Working together policy and practice in early childhood centres
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Working Together: Policy and Practice in Early Childhood Centres. Grace Paton University of Paisley [email protected] The Context of the Research. International acknowledgement of the importance of investment in early education and care

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Working together policy and practice in early childhood centres

Working Together: Policy and Practice in Early Childhood Centres

Grace Paton

University of Paisley

[email protected]

The context of the research

The Context of the Research

  • International acknowledgement of the importance of investment in early education and care

  • Government concern about inequalities in society

  • The Scottish policy response _ Sure Start Scotland, Better Communities in Scotland and Integrated Children’s Services

Social capital core concepts

Social Capital: Core Concepts

  • The conflicting writing of Bourdieu, Coleman and Putnam

  • The literature contesting the concept

  • Bonding , bridging and linking social capital

  • Norms of trust and reciprocity

Social capital and government policy

Social Capital and Government Policy

  • Social capital of interest to “Third Way “ ideology

  • Embedded in the U.K. social justice and inclusion policy

  • Networklessness a new giant to be added to the famous Beveridge menagerie

  • One plank in the measure to eliminate inequalities and poverty

  • Government interest in measuring outcomes of social capital-paucity of empirical research

  • This research focuses on social capital core concepts-networks, norms, trust and reciprocity



  • Qualitative research- semi-structured interviews conducted by Year 3 Childhood Studies students

  • Heads of early childhood centres across 8 West Scotland local authorities

  • 7 female , 1 male

  • 2 purpose build, 3 moving to new build, 3 old adapted premises

  • 5 high levels of Scottish Executive funding, 3 medium levels of funding

Limitations and coding

Limitations and Coding

  • Size of sample coded and inexperience of the interviewers

  • Differing focus to data collection-using data “belonging to” others

  • Need for further research exploring varying perspectives

  • Coding drawing on Straussian grounded theory

  • Use of a “start list” of concepts, derived from The Australian Institute of Family Studies Project.

  • Saturation reached with the emergence of 6 categories

Informal communities of interest

Informal Communities of Interest

  • “beyond family and kin, including friendship and intimate relationships” (Stone 2001)

  • Significant volume of data referred to close relationships and bonding social capital between key workers and parents

  • Acknowledgment that a proportion of families did not engage and were “ hard to reach”

  • No respondent made reference to bonding with men

Working together policy and practice in early childhood centres

“Trying to praise parents and let then know they are doing well” (Centre C)

“We work very closely with parents, and as role models, if you like, and again trying to break down barriers and seeing them as equal, allowing us to support their need, whatever that may be (Centre H)

“We are meeting the needs of the current group, but not the needs of the area and we are missing out on some extremely vulnerable people who are slipping through the net…people who have problems with substance and alcohol abuse.” (Centre F)

“We do have referrals through the health visitor and we run classes to combat this…where no one turns up!” (Centre C)

Professional networks size and density

Professional Networks: Size and Density

  • The degree to which networks overlap and impact on the assistance the centre can summon ( Coleman 1988)

  • Heads of centre draw on bridging social capital and establish themselves as members of different professional networks

  • All were positive about the networks and reserves of social capital

  • Some concern around the potential for dense networks to have a negative impact

Working together policy and practice in early childhood centres

“The other things that we do are work with a lot of other agencies to provide things that are based here.”

(Centre A)

“We also meet with what is called the X Partnership, which includes all the practitioners from services in the local area…after school carers, health visitors, other pre-5 colleagues, primary (school) colleagues, voluntary sector colleagues….that happens every month.”

(Centre F)

“I’ve recently had experience of working with a family where seventeen professionals were involved with a mother and her five children….. So we need to ask ourselves if this is really necessary…and remove some of the pressure from the family.” (Centre D)”

Professional networks open and closed

Professional Networks :Open and Closed

  • The degree to which networks are open or closed has implications for productive output

  • How well do network members know each other?

  • Heads and practitioners were members of closed networks

  • Range of views on the need for practitioners to be involved in open networks

  • On occasions professional colleagues did not participate fully in networks

  • Demand for closed professional networks in “One –stop- shop” centres

Working together policy and practice in early childhood centres

“The local social work department is only a ten minute drive from here and they all know us and we all know them.” (Centre F)

“Key workers have contact with the referrer and they try to build up a working relationship….generally on an ongoing basis. They contact by phone calls and e-mails or informal meetings if the professional happens to be in the nursery for any reason.” (Centre G)

“We have meetings down at Social Work and all our girls attend, and yes, it leaves us short staffed, but we do it, because it is important.

(Centre B)

“We have seven or eight psychologists within the nursery with different children (at different times)…If you could just build up a relationship with the person, it would be much better.” (Centre B)

Social trust and reciprocity in informal communities of interest

Social Trust and Reciprocity in Informal Communities of Interest.

  • Social trust- Trust within networks

    ( leads to generalised trust beyond networks)

  • The centre aim to achieve a norm of trust with parents

  • Centre staff do not expect instant results for their efforts

  • The “return” is satisfaction of contributing to improving the life circumstances of children and families.

Working together policy and practice in early childhood centres

“We sent a couple of staff members on Springboard training, where it’s about counselling parents and listening skills.”

(Centre B)

“Say P was making her dumplings (and her dumplings are world famous), people would come to the class and while they were doing it, P would be talking about all kinds of things. “

(Centre A)

“She said “I have never felt so good about myself in my life” (after a pampering and beauty session)………

She’s now with X as a crèche worker because she’s built-up her self-esteem…..but we built up the trust in that person initially and got her involved.”

(Centre B)

Generalised trust and reciprocity and professional networks

Generalised Trust and Reciprocity and Professional Networks

  • Generalised trust is extended to strangers and has expectations of norms of behaviour

  • There was evidence of shared norms relating to child protection

  • Heads reported divergence in ethical codes and practice within networks

  • High expectations of reciprocity in contributing to family support

  • Optimism that norms of trust and reciprocity can be achieved.

Working together policy and practice in early childhood centres

“I think if we can make it work for child protection issues, when we think the child is really vulnerable and at risk, then I wonder why we can’t make it work in other areas.” (Centre D)

“So we need to be in a position to explain to each other and accept that these differences exist and importantly, confident that we can trust each other .. Developng a climate of trust.” (Centre D)

“We cannot meet all their needs initially but that’s what integrated working is about. You know the resources in the local area and you can use them to meet the family’s needs” (Centre H)

Civic trust reciprocity and vertical networks

Civic Trust, Reciprocity and Vertical Networks

  • Vertical ( hierarchical) networks and the issue of power were of interest to the respondents

  • Lack of civic trust relating to official procedure, resource allocation and rules evident in 6 instances

  • Stronger trust where management has been restructured, allocating responsibility at executive level within the authority

Working together policy and practice in early childhood centres

“I feel I give my best support to the staff and families, but I don’t feel the support given to me is adequate. …I can never pick up the phone and speak to someone if I have difficulties.. I would appreciate frequent, hands-on visits, because it seems to me these people are not really aware what’s happening at my level.” (Centre F)

“Another load of money came in and it had to be spent by the end of March and it was specifically for physical equipment…You can’t store it and I don’t have a computer that works. We have parents donating prams. “(Centre A)

“ Now we have a Corporate Director of Education and Social Care, so we are all working for one manager , with one ethos and his beliefs are very strongly coming through now. “ (Centre D)

Discussion points

Discussion Points

  • Reducing “network poverty” and improving levels of trust and reciprocity will not eliminate poverty.

  • The creation of social trust in the centres is not addressing the “dark side of social capital” or the need to involve fathers.

  • The drive to create generalised trust across professions needs to be addressed in professional training

  • There is a need to improve civic trust (in the local authority) in relation to resource allocation, procedures and reform management structures.

  • The need for “joined-up” policy across Scottish Executive departments and patience in achieving outcomes.

Thanks to ba childhood studies year 3 2006 07

Thanks to BA Childhood Studies, Year 3 (2006-07)

Julie Boyle Lynda Darroch

Mary Evans Lauren Gibson

Mari McLean Morven Mc Lean

Diane Jackson Caroline Morrison

Jackie Ross

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