Care in theory and practice
Carol Raby is impressed by a comprehensive new resource for an expanding area. The past two or three years have seen an enormous increase in the demand for a variety of care courses, so that colleges have even found it necessary to form new departments to cope.
Practical training is essential to all care courses and this is reflected in the growing popularity of school placements, which have never been in such demand. Students at our nursery school not only include those at college intending to be nursery nurses and child care assistants, but also sixth formers and younger pupils interested in following child care studies in the future.
Students from a nearby university college of nursing and midwifery now join the ranks, as trainee nurses need increasingly to understand child development. As one visiting tutor remarked, they need to understand the needs of the healthy child in its normal context and not merely "to view a sick child as a patient in a bed".
Requirements of awarding bodies vary considerably, and some courses need more detailed assessment of practical work than others, but whatever their course of training, students need to integrate theory with practice. This is why the National Association for Maternal and Child Welfare (NAMCW) has produced materials which enable schools and colleges to provide for students wishing to study child care and education.
Its materials encourage students to use a wide range of resources and their own experiences in a constructive way, and their most recent pack, Flexible Learning Materials to Support Child Care and Education, supports work required for a national vocational qualification, NVQ Level II, a course which is rapidly increasing in popularity.
A major benefit of this very comprehensive pack is that it enables students to study at their own level and interest, and therefore facilitates differentiation.
The materials are presented in a robust ring binder and have a pleasing clarity of layout. A series of study guides incorporates assessment plans which include sample questions likely to be asked by an assessor. A wide range of modules is covered, including care for children's physical needs, support for their social and emotional development, behaviour management, organisation of play activities, working with young children, maintaining a child-oriented environment, safety and relationships with parents.
Additional sections known as endorsements are also available to add to the pack, with modules on working with babies, supporting others (ie, giving administrative and technical support and working under the direction of others), working in pre-school groups (or nursery) which includes working with groups of parents and administrative responsibilities, and working in a community-run pre-school group setting, including working with a management committee.
As the NVQ course relies heavily on competence-based assessment, the clearly-tabulated check lists require students to provide that all-important "evidence" of attainment. There are 13 listed sources of evidence which students may use to display competency or achievement, including log books, direct observation, case studies, analogue evidence, and reflective accounts. Each check list is linked to a study guide and cross-referenced to other units. Modules are supported with comprehensive resource suggestions, reading material and activities, all of which provide clear direction for students in meeting specified criteria. They also include time scales for completing the tasks.
A major benefit of this material is that it supports independent learning and individual learning programmes, at the same time giving students immediate feedback. Used in partnership with a further education learning centre, the NAMCW hopes that it will increase the number of people who can become qualified after leaving formal education and lead towards a wider expectancy of nationally-recognised standards in the care and education of young children up to the age of eight years. These materials are market leaders in the field of flexible learning and also of value to staff in an early years school setting.
Carol Raby is headteacher at Wickbourne Infants School, West Sussex