Evaluation of the role of early years professionals
Recent years have seen a great deal of change and development in the early years sector and increasing recognition of the importance of young children’s development and learning. The system-wide change in children’s services outlined in Every Child Matters: Change for Children (HM Government, 2004) provided the context for the Children’s Workforce Strategy (DfES, 2006), which aims to develop a world-class workforce to improve outcomes for children.
The Government’s response to the national consultation on the future of the children’s workforce identified the benefits of developing the role of the early years professional (EYP) and confirmed the aim to have early years professionals in all children’s centres offering early years provision by 2010 and in every full day care setting by 2015. Partly in response to the need to raise the general qualification level of the early years workforce, Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) is designed to make the early years workforce more professional, and to ensure that the best people are being recruited and retained while the existing workforce is developed.
The Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) has commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) and QA Research to undertake a collaborative evaluation with the CWDC which will explore the roles and experiences of EYPs and their employers. The evaluation will build on and support existing work being carried out by the CWDC.
The aim of the study is to explore the views and experiences of a sample of EYPs and their employers, five to six months after the EYPs have gained Early Years Professional Status. The study will inform the on-going development and evaluation of EYPS and future training and support packages. Building on the CWDC’s early qualitative work, the research project will be led by NFER in collaboration with QA Research. Interviews will explore:
- the impact of achieving EYPS on individuals’ career prospects in relation to:
- roles and responsibilities
- rewards and conditions
- progression opportunities
- opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD)
- movement within, across and out of the sector
- the impact that individuals achieving EYPS has had on leadership and practice within early years settings
how EYPS is regarded and recognised by employees and colleagues
- how, if at all, the role of graduate leader has been established within settings.
Impact and outcomes
NFER will produce a report to be submitted to CWDC in April 2008. This will contribute to a joint final report on the evaluation of EYPs by CWDC and NFER. The report will include an exploration of the findings from stages one and two of the face-to-face interviews, along with findings from the telephone interviews.
Research design and methods
Building on CWDC’s qualitative work, the research involves interviews with EYPs and their employers, both face-to-face and over the telephone. NFER staff will conduct the face-to-face interviews, with QA Research leading on the telephone survey. The interviews will focus on an individual’s leadership role within their setting, progression, mobility and expectations to date. The data collection will consist of two stages, as follows.
- A total of 338 interviews will be completed (169 with EYPs and 169 with employers). Eighty- four of these interviews have already been conducted face-to-face by the CWDC. Stage one data collection will add to this dataset by conducting 127 paired telephone interviews with both EYPs and employers (254 telephone interviews in total)
- A total of 522 interviews will be arranged (261 with EYPs and 261 with employers). Eighty-six of these interviews will be conducted face-to-face (43 with EYPs and 43 with employers). An additional 218 paired telephone interviews with both EYPs and employers (436 telephone interviews in total) will be conducted.
The telephone interviews will primarily include the collection of quantitative data with the face-to-face interviews providing the scope to explore issues in more depth. The computer assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) method will be used in undertaking the large number of telephone interviews required. CATI allows interviewers to complete the calls and input the data at the same time.
Quantitative data from both the telephone and face-to-face interviews will be analysed via the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), while qualitative data from the face-to-face interviews will be analysed using the qualitative data analysis package MaxQDA.
It is anticipated that the outcomes of this project will be of interest to policy makers and to professionals and their employers working in the early years sector.
Time scale: January 2008 - April 2008
NFER Project Code: REY
HM Government (2004). Every Child Matters: Change for Children. London: DfES.
Department for Education and Skills ( 2006). Children’s Workforce Strategy: Building a World-Class Workforce for Children, Young People and Families. The Government’s Response to the Consultation. London: DfES.