Change is afoot in the Early Childhood sector.
We’re used to change, whether on a national or organisational level, sometimes causing division and tension, especially when the workforce is not consulted. However, this time the change is for the good with the development of a new Early Years Academy, an organisation promoting professional identity and child centred outcomes.
The Academy will recognise the dedication, commitment and professionalism of the workforce through an exciting fellowship programme.
The Early Years Academy is the brainchild of Aaron Bradbury and Juliette (Juls) Davies who recognised that there was no fellowship award programme currently operating for the Early Years sector. With the sector already seen as low status and low paid, the idea of a fellowship programme through the newly set up Early Years Academy was envisaged to be impactful for personal and professional identities.
The Early Years Academy will bring together the workforce as a community. It will be a new form of recognition for all practitioners, regardless of qualifications. Being awarded a fellowship through the Academy will be a celebration of achievement, skills and commitment to leading change within the sector for children aged 0-7 years. In short, the fellowship will be acknowledging and rewarding the hard work of those in the sector.
All Practitioners, from Level 2 Early Years Educators, nannies, managers, teachers, outreach workers, training organisations and everything in between will have the opportunity to apply for a fellowship. A fellowship will identify individuals as having a commitment to the sector and will encourage the consolidation of personal learning and relating this to professional practice. This process will act as an ongoing form of CPD. Engaging in ongoing reflection on practice could encourage practitioner research and development, further strengthening the sector.
Much thought has gone into the purpose of the Early Years Academy and the fellowship programme. Having identified the low status of the sector and the issues evolving from this, Aaron and Juls have sought to address the inequalities, pushing for recognition of the professionals dedicated to improving outcomes for children. The awarding of fellowships through the Academy will bring together the Early Years workforce with the intention of collaborating and offering a sense of professional identity. It will see the coming together of a diverse workforce, incorporating all roles and pay grades.
How will it work?
Aaron and Juls have already made significant progress with getting the Early Years Academy up and running. In just a few short months from the first whispers of “shall we do this?” and “is there a need?”, the project has grown significantly, making for an exciting time.
Online meetings via Zoom have recently taken place, bringing members of the sector together to discuss the plans for the Academy, collating views and sharing ideas. Progress can be monitored through the Twitter and Facebook accounts for the Academy, found at the bottom of this article. Soon to follow will be a dedicated website which is currently under development. This will be where application forms for a fellowship can be accessed, guidance on the process can be found, forums can be engaged with and a dedicated area for CPD will be developed.
So what will the fellowships look like in practice?
This is an area currently being consulted on but initial plans see four levels and, all of which will be underpinned by overarching aims of knowledge, practice and values. Fellowships will be awarded following a process of assessment overseen by the board. Rigorous standards will allow for accurate moderation and quality, ensuring high standards from the outset. What is particularly inspiring having read the consultation documents is that all in Early Years will be encouraged to be involved, making it truly inclusive.
All levels of the fellowship put the child at the forefront, acting as advocates for outstanding child centred practice. These achievements will be celebrated equally, morally and ethically with all members championing each other, creating a supportive network of practice. Together, the Academy and fellows can raise the status of the sector and those working within in by being a strong voice, advocating for practice and policy.
There is still lots of work to be done with opportunities to become a member of the board, led by Chairs Aaron Bradbury and Juliette Davies. What an exciting, inspiring time for the sector. It’s going to be well worth following the development of the Early Years Academy!
Emma Davis – November 2019
Connect with The Early Years Academy
The Early Years Academy – Draft
This is the initial draft document providing the introduction, aims, rationale and criteria for fellowships, proposed structures etc.
About the Author – Emma Davis