Despite the government blurb over recent years, well, since around 2008, we are not teaching. No, we’re doing something better than that. We’re enablers, motivators and encouragers of learning. (Not my own words – Tom Shea’s words). And we’ve been doing it naturally and intrinsically as supportive, responsive and enabling caregivers, much the same as parents have been their children’s primary educators from – well – birth actually, and arguably even from conception. I can’t be the only expectant woman whose doting partner sang nursery rhymes right up close and personal to my swelling tummy, or the only one to play the same piece of classical music every night at 7 so that baby Turner, when he arrived, would associate Peter and the Wolf with bedtime and get into sleep mode. And it worked by the way: baby Turner slept through the night, in his own room, from 6 weeks on. So my first foray into ‘teaching’ was what you might call an overnight success. And that Sergei Prokofiev composition, incidentally, remains my son’s classical favourite to this day. But since it’s pertinent here I should probably also mention that Prokofiev’s first Teacher was his own Mother too, who happened to be a very talented pianist in her own right. But I digress.
So when exactly did we start being lumped together with Teachers then?
Well, the moment we demanded to be taken more seriously for the work we do: for the enabling environments we create for each and every unique child at his or her own particular stage of development – who can only flourish when we’ve taken the time to build positive and meaningful relationships with children and their families and other professionals involved in their lives; for the holistic learning opportunities and experiences we provide that inspire children’s love of learning. When we didn’t want to be seen as little more than babysitters any longer and we were quite right too. We wanted to be recognised for our professionalism, our knowledge and understanding, our specialist qualifications, our contribution to children’s learning & development and the National Childminding Association (now the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years) championed our cause valiantly. Government listened and – just like the rest of the sector – in September 2008 we were required to implement the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage framework (although it’s not without its exemptions).
Now we’d moved on from the 2002 non-compulsory guidance document, the very excellent Birth to Three Matters framework (so good in fact that it was resurrected in 2012) to a compulsory curriculum document.
Remember, around this time there were literally hundreds of early years education and childcare qualifications, held by tens of thousands of people in the workforce.
The introduction of the level 3 Diploma, Early Years Educator (EYE) in September 2014 (more vigorous than its predecessor the Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce) clarified the skills and knowledge that people need to work in the sector and formalised what we needed to be doing, with an emphasis on education. Now, early years practitioners – including Childminders – are expected to be able to demonstrate in-depth understanding of Early Years Education and Care. For teaching in particular we must be able to show how we:
support and promote children’s early education and development
plan and provide effective care, teaching and learning that enables children to progress and prepares them for school
make accurate and productive use of assessment.
But this really isn’t news to you is it? And there’s just no getting away from it: the content of the EYE is actually defined by the National College for Teaching & Leadership. Now, it doesn’t get much more “teacher-y” than that does it? This is when Childminders became seen as kinda-like-Teachery-type-thingies-only-much-less-bogged-down-by-bureaucracy-and-so-a-lot-more-fun-to-be-around despite the best [or worst] efforts of the Early Years Inspection Handbook and the Common Inspection Framework to schoolify us.
So, we might not be entirely comfortable with being thought of as a Teacher, or Educator, and rightly so. But fear not. Nobody ever said we had to do more assessments, more planning, more reports, more risk assessments, more anything in fact. Remember, forward planning and learning journals and tracking sheets and all that other stuff are not mandatory for us: besides the 2 year old progress check, they are all completely voluntary. So, if that doesn’t make you feel an awful lot better about your work than you did 5 minutes ago then I don’t know what else to say. Oh wait…we don’t have to sit in a classroom on a gorgeous day. Or meet targets. Or be subject to endless observations. Or plan lessons. Or write aims and learning objectives. Or codify and cross reference everything. That better?