Professionalism and language in an Early Years setting

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By Emma Davis

Educational expert Emma Davis looks at how the vocabulary used in Early Years legislation, such as the EYFS and Ofsted inspection framework, influences the language used by practitioners.

Nursery teacher and children writing on a blackboard

We are currently experiencing a rapidly changing landscape within the sector, and with this comes confusion over the role of an educator and the increasing professionalism this requires. Competing government agendas around Early Years have resulted in conflict over the ‘care’ and ‘education’ aspects of the role. Gone are the days of unregulated childcare overseen by mothers who collaborated to offer play sessions for children. Now, with increased responsibility, regulation and accountability comes a need to use the language associated with teaching and education.

Over time, our vocabulary has changed to incorporate this shift from ‘care’ to ‘education’. The introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in 2008 saw the regulation of the sector become more prominent – this was thought to be a pivotal point in moving away from the ‘care’ element of the sector to more of a pedagogical approach. A driving force behind this was the recognition of the impact quality Early Years provision can have on outcomes for children, as evidenced through the Effective Provision of Preschool Education (EPPE) report published by Sylva et al. (2004).

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