• Exploring the views and experiences of early years practitioners with regard to consultation with children under five

      Artaraz, Kepa; Davies, Sarah (University of Liverpool (University of Chester), 2006-10)
      Recent Government agendas have highlighted a need for children to be involved in policy and service design, provision and evaluation, in relation to services they use or which affect them. This has the aim of producing better services, leading to better outcomes for children. No lower age limit of children has been set for participation policies. While consultation with older children has become more usual in children's services, this is not yet the case for younger children. Relevant literature suggests that the attitudes and beliefs of the adults who work with them can be a significant barrier to the participation of young children. This study aimed to explore the current practice and the experiences, perceptions and views of a sample of professionals who work with children under five years old, with regard to consultation with young children. A qualitative research strategy was selected as appropriate for the study. A cross-sectional study design was utilised and potential research participants were identified through a purposive sampling strategy. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a sample of nine early years practitioners. A grounded theory approach to data analysis was used. In exploring current practice amongst the practitioners the study examined definitions and understanding of consultation, use of consultation, and methods of consultation employed. Findings revealed a number of factors that can influence whether or not practitioners consult with young children. The influencing factors included the views, attitudes and beliefs of practitioners with regard to consultation with young children. In particular, their perceptions of children's competence and their understanding of child development, as well as their views of childhood, were found to be important. Additional factors that could be influential included the aims and focus of the service, the ethos of the setting, training opportunities, and current Government policies and initiatives. Three spheres of influence were discovered in which the different factors could have a varying impact upon practice. These were the spheres of the individual practitioner, the service setting, and the wider policy context. Therefore while training for early years practitioners may be important in introducing consultation with young children, service and setting level influences may also need to be addressed. A possible theoretical model was presented as a means of understanding the views, attitudes and practice regarding consultation with young children among the early years practitioners interviewed for the study. The model suggests that the different factors that can influence whether or not practitioners consult with young children are connected and interrelated. There are policy implications of the findings of this study, in signifying what may need to be in place for the Government drive to consult with young children to work in practice. Future research is recommended to further explore these factors, the nature of the relationships between them and the extent to which they can influence practice.