modernity and Self-identity. Cambridge: Polity Press Gilligan C. (1993) In a Different Voice. Cambridge, Mass, USA: Harvard University Press Gillis J. R. (1981) Youth and History. New York: Academic Press Griffin C. (1993) Representations of Youth. Cambridge: Polity Press Kelly G. (1963) A Theory of Personality. New York: Norton Lave J. And Wenger E. (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press McGillivray G (2007) Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Reflections on the Early Years Professional. Unpublished MPhil Dissertation. March 2007 University of Sheffield, England. Sauve Bell (2004) Early Years Workforce Development Evidence Paper. Ampthill: Sauve Bell Associates Schőn D. (1987) Educating the Reflective Practitioner. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers Starting Strong II (2007) Early Childhood Education and Care. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Sylva K. and Pugh G. (2005) Transforming the Early Years in England. Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp 11-27 Tucker S. (2004) Youth Working: Professional Identities Given, Received or Contested? Chapter 9 in Roche J., Tucker S., Thomson R. and Flynn R. (eds) Youth in Society. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publications

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