Early Years Professional

Policy, evidence & politics in ECEC
Professor Denise Hevey
University of Northampton
BERA/ TACTYC conference
Winchester, April 30th 2013
• Outline current early years curriculum and
pedagogy in England
• Consider the research evidence and other
influences in relation to Early Years workforce
• Critically examine the idea of ‘evidence-based
Living with constant change
‘Liquid life’ is a kind of life that tends to be lived in a
liquid modern society. ‘Liquid modern’ is a society in
which the conditions under which its members act
change faster than it takes the ways of acting to
consolidate into habits and routines. (Bauman 2007:1)
The speed of change in government policies re:
Early Years has been unprecedented
ECEC in England
• Mixed economy of provision in maintained schools and
Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) sector
• Childcare Act 2006 effectively abolished distinction between
education and care for under fives
• All providers of ECEC must adhere to the Early Years
Foundation Stage (birth to 5) – inspected by Ofsted
• Compulsory primary schooling from September after child’s
5th birthday but reception classes take 4+.
• Many schools also offer funded nursery education for 3 and
4 year olds (15 hours per week for 33 weeks)
• Government now promoting free nursery education for 2
year olds in disadvantaged areas – including in schools
Labour Government – direction of travel
• 1997 Sure Start 2003 Every Child Matters
• 2004 Children Act – entitlements in law
• 2006 Childcare Act – abolished distinction
between care and education
• 2006 Children’s Workforce Strategy published
• 2007 Early Years Professional Status (L6) Target:
graduate leadership of all nurseries by 2015
• Graduate Leader Fund to enable thousands of EY
workers to access Higher Education training
Early Years Foundation Stage
• First introduced in 2008 – essentially play-based and holistic
(influenced by Every Child Matters)
• Integrated learning and development, assessment and
safeguarding and welfare framework for children from birth to
five /end of reception year (primary year 1 under KS1 of
National Curriculum )
• Two year old assessment plus outcomes assessed through
EYFS Profile - moderated and nationally monitored
• Revisions for 2012 have increased emphasis on adult –led
activities, formal teaching and school readiness
• Little or no substantive research evidence for increased
‘schoolification’ of early years (see House, 2012 (ed.)‘
Too much, too soon’)
Principles of the Revised EYFS (DfE, 2012)
• Every child is a unique child, who is constantly
learning and can be resilient, capable, confident
and self-assured.
• Children learn to be strong and independent
through positive relationships.
• Children learn and develop well in enabling
environments … a strong partnership between
practitioners and parents and/or carers.
• Children develop and learn in different ways
and at different rates. EYFS covers all types of
provision and is inclusive of children with SEN and
Prime areas of learning
• Personal, Social, Emotional development
– Making relationships
– Self-confidence and self-awareness
– Managing feelings and behaviour
• Physical development
– Moving and handling
– Health and self-care
• Communication and language
– Listening and attention
– Understanding
– Speaking
EYFS 2012: Prime areas of learning
• Personal, Social, Emotional development
– Making relationships
– Self-confidence and self-awareness
– Managing feelings and behaviour
• Physical development
– Moving and handling
– Health and self-care
• Communication and language
– Listening and attention
– Understanding
– Speaking
Specific areas
• Literacy
– Reading, writing
• Mathematics
– Numbers, shape, space and measure
• Understanding the world
– People and communities; the world; technology
• Expressive arts and design
– Exploring and using media and materials
– Being imaginative
The devil is in the detail of how these are expressed
and the target outcomes for EYFS Profile
2010 Coalition – direction of travel
• Renamed DCSF to DfE
• Abolished GLF and removed ‘ring-fence’ from
Sure Start grant + cuts in Local Authority funds
• Trebled university fees - £6,000 per annum for
work-based FDEY - double whammy!
• Abolished CWDC and target for Graduate Leaders
in all full day care settings
• Established 6 x policy reviews related to Early
Years services
• Suggested deregulation and market forces as
way forward for Early Years
Evidence–based policy reviews
Reviews for incoming coalition Govt.
• Health (Marmot 2010); (started under Labour)
• Poverty and life chances (Field 2010);
• Early intervention (Allen 2011);
• Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum framework (Tickell
• Child protection (Munro 2011)
• Qualifications and EY workforce (Nutbrown 2012)
Nutbrown Review
• Drew heavily on Millenium cohort study and EPPE research
– both of which predated the introduction of EYPS
• Recommended new Early Years Teacher 0-7 (with QTS) on
based on evidence of impact of teachers on quality of EY
• Final report of the Impact Evaluation of EYPS not available
until after Nutbrown reported.
• Ph.D. research by Lumsden (2012) and follow-up survey
revealed Early years Professionals occupied new
‘professional space’ at intersection between teaching,
health and social work.
More Great Childcare
• Only 5 of Nutbrown’s 19 recommendations accepted in full
• New level 3 Early Years Educator award
• New level 6 Early Years Teacher 0-5 (not 0-7 and without
• Draft Early Years Teacher standards include specific
requirements for direct teaching of mathematics and
reading and ‘a clear understanding of synthetic phonics’
• EYFS profile changes already include expectations that
children will be able to read sentences and do basic maths
problems by end of reception year
• Little or no substantive research evidence for proposed
reduction in ratios of staff to children (see Elfer 2013)
Technical-rational model of policy
• Carry out a comprehensive review of the evidence
• Use findings to inform policy
• Public consultation to refine
• Implement
Assumption: If research not used to inform policy blame the
researchers for failure to express implications clearly
Assumption : If not implemented effectively as soon as
possible, blame the practitioners for not understanding issue more guidance or shout louder!
Policy friendly research
• Provide Executive Summaries that extract main findings
in simple form (but lose important context and detail)
• Provide digests and overviews that extract and highlight
implications for policy makers (e.g. EU - NESSE, 2009; USWaldfogel, 2006; CIS, 2012)
• Focus on ‘what works’ but may exclude aspects that are
less easy to measure. (e.g. EPPE research in UK)
• Concentrate on bottom line of costs and benefits and value
for money (e.g. Heckman curve (2000) - for critic see
Campbell-Barr, 2012)
• Commission government sponsored reviews in key areas
and define scope/ remit. (see earlier list)
Problems with evidence-based policy
• Primacy given to positivist research - Randomised
Control Trials (RCT)- that ignore cultural and
socio-political context
• Quantitative methods provide superficial
• Undervalues in-depth understanding from
practitioner based studies (praxeological research - Pascal
and Bartram, 2012)
• The ‘facts’ do not speak for themselves – evidence
requires an ‘effort of interpretation’ (Frost 2011)
and may generate multiple policy options that
necessitate political and moral decision making
Moss and Van den Broeck’s critiques of
evidence-based policy
• Unfettered evidence-based policy suffers from a
‘democratic deficit’ (Moss 2012).
• Disregards importance of a shared vision and
values base – what sort of society we want
• Causal fallacy in developmental neuroscience i.e.
correlations used to justify causal relations (Van den
Broeke et al., 2012)
• Economic analyses construct children as human
capital - ‘adults in waiting’
• In England, ECEC is a political football – no long term
• Policy making is not a simple linear process based on
rational decision making; it is heavily influenced by
politics, ideology and events
• Evidence-based policy is not all it’s cracked up to be
and research is only a small part of the picture
• Must raise awareness of ECEC workers to become
policy literate (Simpson and Connor, 2011;2) - able to
interpret relevance of policy for their setting and
resist if necessary (Miller and Hevey, 2012)
Web sites for government reviews etc.
• http://povertyreview.independent.gov.uk/media/20254/povertyreport.pdf
• http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/early-intervention-next-steps.pdf
• www.marmotreview.org
• http://www.education.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm?action=conResu
(EYFS Tickell review and govt response)
• https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/munro-review-of-childprotection-final-report-a-child-centred-system
• https://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/Found
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Campbell-Barr, V. (2012) Early years education and the value for money folklore.
European Early Childhood Educational Research Journal. Vol. 20. No. 3, 423-437
CIS (2012) The early years: what practitioners and policy makers need to know.
Early Years Briefing. Paper 8. Feb 2012 Children in Scotland
DfE (2012) The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage
DfE (2013a) More Great Childcare: Raising quality and giving parents more choice
(January 2013) Department for Education.
Elfer, P. and Page. J. (2013) Nursery Ratios and Babies under 12m in Nursery.
Unpublished respponse to More Great Childcare from Peter Elfer University of
Roehampton) and Jools Page (University of Sheffield)
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and the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Studies
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Lumsden, E.(2012) The Early Years Professional: a new profession or a missed
opportunity. Unpublished Ph.D.Thesis of the University of Northampton.
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Millenium Cohort Study. Sure Start Research Report SSU/2007/FR
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