CREC Development Session 2
Impact Hub Birmingham is working in partnership with Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) with the aim to grow grassroots capacity through reflective practitioner research. As part of the #RadicalChildcare programme we want to explore new ways of providing parents with access to flexible childcare models, but we are also very mindful that – whichever models are used – they must always be of the highest quality and the needs of the children are paramount.
For that reason we are working with CREC to investigate and evaluate how different models impact on the children using these services, and to provide these childcare models with tools to help them embed continuous improvement processes. We have been deeply excited to be working with them, continuing on from an introductory session which took place on Monday 26th February which you can catch up with here. This blog charts what came out of a shorter twilight checkpoint with the group, which took place on Monday 16th April at St. Thomas’ Children’s Centre.
Aims of Session
- Reflect on process so far
- Share findings from initial research period with one another
- Explore ongoing research aims, individual and collective
- Establish focus for period of time before next meeting
Who’s in the Room?
The session began with updates from each setting as to how they’d found implementing the research methods within their practices so far, before moving to further guidance from Chris and discussion around how best to make the research as useful as it could be without becoming impractical within the busy, dynamic context of flexible Early Years provision. Finally, themes from the conversation were explored further in smaller groups, ready to prepare for the next phase of research with renewed focus on a particular area of focus.
Here are some of the key outcomes from this session together.
It’s a big thing to share. Share your brilliance, and also where it all fell apart. Support one another and be curious.
Chris encouraged the group to be open about how they’d found conducting the research so far and what it has started to reveal. Amy from #RadicalChildcare expressed that the research methods had brought her closer in to what was happening, and led her to consider what was really precious about this, whilst Emma shared that filling the resources out with kids in session can be tricky. Angelica from Purple Rocket Nursery expressed a consciousness of making sure observations are not forced or done for the sake of it, as well as not zoning into purely the positives or challenges and straddling both with as little bias as possible.
It was clear many practitioners hadn’t collected as many studies as they would have liked due to the demands of these types of settings, but had begun to build reflection into their practice and seemingly found strength from going through this process as a group.
It’s a privilege to be with children at that age. In childcare, all too often children are seen as units to be looked after, but we must not ignore their humanity.
The group discussed the role of creches in being the first place children come together with one another, which sets them up for the beginnings of their citizenship, learning the skills needed for civic responsibility as the first place outside home and family. That makes these settings sites of education, around how to help, be respectful, and the fact that you can’t always get what you want. Practitioners shared some of what they had tried and implemented or been challenged by in their settings, either that the research had brought to the surface, or as suggestion to help one another think about how to improve areas of their provision. V22 had used snack time as an opportunity to learn life skills, choosing when / if to snack, as well as expressing that they observed older children supporting younger members in the provision. Chris added: “If you want to get early years to interact with books you ned to put them everywhere. Reading needs to become normal interaction, with books part of their environment and life.
Levels of Analysis
it gives you information. What do you want to find out? It can tell you a lot.
Building on the back of the group’s updates, practitioners were curious about the level of analysis they should be gathering – whether longer descriptive narratives or concise analytical insights would be more useful. The group established that even if you only did a 5 minute observation that is still an intentional direct level of engagement that can add meaning and value to your work, with shorter more direct captures easier to analyse and sustain.
Each practitioner / small group of settings who had begun coming together around similar points of interests identified some focus questions for the next 4 weeks including:
- What is it like to be a parent in your setting?
- What are the outcomes for children?
- What types of resources for use in pop-up environments have learning potential?
- What might a manifesto for childcare as civic education look like?
Our next meeting will be a full day session on Friday 18th May to pull together everything the collective action research has yielded.