EYPS CASE STUDY 3: Leicester
The quality coordinator as practice leader
This setting is made up three private nurseries in Leicester for children aged 0-5. Jo, the only EYP in the group, works across the group as quality coordinator. Jo's role is supernumerary and practice-oriented and she spends up to four days a week working directly with children, as well as leading new initiatives across the nurseries. Initially above average in terms of overall quality, the setting maintained this position during the study.
Being, becoming and developing as an EYP
As EYP, Jo is responsible for leading practice and quality assurance across the three nurseries in the group. She works closely with practitioners and oversees agreed areas of practice and policy:
'I am the steer person in terms of the managers at the three nurseries in terms of pushing policies through. That’s part of my job basically. It is given high priority at every management meeting throughout the year, it’s my decision and I take away that feedback and put it into a new policy.'
Jo gained EYPS through the Short Pathway in 2009, regarding it as a way to develop her career without having to move into formal management:
'I just think there was nowhere else for us you go. You’ve got Level 3, you’ve got years and years of experience. If you don’t want to be a teacher or run a children’s centre and learn about multi-agency management and all of that, what else do you do?'
Although she does not feel that undertaking EYPS taught her anything new: ‘for me the EYPS was really like the icing on the cake’, the value of EYPS for Jo lie in its function as a Level 6 qualification which validates her prior knowledge and experience:
'I can make decisions now based on theories and a good knowledge of child development which you learn through your degree and your Foundation Degree. Whereas your EYP gives you the name I suppose.'
Figure 28.1 Leicester’s Formal leadership structure
"For me the EYPS was really like the icing on the cake."
Having a strategic leadership role across the three settings allows Jo to respond to their change aspirations and introduce ideas and initiatives such as Every Child a Talker (ECaT) from outside to improve practice. Consequently, she has to challenge managers at times:
"You almost feel you’re overstepping your boss and you know that’s not professional but by the same token you know the provision for that child, the care for that child and the development of that child is absolutely paramount because that’s where I come from. So occasionally you can come into conflict a bit with processes."
She works at all levels in the nurseries. With room leaders she has focused on developing their leadership to take on more responsibility for improving children’s learning:
"She [a room leader] does lack a lot of confidence, so change for [her] is perhaps a bigger thing than it would be for someone else. [...] It’s just finding little ways where they can’t fail, nothing’s going to be a disaster, but making sure you just help enough to nudge her and then you’re there."
Jo’s work with practitioners focuses more on improving their practice by offering highly focused support and modelling what she expects them to do. In addition, her cross-nursery role allows her to move staff around to fill gaps or extend practice where necessary.
"Reflective practice is fantastic, but sometimes you need to be there."
"it's a lot more child-led. Whatever we put in our environment has come form a child's interest."
The major change priority during the research was introducing ECaT. Gaining accreditation at Wingfield, the largest nursery in the group, was the culmination of 18 months work, led by Jo working closely with one of the LA’s Early Language Consultants. In addition to building the portfolio of practice, the major issue had been losing seven members of staff to maternity leave during the year. The subsequent challenge was therefore maintaining momentum post-accreditation and ensuring that high standards in speech and language practice were sustained by focusing on continuing to promote the use of the successful processes which had been introduced:
"I can categorically tell you that all the changes we have made all came as a result of ECAT because it focuses on the language and communication and that’s paramount, but it also teaches about how your environment can have an impact."
Later in the study the focus shifted to transferring what they had learned to Daneshill, where Jo also used ECAT as a means of achieving wider improvements. This included staff from Wingfield working with their colleagues at Daneshill:
"The interactions, the planning, the activities, the environment, all of that has springboarded from [ECAT]. We try to raise everybody’s practice in interaction and really think about how they can interact best with those children on that date in that activity, but also to make it more consistent throughout the nursery."
Jo’s work with parents was largely concerned with shifting their expectations:
"The general consensus of parents - and we have really tried hard to change that - is that they’re obsessed [that] their child has a reading book before they go to school and [is] learning to read […] So we have a massive amount of work to do on changing parents’ perspectives, we have worked with schools on that a lot and that’s helped us delivering information to parents."
Professional network analysis
Social network analysis (SNA) was used to trace the shifts in professional networks in the setting during the research. Figures 28.2 and 28.3 indicate the responses when staff were asked who they went to for new ideas about improving practice in the setting. Figure 28.2 illustrates the responses in November 2011. Before this, Jo had been working intensively at Daneshill (D) and the responses indicate that all the practitioners in that setting went to both Jo and the newly appointed manager for new ideas. However, more practitioners in Wingfield (W), the largest setting in the group, went to their manager than Jo, reflecting that fact that she was spending the majority of their time in the second setting. Figure 28.3 gives the responses from all three nurseries in the group in March 2012. At Wingfield more practitioners still approached their manager for new ideas. However, all the practitioners who responded from Daneshill and Westleigh (WL), the third setting in the group, named Jo, emphasizing the value and reach of her supernumerary role and her influence in all three nurseries. Figure 28.3 clearly illustrates Jo’s uniquely central position across the group as a whole.
Figure 28.2 Sources of new ideas about improving practice in two settings (Nov 2010)
Figure 28.2 Sources of new ideas about improving practice in two settings (Nov 2011)
Jo also used the ECAT framework to challenge accepted practice and encourage practitioners to consider children’s perspectives more thoroughly:
‘Things like the nursery routine, encouraging the staff members to think “OK, that might suit that group of children on that day”. [... has] opened up a lot more opportunities for the children for them to carry on and develop their thinking and what they want to do, knowing that the staff will support them and scaffold them and follow them.’
During the study, Wingfield was inspected by Ofsted and moved from being rated good to outstanding. Focusing on the two nurseries in which data was collected during the study, ratings of the environment (using ITERS-R) were maintained at high levels overall across both settings and scores for pedagogical interactions showed a significant increase in the area of sensitivity over the course of the research. Although this was not replicated in the areas of autonomy or cognitive challenge, instances of practitioners engaging children in sustained shared thinking also increased. The high scores for practitioners in both Daneshill (Setting 2) and Wingfield (Setting 1) in Figure 28.4 suggest that key elements of interactional process quality were increasingly embedded in both settings over the course of the research, led by the EYP.