Developing reflective early years practitioners within a regulatory framework

Cable, Carrie; Goodliff, Gill and Miller, Linda (2007). Developing reflective early years practitioners within a regulatory framework. Malaysian Journal of Distance Education, 9(2) pp. 1–19.



The government in England has committed to the reform of the children’s workforce through ‘a transformational reform agenda designed to improve life chances for all and reduce inequalities in our society’ (DfES, 2006a, p. 2.). This agenda acknowledges that increasing the skills and competence of the workforce is critical to its success. This route to a more professional workforce includes the development of a new qualification the Early Years Sector–Endorsed Foundation Degrees leading to Senior Practitioner status and a new role of Early Years Professional. As a major open and distance-learning provider The Open University is in a unique position to respond to the above agenda in providing flexible and accessible progression routes leading to higher-level qualifications for early years practitioners. However this reform is to be achieved through an increasingly centralised process underpinned by a ‘standards agenda’ (Moss, 2003a).

This paper provides a critical review of policy developments leading to the creation of two new workforce roles. It considers the implications of these roles for the professional development of early years practitioners and explores the relationship between the two roles. The second part of the paper describes the tensions and challenges involved in developing distance-learning courses which support students in becoming reflective practitioners whilst meeting externally prescribed standards and a requirement to demonstrate professional competence. The approach taken to enable students to reflect on their practice in the first work-based learning course in the Open University Foundation Degree in Early Years is discussed. Initial findings from the analysis of the final written assignments from students on this course suggest it offers possibilities for critical reflection and developing professionalism.

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