Good practice in early childhood education : practioners' perspectives
Early childhood education has recently been recognised in the political and educational agenda in England. This has been demonstrated by the introduction of the Foundation Stage as a distinct stage of education. The Foundation Stage was implemented in schools in 2000 and became a statutory stage of the National Curriculum for England in 2002. This research study has explored practitioners' perspectives on good practice in the Foundation Stage and what impacts on it. It has sought the views of those who work directly with children in order to get a deeper understanding of their practice. Methodologically, an inductive approach was adopted by the use of grounded theory and in-depth interviewing. Using theoretical sampling, in-depth interviews with twenty-one practitioners (twelve teachers and nine nursery nurses) were undertaken, transcribed and analysed. The analysis of the data was facilitated by the use of NUD*IST (Non-numerical Unstructured Data: Indexing, Searching and Theorising) software. Six major features of good practice in the Foundation Stage emerged from the data: integrated, play-based and child-centred curriculum that places emphasis on personal, social and emotional development, effective early childhood environment, good interpersonal relationships between all parties, qualified specialised staff, ongoing observation and assessment of children, and evaluation of staff. Six main factors were revealed to be important in enhancing/supporting good practice in the Foundation Stage: training, resources, positive government intervention, parents' cooperation, practitioners' feelings towards the job, and practitioners' personal qualities. Moreover, it was found that practitioners face the following difficulties in their work: workload and time constraints, lack of resources, negative government intervention, children with English as an additional language, social deprivation and poverty, the low status of early childhood education and the situation of nursery nurses. In the light of the research findings, it is recommended that further steps should be taken to promote the status of early childhood education and its practitioners and that further research should be undertaken into the Foundation Stage. It is also suggested that the difficulties faced by practitioners should be addressed in order to improve educational practice in the early childhood provision and help practitioners effectively support and promote children's learning and development. In this respect it would be particularly important to involve practitioners in order to give them ownership of the process.