Petra Luck describes the benefits of learning alongside colleagues from around Europe.
The Centre for Early Years Management and Leadership at Liverpool Hope University has provided online learning opportunities for practitioners since launching an e-learning BA Nursery Management degree in 2002. This development was in recognition of the need to offer an approach that is flexible and that meets the needs of practitioners, who, because of the very nature of their work, find it difficult to take time off to attend classes and for whom travel to institutions might be difficult.
In 2004, the Foundation Degree Management of Childcare Provision was introduced. This course offers academic progression and management education and training for early years practitioners who are already managing settings, or who are aspiring managers. A Quality Assurance Agency review of the Foundation Degree in 2005 praised the programme and recognised innovation and good practice in the approach to distance learning and problem based learning online.
European Enhancement of Early Years Management Skills project (EEEYMS)
The programmes at Liverpool Hope have greatly benefited from an EU funded ‘European Enhancement of Early Years Management Skills’ project that has been developing learning materials for early years managers since October 2003. The EEEYMS project, also coordinated by Liverpool Hope University, is a partnership involving the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses (PANN) from the UK and partners in Bulgaria, the Netherlands and Finland.
One of the tasks of the EEEYMS project has been to pilot the learning materials designed by the partnership, and to that end the ‘Certificate in European Early Years Management’ was validated at Liverpool Hope in June 2005.
Certificate in European Early Years Management
Fifteen early years managers from Northern Ireland, Finland, Bulgaria and England commenced the programme in September 2005. This began with a four-day residential at the university.
The certificate is aimed at experienced and qualified early years managers who hold a relevant BA or BSc degree or a vocational qualification at Level 4. Applications were encouraged from experienced practitioners from a wide range of early years settings. The settings represented by the 15 practitioners were in the state funded, for-profit or voluntary sectors and covered day care; school based early years education and care, after-school clubs and integrated settings.
In the 2005-06 cohort, all students studied modules which covered topics such as human resource management, understanding and managing finance, marketing for early years managers, with optional modules covering the management of children’s health, marketing, managing the curriculum or valuing and understanding equal opportunities.
All students completed three compulsory and at least one optional module through studying online using the virtual learning environment available via the university’s website and supported by study materials such as handbooks and CD ROMs containing case studies, role plays and other resources.
The programme aims to give students the opportunity to share best management practice through collaboration with other colleagues from other European countries, gaining a knowledge and understanding of current theories, models and research relating to key aspects of their practice.
Students can use the virtual learning environment (VLE) at different times of the day or night to study or communicate with each other and the tutor, and this gives excellent opportunities for networking and learning with others in a community of practitioners. Students in module feedback commented that ‘I was surprised at the outcome of our group work on line. I could not see how it was going to work, but it does’.
Caroline King, an after schools leader from Northern Ireland, was one of the 15 participants who completed their studies in June 2006. Caroline states that: ‘The course has made me more confident in my practice as a manager, I have been updated about policies and the collaborative learning was excellent.’
Another participant endorsed the value of collaborative learning online by stating that: ‘I have been given back some enthusiasm for early years working with other senior practitioners. I no longer feel isolated and I enjoy sharing problems in the work place and having others suggest remedies. This module has refreshed and shown me different ideas I can develop for my organisation’s benefit and use.’
This student endorsement also highlights the benefits of studying for the certificate: ‘Working with other early years managers, supporting one another, sharing and collaborating and encouraging one another whilst learning all the time and getting to talk to new people from different settings and approaches, I have made some very good friends through this experience, for which I am grateful.’
The certificate aims to enhance the skills in management which are needed in the expanding early years education and care sector and prepare students to meet the demands of future employment.
Progress to BA
Since June 2006, the certificate has also been validated as a bridge to give progression from the Early Years Sector- Endorsed Foundation Degree (EYSEFD) onto the final level of the BA (Hons) Early Years Management. This is in response to enquiries from practitioners, who upon completion of the EYSEFD, do not wish to assume positions of ‘senior practitioner’ or wish to enter the teaching profession, but prefer to stay and progress in management positions in the sector.
The Certificate in European Early Years Management is available again in 2006-07 as a part time qualification, worth 60 credits (UK) or 30 (European Credit Transfer points) at degree level.
To read more about the course visit www.ndna.org.uk or www.eeeyms.org