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Dismantling checklist mentality, an opportunity missed

Following on from yesterday’s post which received lots of comments and opinions I can’t help but feel there are two camps in the early years sector. Those that embrace early years in every sense and spend much of their free time reading, attending training, and following twitter threads. Then there are those that don’t have the time or inclination (for whatever reason) that simply turn up to work, do what they’re told by management and go home - no judgement either way. And here is where the problem lies as a sector divided by many things; opportunities, funding, qualifications, guidance and more, we rely on the rhetoric that things are too entrenched in our culture.

In my previous post I discussed checklist mentality and whether Development Matters and Birth to 5 Matters has done enough to move us away from it. As expected, many responses did not agree with my disappointment about the fact that the learning and development section of Birth to 5 Matters mimics DM2012. Some comments pointed out that DM2012 was created with lots of underpinning research so rather than start again the document could be used and improved. Again, I feel that this was achieved in many ways, but the learning and development section was always going to be used as a checklist if it looked the same and felt familiar. And yes, many pointed out that practitioners (who want to) will turn anything into a checklist but surely if this is so deeply rooted in the culture of our sector we should have at least moved away from lists of statements where possible?

Going back to my point about a sector divided, it is all well and good ‘us’ on social media sitting on our high horses saying that anyone with a good understanding of child development will not use these new documents as a checklist but we know that there isn’t a good understanding of child development across the sector. We know that qualifications vary, that the level of the workforce varies, that OFSTED has an impact on best practice and so on and so on. Sometimes we must make compromises if they are necessary to create new thinking. As helpful as lists of statements can be when used correctly, this does not take away the impact they have when used incorrectly. And if we know they are used incorrectly let’s stop relying on this rhetoric that these problems cannot be solved by a document (which I know) and let’s make these documents as least ‘checklisty’ as possible.

There are lots of things we cannot change without a massive shift in thinking and a ton of funding but DM and B25 had an opportunity to dismantle checklist mentality and they didn’t. This isn’t me pushing my opinion, this is me observing the documents already being produced using DM and B25 statements as checklists. Disagreeing with me on the basis that they shouldn’t be used this way is being ignorant to the fact that they are and pushing the issue under the carpet as something unsolvable and relying on the rhetoric that this is just the way it is.

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