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My setting is a small rural Church of England Voluntary Controlled primary school with approximately 75 children and approximately 12 teaching staff including the head and teaching assistants. The staff work, on a part and full time basis. There are 3 mixed ability and mixed age classes. Class 1 consists of reception, year 1 and half of year 2 children. It is interesting to note that the half of year 2 children are all boys. Class 2 is the other half of year 2, year 3 and half of year 4, again mainly boys. Class 3 consists of the rest of year 4, 5 and 6. This is an old village school with modern additions. There are two separate play areas including hard surface and grass areas and play equipment.
In 2009 education league tables my setting was in the top third. The setting performed below national average in 2008 for year 6 Standard Attainment Tests (SATS) however in 2009 we were slightly above the national average. In 2009 30.8% of year 6 children were identified as having special needs, from a class of 13. (bbc.co.uk. Accessed 22 Id April 2010) In the last OFSTED report 2007 the setting achieved an overall score of 2- Good. The major feeder for the setting is the local pre-school.
I view my own role in the setting is to enable and support each child. It is of key importance that I, as it is for all practitioners to I view my own role in the setting is to enable and support each child. It is key importance that I, as it is for all practitioners to identify any need of a child be it physical or emotional or in way affects the holistic well being of the child.
“All early years’ staff are committed to putting children first: ‘the welfare of the child is paramount’ (Children Act 1989).” (Hobart and Frankel 2003:123)
All barriers to a child’s growth and life chances must be addressed. If a child has a need that may not be fully met by the practitioners alone within the setting the lead practitioner must be informed to alert and call in the team of outside agencies to meet with the parents and practitioners in the setting to provide the best service to ‘ meet the needs of that child. This is in line with the Governments vision of integrated front-line delivery of services to improve future outcomes of children and their families.
(It is crucial for practitioners to act as facilitators. To meet the needs of a child the role of a practitioner is to first identify the need and if necessary share the information with other specialists and other outside agencies to aid the process of better outcomes for that child. Individual Learning Plans and Common Assessment Forms are useful tools for collaborative working. Communication is the key to executing strategies and building positive working relationships. It is a vital role of my practice to develop and maintain relations to the other organisations. Relationships develop and change over time. It is through critical reflection and analysis that practitioners can think and improve their practice.
There are many different ways that the Setting communicates with the different groups. There are different levels of formality and speed required. For example in a child safeguarding situation, urgent action may need to be taken. Action could be initiated by a means of a telephone call followed by written statements. Other forms of communication include minuted meetings, for example parents and a Local Educational Authority and Practitioner meet to discuss an Action Plan for an individual child. Written reports form the core of an Individual Learning Plan for a child with additional needs. Other reports include OFSTED Action Plans agreed with the Head Practitioner and the Governors.
For example member A of the Behavioural Support Team called a meeting with the Head Practitioner and the two named Practitioner supporting a child with challenging behaviour. The reason for the meeting was to discuss the effectiveness of the latest action plan that they had created for a child in class 1.
The Head Practitioner had received the plan of new strategies but had not shared the information with the other practitioners therefore the new methods of dealing with certain behaviour had not been implemented due to the lack of communication between members at the Setting.
On reflection of this critical incident, I wonder why the child’s parents were had not invited to the meeting to share their views on how best to support their child in the Setting. This is an example of top-down management. In my role as an Early Years Works I need full access to the information necessary for individually supporting each child otherwise Every Child Matters will not work.
The power is most definitely with the specialist to instruct the setting to carry out a plan of action with different support mechanisms. This is as a direct result for government inclusion policy, but the practitioner cannot implement the plan if the setting does not have an open or transparent communication policy. It is probably a weakness in management skills and a lack of democratic leadership skills that the lead practitioner does not share information. Alternatively this could be as a result of an overloading of responsibilities on one Head Practitioner. Thirdly the Head Practitioner may not trust the confidentiality of the staff.
In his book, The Reflective Practitioner, Donald Schon talks about the benefits of reflection. (infed.org Last Accessed 16th April 2010) This allows practitioners to explore the interactive processes which have impact on practice and outcomes of children, their families and their community. Through reflection practitioners may gauge the effectiveness of action taken at the Setting. Through reflection practitioners may focus and think about their own values and beliefs.
Reflection is an important tool to evaluate and improve one’s practice. The process allows a deeper understanding of the impact of practice on a child’s development. Knowledge gained from the whole procedure should shape practice and the sharing of information and experiences with other practitioner will raise issues for discussion which will ultimately benefit both practitioners and children. This method should lead to improved practice and greater understanding of issues in the setting.
I have critically reflected on improving the communication links between the practitioner and behavioral unit. One way round this, could be for the behavioural team to feel sufficiently confident to send the information directly to the Early Years Practitioner who is working directly with the child. There may be an issue of power or positioning. Possibly the behavioral team perceive themselves as professional elite and recognise the Head Practitioner as equal in professional status
Another member of the behavioural support team, older, wiser and more experienced, took a different approach regarding the same child.
Met with behavioural support worker B regarding child possibly on the Autistic Spectrum. He asked for feedback on the child’s behaviour and well being. He specifically asked if the child was ‘happy’ and engaging with the other children. He asked my opinion on what I thought would be the best strategy in supporting learning as he said “you have built up a relationship with the child” and he understood that I worked closely with the child on a day to day basis. (Reflective Journal November 2009)
On reflection the practitioners including myself, would have been in a better position to comment if more information had been made available to me, in preparation to the meeting. I would like to have been fully informed and kept up to date with the latest information as I was one of the named persons for that child. This made the meeting a waste of time as I was unable to comment on how the child had responded to the new board and methods as I had not created the new teaching resources. The Head Practitioner had received the previous report and recommendation from the behavioural unit but this information was not shared with any of the other practitioners. Consequently no action had been taken by the practitioners supporting the child. (Reflective Journal October 2009)
My ability to reflect on failures and successes in the use of different communication styles between professionals will enable me to ask for information in order to do my job. So reflection is an important process which aids professional development and practice. The aim is to include and enable all children using specific plans for inclusion. A practitioner professional duty is to use critical thinking and critical action as a tool to improve life chances and promote a healthy quality of life for individual children. This will bring the government policy of Every Child Matters into reality within my Setting.
“The Government recognises the crucial role of parents, carers and families in improving outcomes for children and young people and the need to provide support for parents, carers and families in order for them to do so. The Government also recognises the important role of the local community.” (Last Accessed 30-04-10 at bbc. co. uk)
Through ‘joined up working’ and positive partnerships, the needs and holistic wellbeing of every child should be met to realise the Governments vision of Every Child Matters.
The issues involving power and position of practitioner are complex. The flow of power has a direct effect on how a child and their family are supported. Power itself is a very tricky idea. Finding out where the power is involves at least two manoeuvres. First, we ask ourselves: who is in a position to influence or control the lives of whom? Secondly, we ask ourselves: in whose interests is this influence or control exerted?” (Walmsley et al 1997:131-132)
The question of power and status has a direct effect on relationships. Those who are at a similar level of position may be more inclined to share information, than with a person that they perceive to have a lower social status. Unequal power in relationships and partnerships may have an immense impact on the processes needed for joined up working and could directly affect the outcome for children.
It is important to understand the relationship between personal and social construction. The flow of power is a two-directional process. Each person’s actions are influenced by their values and beliefs. These actions effect children, families and the wider community. Their values and beliefs are affected by the community in which they live, so these values are shaped by social structure. Our social identity may change depending on experiences, relationships and social interactions. (Wabsley 1997:235-237)
Different practitioners have different views on their role. Beliefs of others may differ from the beliefs of self. For example other peer practitioners do not believe that it is also their responsibility to support and interact heavily with parents and family. They are happy to deal with other education professionals but they see parents as an obstacle to their work. There are also parents who do not wish to engage with practitioner. There are numerous reasons as to why parents and carers may not work effectively with the Setting. The barriers may be physical or concerning difficulties in communication. (Hobert and Frankel 2003:136) For example a lack of time for developing relationships or if they have the opinion that the practitioners are interfering or making judgements on the way they live; or had a poor educational experience and may feel intimidated by the educational environment. They may also not understand the value of engaging with the Setting.
The Government policy aims to bring about change with emphasis on empowerment and community development. This needs good partnerships between families, practitioners and the groups in the wider community.
This is not possible if all the practitioners do not share the same vision or if parents do not want to participate in partnerships with the Setting. Some parents are hard to reach and it can be problematic in deciding the best course of action. A practitioner needs to attempt to engage with parents whilst maintaining a professional distance. Parents and family are crucial members of ‘the team around the child’.
For all of a child’s needs to be met all groups that can provide a service to benefit the child must participate and work together towards a common goal.
13″Values are therefore linked to wider ideas which are woven into the social fabric and are often mixed and contradictory. We therefore need to expose and examine our own assumptions as professional workers.” (Lea 2010 Including and Enabling professional practice and inclusion notes)
The Government provide the Schools, National Health Service, Police and other agencies to support the family. The Government also conduct research to develop social policies to regulate and shape children’s lives to ultimately improve each child’s social outcome. Policies and frameworks for example, the Early Years Foundation stage and Every Child Matters are designed to guide Setting, Social Workers and other Health Professional to give every child a fairer chance in life.
Communication is an important step to try to improve the chances and opportunities of all children. If a setting fails to communicate effectively with an agency there have been extreme consequences for the child and family.
“Three children a week are dying of abuse or neglect at the hands of parents or guardians,…. including some already on the child protection register.” Last Accessed 2nd May 2010 at dailymail.co.uk
There may be an impact on the child due to domestic violence. Practitioners need to be vigilant and in tune with the child’s usual behaviour to notice differences in the attitude, health and well being of the child.
15 The Setting is the core of the diagram. Setting practitioners spend the most time with children and families and in a position to have the closest relationships.
The next group have less time in contact with the child, but have regular input for the support of the children in the setting. They are a part of the local community as well as the setting.
The third including OFSTED and LEA professionals are called in by the school specialists may have intensive time with a limited number of children on a 1:1 basis.
The fourth include Emergency services and the wider community groups. The motivation for community contact is to be ‘proud’ and social cohesion.
Finally the Government has overarching policies and how they resource and affect children families and the Setting.
The long-term outcomes may include children engaged with their community and this may lead to a sense of belonging and an increase in health, positive behaviour and well being. inter-professional and inter-agency working has a huge positive impact on the welfare of children. Government funding, resources and how practitioners support children impact on their self-esteem, progression and multiple issues concerning their life chances. It is the practitioner’s responsibility to ensure that the resources always get through to the individual child
Early Year practitioners are agents of change. They have the responsibility to ensure high quality early year provision. Their duty to meet the Early Year Foundation Stage involves the aim to constantly improve practice and work in partnership with parents and the wider community.
The building of supportive relationships with children requires listening effectively to their voice and all the voices of other groups and organisations that interact with the Setting and can influence the child’s life chances ‘Through reflection in action and reflection on action’ a practitioner may use experiences to aid professional development and meet the expectations of the Government.
The EYFS process is designed to take down the barriers between professions. The ‘team around the child’ should have shared values and aims in terms of the outcome of the child and family and consequently the community bought together by the government initiative. The EYPS will allow a better understanding of how the different groups collaborate and this should improve every child’s life chances. (ECM para) This builds on the core aims of Every Child Matters which was designed to give a fairer chance to all children. Be Healthy, economic independence.
The long-term Government vision is to narrow the gap between the children who achieve and those who do not by providing services to children and their families which is focused on the following five outcomes.
â€¢ Being healthy
â€¢ Staying safe
â€¢ Enjoying and achieving
â€¢ Making a positive contribution
â€¢ Economic well-being (Pugh and Duffy 2006:10)
The children from certain groups such as looked after children, traveller children, children with disability and the Gifted and Talented are often considered to be vulnerable to not having all their needs met. The development of Children’s services aims to integrate health, social and educational teams. For true integration to a team and take collective responsibility of the child.
The sharing of information is often crucial to position resources to best meet the needs of children. This encourages the development of good quality partnerships should lead to improved services for the child and their family.
This is politically driven, and if the government changed will there be the priority on the funding and focus of EYFS and ECM.
Political opinions “It is the government’s aim to have EYPs in all Children’s Centres offering early years provision by 2010 and in every full day care setting by 2015.” (Children’s Workforce Development Council Introduction and information guide:5)
The Labour government has focussed on child poverty using many initiatives. These include Family Tax Credits and Sure Start provision. These are part of a concerted programme created because it was identified that your start in the early years is directly related to your life chances. It has been recognised that the quality of parental skills is of importance. Research suggests that the level of education of practitioners has a direct effect on the outcome of the children in their care.
This is why the Government is up skilling the Early Years Workforce and promoting good parenting skills. There is research evidence of the benefits of good attachment for a child’s whole development.
The process of critical self reflection allows for the improvement of my own performance and the performance of my Setting. Every team member needs to jointly reflect on the ways that we can improve out communication and management of our links with the multiple agencies and the wider community. As a team this should be a part of our continual professional development.
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