Policies and legislation affecting Early Years Practitioners

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This module will explore the changing features of different Early Years settings, working with other professional and the skills and the core skills of those workers. It will look at the policies and legislation affecting Early Years Practitioners and the beliefs and values that ensure quality childcare. It will also include observations and problems created by working within the current guidelines.

Historically homes had no appliances so a woman's occupation was chores and childcare, other family members lived locally and helped. With increasing school leaving age and new appliances women could fill freed time with jobs and increased income meant more appliances. Government policy supported women working; they had careers, luxuries became necessities, families dispersed moving to the work and alternative childcare was sought. This led to more childcare requirements providing parental peace of mind rather than education and preparation for life. The quality provided was diverse and various programmes were introduced through law, policy and consultation to meet the growing needs of parents and their children.

The Children Act 1989 provided legislation for under-eights, introducing quality standards for all children's services using a registration and an annual inspection (reports to be made available to parents) system maintained by local authorities. In addition they had to carry out checks on over eighteen year olds who came into contact with children, ensure that the premises used were suitable and set staff : child ratios. Children had to be helped to get the most from planned activities.

The Act's failings were that it did not allow access to at risk children, provided insufficient emergency protection, allowed inappropriate Care Orders so that a child could be taken into care unchallenged. It did allow children and their families to be heard but this was seen a problem removing Local Authorities autonomy.

The Special Educational Needs Code of Practice (1994) was the first that defined the roll of the SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) appointed for each setting.

In 1997 the Labour Government stated in their manifesto:

Previously there had been no measurable standards and establishments worked alone. Investment in the National Childcare Strategy (1998) provided more affordable, quality childcare places so parents could work satisfied that their children were safe and well looked after. More training was made available and to accommodate free childcare places for three year olds childminders could become accredited. Early Learning Goals replaced Desirable Outcomes within the Foundation Stage.

Sure Start Local Programmes were an initiative started in 1997 to give every child the best start to achieved their full potential, initially 250 centres were opened to support parents, in disadvantaged areas, with early education (from birth to four), childcare and health. In 2004 Sure Start Local Programmes and Neighbourhood Nurseries became Sure Start Children's Centres and are now accessible to every district. They are now meant to be self-maintained but this has not happened and funding has been cut. They advertise themselves as:

The social expectation is that parents should return to work and the care given will provide children with the best start possible implying that wrap around childcare is best but ignores possible developmental problems such as not providing secure attachment, although a key worker is provided, the hours that the centres are open means that they work shifts. More importantly they have failed in their original remit as their qualities are recognised by the 'middle classes'.

The Laming Report resulted in the green paper, Every Child Matters (ECM) (2003), highlighting poor communication and lack of information sharing between agencies' particularly health and education, when protecting children. It focused on five outcomes:

Children's Act 2004 provided the legislation enforcing local authorities and central government to meet some requirements of ECM particularly regarding multi-disciplinary working.

Public outcry to the anti-smacking clause resulted inclusion of a definition of smacking. The Children's Commissioner lacked power and this continues to cause concern. One agency had to be in overall control; Local Authorities were appointed but other agencies felt marginalised. There was valid concern about data sharing as there have been several occasions when data has been made visible on the internet.

After consultation ECM: The Next Step (2004) stated that aged five children should completed the foundation stage so be ready for school narrowing the gap in the 20% most disadvantaged. ECM: Change for Children covered inclusion for special needs.

Although the Childcare Act 2006 states that local authorities have to provide information, advice and help for children up to 20 years, it was also given a duty to provide childcare providers information, advice and training, to ensure sufficient childcare to meet parental demand and be duty bound to improve the ECM outcomes. It merged Birth to Three, the Foundation Stage and National Standards for Under Eights Day Care and Childminding into the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) with the expectation of providing high standards of early education from birth to five and recognising over fives need different care. Childcare providers in Hampshire work within their authority's interpretation of the act.

EYFS advocated supporting each child in reaching developmental goals, none being left behind, by focusing on the same five outcomes as ECM. The Statutory Framework for the Foundation Stage (May 2008) aims to

EYFS does not embrace diversity particularly in culture or make allowance for special needs. Experiences should be child led so right for each child but they are still kept with peer groups maybe should be more flexible only allow so far behind then special school The anti-EYFS petition stated that as it is mandatory for all childcare and education to follow the same format removing parental choice. Children can no longer be prepared for school so the problems with transition are addressed in school.

Multi-agency consultation is pivotal ECM but practitioners continued to rely upon previous assessments and each practitioner assessed the child within their particular remit, no-one looked at the child as a whole, leading to multiple assessments' resulting in wasted money and frustration for all parties; this was corrected with Common Assessment Framework (CAF) (2007).

The current government agree that every child should fulfil their potential but feel that the key is parental background. They acknowledge that without good quality childcare this is less likely to be met. They cite that

However, when their education ends the economy needs to meet the expectations of these children

A report commissioned from Leon Feinstein which illustrated that early intervention was needed citing information as much as 40 years old ignoring the impact modern practice.

They intend funding early learning and childcare for 20,000 most disadvantage two year olds and extend free childcare (EYE). Most of the 5% that do not currently access EYE come from disadvantaged families; Sure Start Health Visitors remit will be to attract these families.

Although the changes in law and policy since 1989 were needed it would have been better if they had been proactive or put into place after consultation with end users (practitioners, parents and children) not just 'experts' and not fixing problems as they occur. Funding has given choices to the poorest and means all practitioners have access to training both required and of choice.

Policy continues to change; Education.gov.uk EYFS is under review to extend tests 5 year olds. As result of a child abuse case part of the Serious Case Review report summary states

It would be easier to use personal camera memory in a settings phone so more thought is needed before implication.

Childcare workers need to have . Additionally they must enjoy being with children, care about them, encourage, listen, stimulate and extend imagination, helping them learn as individuals and watch and record their growth.

Many workers bad life experience, repressed not want children to do same and cope with it not end up like me.

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