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An Intoduction to Working with Children

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There are three different types of settings which provide care and education for children. Statutory sectors are legal requirements which mean the government says they have to be there and also funds the setting. For example a primary school is a statutory sector because children must attend school from the term following their fifth birthday and every local authority must provide this education. They are paid for through taxes and national insurance. Primary schools follow the Foundation Phase curriculum for children aged from four to seven. Parents must send their children to school because it is statutory and schools try to support parents by making sure they have information about how their children are progressing. They also supply a place for children to go during working hours without having to pay.

A voluntary sector is a setting that is set up because people feel it’s something that needs to be in the area and the government is not meeting the needs. It is also a non profit organisation which means they don’t set out to make money. An example of this would be after-school clubs because they are there for reasons to help the community but are not required by law. They are funded by a combination of grants and fees. They provide a safe place for children to learn and excel in different activities and give them time to relax and socialise. Clubs give children good experience for later on in life and are also a big help to the parents who have to worry less about their children getting into trouble on the streets. If parents work longer hours than a typical school day, their children have a safe and caring place to go.

A private sector is a setting which is run by a company or has an owner and they aim to make a profit from the fees that they charge. A private sector is not run by the government. A day nursery is an example of private sector provision because it is not compulsory but provides care for babies and young children under the age of compulsory education to help parents who need somewhere to care for their children while they are at work. Day nurseries look after children that are too young to go to school. They provide care for the child in a safe environment and teach them basic skills to prepare them for primary school. Day nurseries are very helpful to parents who need to go back to work. They help them to stay calm and feel comfortable in going back to work knowing their child is in safe hands and many day nurseries also provide after school care.

The 1948 Children Act in England and Wales required local authorities to care for children whose parents were not capable of looking after them properly. “In 1989, governments worldwide promised all children the same rights by adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These rights are based on what a child needs to survive, grow, participate and fulfil their potential. They apply equally to every child, regardless of who they are, or where they are from.” (UNICEF, 2012) The main legislation for England and Wales that supports the rights of children is The Children Act 2004. The Welsh Assembly Government brought out a document called Children and Young People: Rights To Action which explains in more detail the changes that needed to take place in Wales. The main point is that all organisations working with children must work together and share information. All local authorities in Wales must have a Children’s Services Coordinator and each local authority is able to organise themselves in the best way to suit their area. The seven main aims from Rights to Action are: “

1. A flying start in life
2. A comprehensive range of education, training and learning opportunities.
3. The best possible health, free from abuse, victimisation, and exploitation.
4. Play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities.
5. To be treated with respect and have their race and cultural identity recognised.
6. To have a safe home and community.
7. Not to be disadvantaged by poverty.” (WAG, 2004, p1)

The Foundation Phase Framework for Children’s learning for 3 to 7 year-olds in Wales has seven core aims which are based on those in the Welsh Assembly

Government’s ‘Rights to Action’ document. These core aims add to the aims in Rights to Action and practitioners are guided in how they treat the children in their care by the values stated by the Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education (CACHE). The Foundation Phase replaced Key Stage 1 of the primary school curriculum in Wales from September 2008 and is strongly based on children learning through play. The seven areas of learning covered by the Foundation Phase are: * “Language, literacy and communication

* Mathematical development
* Welsh language development
* Personal and social education, wellbeing and cultural diversity
* Knowledge and understanding of the world
* Creative development
* Physical development” (Curriculum and Assessment 3–14 Division Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, 2008)

In delivering these areas of learning practitioners provide children with opportunities to explore, to make choices, to take safe risks and to make decisions and there is an emphasis on using the outdoors to enhance the indoor activities. For example, practitioners might provide children with some water and pieces of plastic pipe and guttering and let them explore for themselves what they can do with them.

It is very important to value and respect all children in the setting regardless of their background, gender, race or religion. Firstly, it’s important because it helps a lot with self confidence. For example, by valuing a child and showing them you really care about them, that are not just there to teach them. This would make them feel special and that they’re really worth something. You can do this just by listening to what they have to say, which makes a child feel valued and makes a huge improvement to the way they learn. Every child is different and has different needs and as a practitioner you have to meet the needs of each child and to help them to grow in all areas of development. For example, if a child is always wanting to play outdoors and is not interested in number games you could plan an outdoor activity like throwing bean bags into buckets with numbers on to encourage them to be involved.

Some professional skills a practitioner would need to support their work with children are : Team work – Being an effective member of a team is a very important skill in working with children because you would have to be able to communicate effectively to work with other practitioners. It is important to listen to the ideas and suggestions of other members of the team, to follow the decisions that the team has made, even if they were not your idea and for them to be able to depend on you. Working with parents – It’s your responsibility to respect the parents’ authority as the child’s primary carer and educator so you have to work with each parent to make sure everyone is happy with what you are doing with their children especially if their child is having a problem either at home or in school. You would have to speak to the parents and figure out an effective way of dealing with the problem together.

As a practitioner, if you did not have this skill you would find it much harder to deal with problems such as a child with dyslexia. This would be because then parents might not understand what was going on or how to help their child. Listening – It is important to be able to listen to the children and adults you are working with. Listening, means that you give the person you are speaking to your whole attention. A good way of showing this is to repeat what they have said to show you have understood. Even very young children should be listened to in order to understand their needs and feelings and this helps to develop feelings of self esteem. Active listening is also a good skill to help to understand how a child is feeling and builds up good relationships.

The three learning styles Visual, Audio and Kinaesthetic mean you learn in different ways. * Visual: you learn best by seeing things happen.
* Audio: you learn best be hearing things.
* Kinaesthetic: you learn best by doing
Finding which one of these you are provides support during your training because you then know what to do to ensure you are taking in the information. Research is an important study skill. If you have to write an essay, researching the topic helps you to find out information. Research could be from a book, article, magazine or website. Another important study skill is note taking. For example if you take notes on everything that someone shows you or tells you then you can go back through your notes to remind yourself. This is very helpful if you have to do an assignment because you can flick through your notes so you know the information you need to put in.

A practitioner should develop and maintain appropriate relationships with parents and other professionals. There are often many barriers between parents and practitioners and it is the practitioner’s job to break these down. Parents are the most important people in a young child’s life and are the first educators of their child and deserve to be consulted and included in their care and education in other settings. For example, there could be disagreements about what’s best for the child, the parents may feel judged that others think they are doing something wrong, they might have a different religion to the practitioner or they may not agree with the curriculum. If the parent themselves had a bad experience while they were in school they might be a bit wary of where they are sending their child. A good way to change this is through communication. The practitioner could set up an after school club for children and parents to attend where all these issues can be discussed while having fun and getting to know each other.

Parents would feel much more relaxed at leaving their child in someone else’s care if they knew who was looking after them and what sort of things they would be doing. There should be regular opportunities for parents to know how their child is getting on, for example maybe a daily report book for very young children and then open days or evenings to come and see what they have been doing and written reports for older children. When developing relationships with parents it is important to understand what they think is best for the child. For example many parents find it difficult to understand learning through play and feel that their child should be working in a more formal and traditional way. As a practitioner you are working towards the principles of the Foundation Phase and know how much better it is for children to learn through their play, so you might invite the parent to come into the setting and see how it benefits the child. “Close working between early years practitioners and parents is vital for the identification of children’s learning needs and to ensure a quick response to any area of particular difficulty.” (Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, p10)

Where a child has a particular problem it is important for practitioners to work together with other professionals such as health visitors, psychologists and doctors to gain a holistic picture of the child. This means that a plan can be put together for the child using information from all aspects of their life and everyone will be working together. The parents would also be happier if they are kept informed about what everyone is doing and why. Good communication with other professionals is also very important in keeping children safe. For example, in the case of ‘Baby P’ many professionals saw him during his short life but there was no communication between the different agencies to tie the concerns together and show the whole picture.

A multi agency team is a group of people working together to get a job done. There are many characteristics of working in a multi-agency team. Some of these are communication, partnership, mutual support and active listening. A multi-agency team would have people with different areas of expertise which would mean that the team would be able to cover a wide range of support. For a team to work well they need to be fully committed to working in partnership with others, to trust one another, relate well together and recognise each others’ strengths. All members of a team should be involved in decision making and be able to express their opinions freely. For a multi-agency team to work well it is important that all members of the team know exactly what their role is and what they need to do. Multi agency teams are an important part of putting into place the requirements of the 2004 Children Act which states if a child is registered at risk by any service they must all join together and share their information.

Victoria Climbie was an eight year old girl who was tortured and murdered by her guardians in February 2000. The police, doctors, social services department, local churches, hospitals and even National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) all had contact with her and noticed the signs that she was being abused but none of them investigated properly. They did not share information with each other. As a result of her death the government published a document called Every Child Matters which proposed that organisations working with children should work harder together to protect children and young people. Since December 2008 all local authorities have been using the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) to help to bring together all agencies involved with a child or young person in need. The CAF has been put together to support children and young people in achieving their full potential.

The aim is for all agencies working with children and young people to record their information in the same way. They then need to share this with each other so that the needs or the child or young person can be identified as soon as possible in order to provide appropriate support. This is used for children who are at risk, have a disability or impairment or have a specific need. The process starts with a pre assessment check list and, if this shows that the child needs more support, a common assessment is carried out by the practitioners working with the child. Information is recorded on a standard form for all agencies. Working together in a multi-agency team means that you are putting together the skills of different individuals with expert knowledge in different areas such as education, health, medical etc to make sure you form an all round picture of the needs of the child you are trying to support. It can also mean that the work can be shared between different members of the team and avoids repetition.

Traditionally, children were meant to be seen and not heard. Nowadays, it has been shown that speaking and listening to children helps with both their social and emotional development. Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) encourages adults to listen to the opinions of children and involve them in decision making. It states that “children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account.” An early years practitioner should always listen to and value children’s views and opinions. This is an important thing to do as a practitioner because it has many effects on a child. For example, giving a child your full attention helps to build a healthy relationship and to build up trust and mutual respect. It also helps practitioners to empathise with the children in their care and to understand how individuals are thinking and feeling. It is very important to listen to what they have to say because if there is something going on at home or something serious you should know about, a child is much more likely to tell you if they think you will actually listen to them.

As a practitioner there are many ways to show children in your care that you are listening to them and that they can tell you things. For example, you could have one to one conversations. Maybe have once a week where you spend time with each child on their own just talking to them and listening to what they have to say. Another way is to carry out their ideas. So, if you’re planning on decorating a wall, ask the children what they want on it and actually use their ideas. If you use their ideas or someone says something nice, tell everyone about it to make the child feel special and know they have done something good. Doing this clearly shows them you are listening and hearing what they are saying and valuing their opinions. Another important reason for listening to children is the huge improvement it makes on their self esteem. For example listening to a child with your full attention shows that you really care about what they are saying which would make the child feel good and important. Again by acting on what the child has put forward helps with their self esteem because it makes them feel like they have done something right. This can be developed by practising reflective listening where you repeat back what the child has said to show you’ve understood.

It is important as a practitioner that you should understand the boundaries of your role in order to be sure to keep the children safe. Every setting is required to have policies and procedures for safeguarding the children in their care and it is the responsibility of every early years practitioner to make sure they have read and understood these and been on appropriate training courses to understand how to keep children safe. For example some organisations have rules about touching or hugging children which are aimed to keep both the children safe from possible abuse and adults safe from accusations. Since the case of Vanessa George in 2009, early years settings have become more aware of the need to control the use of mobile phones and staff are not allowed to have them while they are working. Settings have also have put into place clearer arrangements to make sure that practitioners are not regularly alone with young children especially while changing nappies. Practitioners need to understand the importance of confidentiality in their work.

There may be personal things that you know about the children which must not be gossiped about to your friends and family or even in the staffroom to colleagues. For example, if a parent tells you that there are difficulties at home because they are breaking up with their spouse or partner, other members of staff may need to know that the child could be upset and behave differently from normal but they do not need to know all the details that the parent may have told you. It is important for practitioners to remember that the child’s parents are the primary carers and educators and that their opinions must always be considered and respected so long as they are in the best interests of their child. While it is good to have close and caring relationships with individual children you should always remember that they do not belong to you but to their parents who should be kept informed about how their child is getting on. If you have any concerns about the child it is important to discuss these with the parent and to agree between you how you could help the child.

An example of this would be if a child is having problems with recognising colours – you could discuss this with their parent and suggest some ways they could help their child at home such as concentrating on one colour at a time. There are occasions where it is not right to keep information to yourself. If a child discloses information to you that might indicate that they are being, or have been, abused then the law requires you to pass this information on to the person in the setting who is responsible for Safeguarding. Also, if you suspect another member of staff of behaving inappropriately with children it is your responsibility to let someone else know about it.

This would usually be the person responsible for Safeguarding but if you suspect them then you should report your concerns directly to the social services or police. One of the boundaries of the ways Early years practitioners should behave is to always set a good example for the children in their care and make sure that they have the same standards for themselves as they expect from the children. For example, they should keep their things tidy because they are expecting the children to keep the room and equipment tidy. They should also always treat the children and other adults with the same respect as they would like to be treated – this includes saying please and thank you and encouraging children when they do something well. Early years practitioners must never use physical punishment as this is never allowed in early years provision and goes against the principles of Every Child Matters.

A child centred approach is very important in an early years setting. This is when children are challenged to work out solutions to problems given to them which helps cooperation and develops life skills. Practitioners work hard to figure out what each child is interested in and how they work best and then apply that knowledge to their lesson. This approach makes learning more fun for the child and the fact that he is finding his own solutions to problems helps to build self-confidence and esteem. Another approach to working with children is the child friendly approach. This is when children are all treated the same no matter what sex, race or ability to help them to feel safe, happy and for their performances to improve gradually. Jean Piaget was the first theorist to propose the concept that understanding how children learn helps adults to know how to teach them better. Through his observation of children, he developed the theory that children can only learn when they have reached a certain stage of development.

Piaget’s theories were the beginning of child centred learning and making teaching more interesting and less based on learning things by rote. Scaffolding is a child-centred teaching tool based on the research and findings of Lev Vygotsky. It builds on the findings of Piaget but Vygotsky believed that you don’t have to wait for a child to be ready to learn something but that it is possible for adults to help them by scaffolding their learning. “Vygotsky believed that when a student is at the Zone of Proximal Development for a particular task, providing the appropriate assistance (scaffolding) will give the student enough of a “boost” to achieve the task. Once the student, with the benefit of scaffolding, masters the task, the scaffolding can then be removed and the student will then be able to complete the task again on their own.” (Saul McLeod, 2010) An example of this would be climbing a ladder up a slide. First the adult would have to help the child with each foot, moving on to pointing to the next foot until eventually the child is able to do it on their own`. The ‘Reggio’ approach to teaching young children has grown from the work of Loris Mallaguzzi in the city of Reggio Emilia in Italy.

It has had a huge, worldwide effect on approaches to teaching young children and focuses on the use of the environment and sensory experiences to inspire children’s learning and depends on following children’s interests in developing the curriculum. * The principles from all these theories and approaches form the basis of the The Foundation Phase Framework for Children’s Learning. Early years settings are now encouraged to provide a child centered curriculum based on the seven areas of learning and following the interests of the children to support their learning through exploring and investigating the world around them.

On my placement I was working with a group of six year old children on an activity which involved counting money and identifying coins. One boy started to be rather silly and stopped paying attention to what we were doing. I realized that he was finding the activity too easy and was getting bored so I took him aside and gave him some more difficult examples to think about. I feel this is a good example of child centered learning. * A child centered approach enables children to access the curriculum at their own level because they can follow their interests and do really well at something they like. This gives the practitioner the opportunity to provide specific support in something that the child might be having trouble with. With a child centered approach children are able to explore and experiment with things they are interested in and to learn in ways which suit them which helps them to achieve well.


Atherton J S (2011) Learning and Teaching; Piaget’s developmental theory http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/piaget.htm

Curriculum and Assessment 3–14 Division Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (2008) Framework for Children’s Learning for 3 to 7-year-olds in Wales. Welsh Assembly Government.

Department for Education (2012), Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, Department for Education.

http://www.unicef.org.uk/UNICEFs-Work/Our-mission/UN-Convention 10/10/12 UNICEF (2009) A Better Life for Everyone: A summary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. UK: UNICEF Welsh Assembly Government (2004) Children and Young People: Rights to Action, Welsh Assembly Government.

Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education (2011) CACHE Level 3 Award/Certificate/Diploma in Child Care and Education Course Handbook, Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education.

http://www.bernardvanleer.org/files/chetna/Child_rights_booklet-8.pdf 12/10/12

http://www.brainy-child.com/article/reggioemilia.shtml 14/10/12 Rita Cheminais (2009) Effective Mulit-Agency Partnerships Putting Every Child Matters into Practice Sage Publications Ltd http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/oct/01/vanessa-george-plymouth-abuse-background 13/10/12

Scott, Johnstone, MacMillan, Paterson, Savers and Anderson (Eds) (2008) HNC Early Education and Childcare (for Scotland) Heinemann http://www.pearsonschoolsandfecolleges.co.uk/FEAndVocational/Childcare/HNC/HNCEarlyEducationandChildcare/Samples/Samplechapters/HNC-Childcare_CH01.pdf

http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/piaget.htm 15/10/12 http://www.nspcc.org.uk/inform/research/questions/child_protection_legislation_in_the_uk_pdf_wdf48953.pdf 13/10/12 https://www.pre-school.org.uk/practitioners/681/listening-to-children 12/10/12

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmeduski/40/40.pdf 13/10/12

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