Early Years Professional Status: A Narrative Study of Leadership and Contradictory Professionalism
AbstractIn 2006 The Children’s Workforce Development Council introduced the Early Years Professional (EYP) as a new graduate level leader of practice and change agent. The EYP was tasked with improving quality in early childhood education and care (ECEC) in England, particularly in the private voluntary and independent (PVI) sector. Professional status was a new phenomenon in this sector and a narrative approach was taken in this study to explore, the experiences and perspectives of four experienced practitioners as they undertook a programme of training and education to become EYPs. Narrative in this study has informed the collection, interpretation and presentation of the data. The first layer of analysis presents the data as monologues which privilege the voices of the participants before the data is deconstructed for two subsequent layers of analysis. The second layer of analysis draws on the work of Bourdieu to explain how feminine stereotypes of care have shaped the participants’ experiences of professionalisation. This thesis argues that professionalisation does not entirely overcome primary conditioning but can increase access to cultural and economic capital and help the workforce resist exploitation. The data are considered in relation to contemporary debates, particularly those concerning performativity and the professional mandate. It is argued that performativity can threaten practice that is built on an ethic of care, leading to ontological insecurity. This thesis posits that the ontological insecurity, associated with EYPS, tends to be transitory and is outweighed by the value, status and access to resources that being a professional brings to the participants. It also argues that the professional mandate is found to be, at best, fragile and, at worst, rejected by significant stakeholders, thus threatening professionalisation of the sector. The final layer of analysis draws on the multiframe model of Bolman and Deal which offers insight into how organisational structures and practices shape participants’ experiences of becoming an EYP and their ability to lead practice, and bring about change. The findings suggest that the role of the professional in ECEC challenges traditional hierarchical organisational structures and the professional is often ill prepared for leadership. Drawing on this multiframe analysis the study synthesises an adapted Change Curve Model with the multiframe model to generate an integrated model of leadership which the practice leader can draw upon to identify the stages of change, and the actions which can be employed at each stage. This model extends knowledge of leadership in ECEC and underpins practice leadership in a sector which is increasingly framed by the raising standards policy context and increased accountability.
MCMAHON, Samamtha (2016). Early Years Professional Status: A Narrative Study of Leadership and Contradictory Professionalism. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.