Early Years Contect and Policy

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Vicky Snelson

Module Code FDS3003-N

The purpose of this assignment is to critically examine a recent policy relating to a sector that impacts on the role of an early year’s practitioner. The policy that is to be examined in this assignment is the ‘Every Child Matters: Changes for Children’. The ‘Every Child Matters’ document will be critically examined, analysed and an overview of how this policy works in practice and the potential for developments will be discussed. As the ‘Every Child Matters’ policy covers a wide range, two area will be discussed in detail and how the areas impacts on the early years setting and the role of the practitioner. The areas to be looked at in greater detail are ‘Stay Safe’ and ‘Enjoy and Achieve’ in relation to looked after children. Early year’s practitioners have an obligation to provide care and education to help keep children safe and achieve their full potential. As an early years practitioner it is important to keep up to date with current legislation and policies.

Every Child Matters is used by various different services that involve children, young people and their families. This policy is used in all schools and educational establishments, social services, the criminal justice service and the health services. This policy will be examined and the impact it has on the early years and primary school setting and the practitioners role will discussed. The history of the policy within the United Kingdom will be summarised and a comparison to international provision will be made.

‘The legislative framework comprises laws influencing education and care, and relevant policies, guidelines and regulations’ (Macleod-Brundenell 2004 p329). It is therefore vital for practitioners to be aware of and have some understanding of all relevant documents that are in place within their setting so that high standards of care and education can be achieved and maintained.

Some of the factors that contribute to developments in policy and legislation are ‘political objectives, research and evidence from practice and flaws in previous legislation’ (Macleod-Brundenell 2004 p330). By looking at the history of legislation relating to the recent development of the ‘Every Child Matters’ policy it will become evident how previous developments have shaped this policy.

In 1944 the welfare state was developed in the United Kingdom. The idea behind this was that everyone should be entitled to free health care and treatment, free education and an income each week that was not below the poverty line (Bruce & Meggitt 1996 p517). The welfare state helped parents to care for their children and remove the children from the home where necessary to protect them from harm.

The Seebohm Report (1968) discovered that families were being visited by a wide range of professionals ranging from social workers to speech therapists. This wide rang of professionals often did not know that each other were involved with the families (Bruce & Meggitt 1996 p524).

As a result of the Seebohm Report the Social Services Act (1970) set up different government departments which had links to each other. Evidently through recent development namely the death of Victoria Climbie and the publication of the Every Child Matters policy there is still a problem with this area of services being joined up and working together.

The Children Act (1989) was introduced and the main ideas behind the Children’s Act were that the welfare of the child is paramount, children have a right to be protected from harm and that help should be offered by various services. These services should liaise with each other and the parents.

In the same year as the Children Act (1989) the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) was issued. Child protection is not just a problem within the United Kingdom it is a global issue and ‘177 countries world wide have ratified the Convention; the United Kingdom ratified it in 1991, committing the

United Kingdom to full implementation’ ( accessed online 15/01/2006). As well as the United Kingdom the other 176 countries pledged to follow the guideline set out in the convention. The Convention addresses the rights in every area of children’s lives. Children have a right to protection, to survival and development, to security, to family life and an education that is directed at developing their personality and talents, and their mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential (Donohoe & Gaynor 2003). These are just a few of their rights, there are many more.  

Early years provision is a focus for many educationalists across the nations. This has been influenced by international actions such as The Convention on Children’s Rights and western democracy countries attempting to solve similar problems of socio-economic demands of increasingly diverse populations. Moss, states that in 1998, Britain took significant steps of moving responsibility for all early childhood services into the education system (cited in Pugh 2003). He goes on to state that four other states joined in this process. These states were Spain, Denmark, Finland and Sweden. This shows that integration was the agenda for some other countries at around the same time. Britain and Sweden shared a unique European position by being the only countries to have brought early childhood services, schools and school-age childcare services into one service (cited in Pugh 2003).  

In 1997 The Utting Report was published and this identified disastrous outcomes for ‘looked after’ children in terms of various areas of their lives such as, their education, qualifications and their employment chances (MacLeod-Brundenell 2004). These are just a few of the disastrous outcomes, the list continues. New policies namely Quality Protects were introduced to prevent the outcomes in The Utting Report (1997) happening.

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In 1999 the Department of Health (DoH) published guidelines called ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’. These guidelines required a multidisciplinary approach to child protection, promoting child protection training for all professionals involved in child protection, responding to the child and developing and implementing child protection plans (DoH 1999). With the Government publishing ‘Every Child Matters’ in 2003 it is evident that all professionals are not trained enough in child protection to respond to the needs of the child and implementing child protection plans.

Section 9 of the ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ document states that  

‘Professional ...

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