The development, implementation and evaluation
The development, implementation and evaluation of early year’s policy reflecting on the role of research and the role of the practitioner within this process By coexistence This essay will critically examine the development, implementation and evaluation of early year’s policy reflecting on the role of research and the role of the practitioner within this process. It will address the impact policy has on practitioners and their day-to-day practice and highlight the part children play within the policy process.
Finally it will analyses possible tensions which can arise around this policy process. Policy is define as: ‘a set of ideas or a plan of what to do in particular situations that has been agreed officially by a group of people, a business organization, a government or a political party (Cambridge Dictionary, 2011, http:// dictionary. Cambridge. Org/dictionary/British/policy_l Levin (1997 cited In Bullock, et al 2005) identifies that policy has numerous meanings.
These Include, policy being a stated Intention, an action such as Sure Start projects, an administrative practice for example if the government sets up funding there will be policy in place stating who is eligible, and an indication of action to be taken such as white papers produced by the government. Levin (1997
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Miller and Heavy (2012) consider that policy is important in the early years providing practitioners are able to be critical and analytic of It in order for it to be continually evaluated and developed. Ball (2008) believes that polices can be ‘Inflected, mediated, resisted and misunderstood, or In some cases simply prove unworkable’ (p. 7). The National Childcare Strategy (UDF 1998) places early years at the centre of the political agenda with aims to reduce poverty and support children to reach their full potential.
When policies are formulated they should be specific- to give guidance Intended, measurable – In order to measure progress towards attainment, attainable – If they are not attainable there Is no point In the policy being put In place, realistic – too high or too low and the policy is simply not effective, and timely – a time frame should be established for evaluation (SMART). There are many reasons why policy is developed for example Every Child Matters (Defies 2004) was developed in response to Victoria Clime’s death in 2002.
Its aim was to target at risk children and improve England, was developed by the government following evidence that quality early years provision was vitally important in a child’s development right up to adulthood. When policy is developed by the government there can be some skepticism around it whether it is being done to win votes, whether it is a short term fix in order to look like they are doing something or to make a statement (Ball 2008). Keynes (1992 Cited: Salisbury 2001) claimed ‘… Here is nothing a government hates more than to be well- informed; for it makes the process of arriving at decisions much more complicated and difficult’ (P. 7). Implementation of policy is an important part of getting it right, without the proper training and understanding practitioners will not know how to carry out the guidance to its full potential. Pugh and Duffy (2010) support this view by highlighting that within the EYES the ‘curriculum is only as good as the people who offer it to the children’ (p. 105).
Evaluation of policy is an important process which should highlight both the flaws and the benefits policies have to offer. The FEES has had a mixed review from people, some thinking it goes too far and other who do not think it goes far enough (Pugh and Duffy 2010). London (2007) argues that practitioners found that the Foundation Stage (Department for Education and Employment (Defer)( 2000) provided unrealistic literacy goals. Jim Rose led a review of this, but did not acknowledge a problem and the same goals were implemented in the EYES framework (London 2010).
This raises the question of how policies are evaluated and the importance of who evaluates them. In this case it seems very much the case that practitioners should be involved in the evaluation process as they are the ones who see the EYES in action every day and have a true understanding of owe it works and doesn’t work. Department for Education (UDF) (2010) carried out an evaluation on Sure Start projects, they found that by 2005 Sure Star’s impact was not as great as anticipated, however by 2010 there were significant effects from Sure Start Local Programs (SLP).
This could be due to the fact that by 2005 the programs had only been running for 2 years not allowing adequate time to gain results. This suggestion is supported by UDF (2011) who state that ‘it is more typical for positive economic returns to emerge only fifteen to twenty years after the initial investment, hen children move into adulthood’ (p. 6). ESTES carried out an evaluation of the implementation of the Foundation Phase for five to six-year-olds in primary schools, with special reference to literacy (2011). This evaluation drew upon different methods to gain results including observation, discussions and document analysis.
This sounds like a good variety of methods which have been implemented however on closer inspection it becomes clear that they have used a representative sample of 23 schools to inspect which does not indicate was a random sample to allow UN-bias exults, it also stipulates that the evaluation reviewed relevant literature, the term relevant is not very specific. These aspects could all hinder the information that the evaluation gained as it could have a bias angle. This evaluation has been used as an example of how evaluation of polices can produce unfair findings if the methods utilized are not reliable.
Bullock et al (2005) states that in evaluating policy for development ‘in order to understand some events we need not Just to see the elements contributing to an event but also to see the whole’ (p. 46) this involves immunization and interaction between practitioners, parents, agencies and angles Just as the research which goes into the design of the policy does. As highlighted in the introduction policy is intended to provide guidance on a particular situation. In order to formulate policy, research is needed to provide evidence (Miller and Heavy 2012).
Research can be carried out by a variety of people or organizations such as the government, independent researchers or companies. This in itself can start the policy process with possible bias due to choice of sample; picking out retain desired elements from the research and down playing elements which are not desired (Ball 2008). Bullock et al (2005)state ‘policy- makers will often argue in favor of a policy on one set of grounds while also having other considerations in mind’ (p. 3). For example the government may view a certain policy will have more sway over votes therefore play a part in keeping them or getting them into power.
Whilst there are negatives to government funded research additionally there are benefits such as funding, greater resources and people may be more likely to take notice of the research (Bartlett and Burton 2007). Within any research there is always a risk of bias, whether it takes the form of interviews, surveys or observations. If there is a human element bias may exist (Cohen teal 2007). Miller and Heavy (2012) state ‘primacy has normally been given to research in the scientific/positivist tradition, which values randomized control trials as the gold standard’ (p. 70). However Pascal (2011 Cited Miller and Heavy 2012) emphasizes the importance of ‘qualitative practitioner-based research’ (p. 170) and that even though large scale research has its place, they are not necessarily the best methods for all research. Hitchcock and Hughes (1995 Cited Cohen et al 2007) state that case studies ‘can penetrate situations in ways that are not susceptible to numerical analysis’ (p. 253) which for some early years research may be more beneficial. The methods used in research are very important in producing credible results. Or example the PEE project (Sylvan et al 2003) use methods which allowed validity and a reliability such as being longitudinal providing an extended view into the impact, using random allocation and a variety of instruments. Even though the study used a good variety of methods to carry out the search there was still difficulty in some areas such as access children who had not had experience of any early year’s education (London 2010). This shows that however good the methods are being used some aspect of research may not produce the results desired. Policy changes at the outer macro-level of systems can seem oppressive to those struggling to implement them at the micro-level of their workplaces’ (Inning and Edwards 2006, p. 164). Inning and Edwards (2006) suggests that it is important for professionals to take a proactive rather than reactive approach in shaping their own logic. Understanding how policy works and where it comes from allows practitioners to become more effective in influencing and implementing policy. This highlights the importance for practitioners to be involved in the policy development, implementation and evaluation process.
Bullock et al (2005) calls for collaborative and co-operative working including policy development and implementation. And Pascal (2011 Cited: Miller and Heavy 2012) highlight the importance for practitioner based research. However Miller and Heavy (2012) draw attention to the influences For example The Evaluation of Integrated Children’s Centers in Wales (National Foundation for Educational ( INFER) 2010) included interviews carried out by the staff who were involved in the project, this could create difficulty with parents being too familiar with the researcher (Delano 2002) resulting in bias findings.
Miller and Heavy (2012) suggest four principles which they feel should strengthen early years policy including: Child centeredness -Value children for who they are now (Miller and Heavy 2012, p. 172). Support (2005 Cited: Miller and Heavy 2012) states that Children should be treated as human beings not human becoming’ (p. 172). Democracy – All humans (children and adults) have a right to take part in shaping their worlds. Practitioners and children have a choice and a voice.
However this can still lead to some people being excluded, for example the evaluation of Sure Start Local Projects (SLP) (2011) found that families most likely to take advantage from the service we more articulate and better off. Equality and equity – Children from poor families have an unequal start in life – receiving fewer life chances, these needs to be dressed and reflected upon in policy. However the PEE project (Sylvan et al 2003) produced finding that what a parent does is more important than who a parent is.
This suggests that children from poor families can still achieve the same as a child from a better off family if the parents provide the right chances and support. Professionalism- this has increased in the last decade with more emphasis on the early year’s education resulting in high quality work force including a realization of continual professional development. Miller and Heavy (2012) highlight these reminisces stating that ‘Practitioners at a local level are not simply rational technicians implementing policy and guidelines but reflective practitioners and thinking, feeling and moral beings’ (p. 71). Pugh (2006) states that the Early Years Foundation Stage Guidance was fairly well receive when first introduced into schools, however over time questions were raised as to some of the meaning in the framework, such as what ‘quality actually means. Cattle and Alexander (2012) study into ‘Quality in early years settings: government, research and practitioners’ perspectives’ highlighted that the government’s own function of quality was rarely static, this can lead to miss-interpretation of the guidelines as everybody has their own opinion of what is ‘quality.
The Every Child Matters green paper (Defies 2004) also emphasizes quality provision, training and leadership but again without proper definition as to what quality is. This is an example of policy which is difficult to fully follow due to the wording and perception of what it means which can impact on the provision practitioners can provide. This emphasizes the need for policy to be carefully worded so all people involved can pep to its guidance.
The ‘Practitioners’ Experiences of the Early Years Foundation Stage’ report (UDF AAA) found that: ‘The EYES is a major influence on practice: The EYES framework received high levels of support from all practitioner groups, and there is a broad consensus that it influences many aspects of daily practice, and improves the quality of experience for young children and their parents.
However, a small number of respondents (from children and plasterwork groups) argue that the strong emphasis on learning and assessment which they find in the framework is reactivation’s perspective, and shows that practitioners are becoming more critical of policy however it is not shown whether anything was done in response to these views. UDF (2012) states that ‘a child’s wishes and feelings should be ascertained before making decisions affecting them and their care, and a written record of their wishes and feelings should be maintained – as stipulated in section 22 of the 1989 Children’s Act. (http://www. Education. Gob. UK/childrenandyoungpeople/families/childrearing/ ergs/b0074845/voice-of-the-child ) A lot of early year’s policy is developed by adults, Pugh and Duffy (2010) state that the past eight years have been an exciting era in which the emphasis on listening to young children’s views in matters that affect them has wrought a dramatic shift in thinking and practice’ (p. 79) This suggests the importance of children being involved in the policy process. The INCUR and Every Child Matters (Defies 2004) has played a vital role in highlighting this.
Alderman (2008) and Wallet and Uproot (2003) stress that seeing as children are at the centre of the policy it would make sense for them to have a say in it. However Alderman (2008) gaslights some possible reasons why the children’s voice is not a greater part of policy formation such as, the question of whether they are able to understand and provide legitimate ideas, it would be a very time consuming however in his opinion rewarding process and some people simple feel that adults have a superior knowledge over children and don’t feel it is a child’s place to deal with policy and alike.
Alderman (2008) does suggests that adults needs to develop a way in which they can talk and listen to children so they can have more say in the formation of policy without it impacting negatively on their childhood. Even though there are arguments for children to be involved in the development of policy (Alderman 2008 and Wallet and Uproot 2003) there appears to be little evidence of this actually happening.
Children have not only got a voice to be heard in the development of early year’s policy but also the evaluation of it. Who is better qualified to say if the policy is working than the children who are actually being affected by the policy. The Evaluation of Integrated Children’s Centers in Wales (INFER 2010) is a good example of children being included in the evaluation process of policies. Within it they have interviewed ‘some of the children’ (p. 11).
Although this is a positive aspect of including children in the evaluation, it does not state which children, whether they were a random sample or how many were chosen. As highlighted in the essay question, Miller and Heavy (2012) acknowledge that Early Years practitioners ‘… Need to develop their skills of analysis and critical evaluation, to question the link between evidence and the dominant discourse, and to consider and reflect on the values and assumptions on which each policy is based’ (p. 8).