Enfield Case Study: Quality Matters in Practice (QMIP)

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • Early Years
  • General resources

Basic details


Organisation submitting example

London Borough of Enfield, Community Access, Childcare and Early Years Team

Local authority/local area:

London Borough of Enfield

The context and rationale

The Quality Matters in Practice (QMIP) project supports settings in the private and voluntary sector to develop the quality of the places they offer to two-year olds through an integrated programme of coaching, support, parental engagement and listening to young children to improve the practice in settings.

This case study describes the work of the Enfield Quality Matters in Practice project undertaken between 2011 and 2012. It describes an integrated programme of intensive support, coaching, training, participatory action research and partnership building to raise the quality of early years' provision for children by improving the practice in settings.

In 2011, the London Borough of Enfield identified the strategic need to increase the number of good quality places available for less advantaged two-year-old children in the lead up to the Government’s intention to legislate for 20 per cent of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds to receive free early education from 2013. The lessons from this case study have important relevance for how the expansion of this approach may be managed across the Borough.

There are several Enfield Early Years' teams within the Schools and Children’s Service (SCS) Directorate including the Community Access, Early Years and Childcare (CACEY) Team managed within the Early Intervention and Access portfolio, a team of Early Years Consultant Teachers managed through the School Improvement Service and Children Centre Area Coordinators who are part of the Children’s Trust Commissioning Service. All the teams were increasingly concerned that little or no progress was being made in terms of quality improvement at some of the most challenging settings, and in particular, settings located in areas of disadvantage. 

Information regarding Ofsted inspection results stored on the Enfield database combined with the tracking of RAG ratings based on results of Enfield’s own internal quality benchmarking document, Enfield Quality Matters, showed that lower achieving settings were located in some of our most disadvantaged areas within the eastern corridor of the borough. Yet, the majority of the applications from families whose two years olds were participating in the two-year-old pilot came from areas of disadvantage (see London Borough of Enfield's Joint Strategic Needs Assessment 2011, appendix one) and these families, in most cases, chose settings located close to their homes. This experience mirrored the findings contained within the Ofsted annual report (2009/10) that showed that many of the settings scoring a less favourable inspection result were located in areas of disadvantage. 

Key factors related to disadvantage identified in a number of documents including the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment include a highly diverse population with a number of features including a broad ethnic mix, regular changes in the population make-up due to migratory flows, poverty, unemployment, associated health inequalities and a significant range of families where the parents speak English as a second language. Much of the early years’ provision is provided by a diverse private and voluntary sector with significant differences in the scale, organisational form, local resources and community links of the various providers.

At the same time, our Foundation Stage data (NI 92 Gap between the lowest 20% in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile and the rest) continued to show that Enfield compared less favourably against the rest of England, other London Local Authorities and our statistical neighbours.

Research, including the EPPE study (Sylva et al, 2004), has clearly established that attendance at a high quality early years' setting combined with a good home learning environment significantly and positively contributes to children’s long term cognitive, social-emotional and behavioural development. It was therefore essential that action was taken quickly to address the quality gap that had been identified.

Reflecting on local experience and feedback as well as drawing on national research and evidence, three priorities were identified that together would drive the quality agenda for settings. These priorities were:
1. Improve the effectiveness of the relationship between settings and Early Years' teams in Enfield to make the most of the support that is already available to settings and families.
2. Build more effective partnerships with parents – particularly with families experiencing disadvantage.
3. Listening to the voice young children about their views and experiences in settings. 

By improving the effectiveness of the relationship with settings, the Early Years' team was able to use the QMIP project to:
• Focus explicitly on the topic of quality;
• Agree shared goals and problem solve together;
• Provide tailored intensive support in the identified settings;
• Use this support in a focused way;
• Encourage sharing and support between settings who were all part of the same project.

The common thread that links these three priorities is the notion of partnership and collaboration between the interdependent groups – the settings, the Early Years' team members, parents and children. As QMIP has developed, collaboration based on mutual respect and shared learning has become the crucial underpinning for the range of activities designed to raise quality.

The case study draws upon earlier staff development sessions in which a 'coaching' model was employed to support the development of effective and authentic feedback skills in our work with early years' providers.

Full references are available from the C4EO team at C4EO team at the NFER.

The practice

The design of QMIP took inspiration from the NQIN paper (2010) – Principals for Engaging with Families (A framework for local authorities and national organisations to evaluate and improve engagement with families) and hypothesised that a different attitude and set of skills were needed by the local authority teams to more effectively engage with the settings and work together to improve quality.

Moran et al (2004) identifies that high quality and confident staff are crucial to building relationships with parents. Empathy and trust are crucial characteristics that enable parents to engage and the authors highlight how judgemental or unsympathetic attitudes can create barriers for parents. Quinton (2004) supports this perspective, identifying parent’s need for support that helps them problem-solve and share their expertise with staff in relationships of greater equality.

It was also recognised that there was a lack of real 'voice' from children and parents as the conversation with settings seemed to be limited in terms of setting shared goals and vision. The lack of feedback made it difficult to appreciate problems from different perspectives.

It was felt important to enable local people to develop their own shared definition of collaboration rather than impose a pre-defined external view. 

Organisational context
A Quality in Matters Project (QMIP) Steering Group was formed to develop and manage the project. This was a multi- service group comprising staff members from each of the three main Early Years' teams within Enfield – the School Improvement Service (SIS), the Children’s Centre team (CCT) and Community Access, Childcare and Early Years team (CACEY). Together, the following objectives were agreed:
• To work with up to 10 targeted early years' settings (located in areas of disadvantage) in a more focused and intensive way in order that quality of provision can be improved and so that there is an increased likelihood of each setting achieving a ‘good’ Ofsted judgement at their net inspection.
• To enhance the skill set and confidence of the SIS challenge/support staff (Learning Consultants) so that they have a positive influence and are more effective when engaging with and offering feedback to early years' settings. 
• To increase, within the setting, early years practitioners’ knowledge and motivation levels by taking further training and CPD opportunities directly to the targeted settings.

A key learning point for the project became apparent early on in the formation of the steering group. It was recognised that there was the potential for different priorities and agendas to create tension between different council services involved in the delivery of the project and in particular, the teams that were responsible for meeting number of places targets, brokerage services to families, and the service that was responsible for the support/challenge and driving up quality within the Private, Voluntary and Independent (PVI) sector. Each team had its own methods of working and perspectives on the key barriers to quality. It was important to ensure the steering group could create an environment to explore these differences and establish common shared goals.

Developing the practice
The project was able to apply and build on some recent staff development work in which a “coaching” model was employed to support the development of effective feedback skills. This work had been positively received by all parties and created a common vision for how the project could build collaborative ways of working. Research is showing that coaching can have a far more powerful impact on improving quality than training alone. However, it also shows that in order to have the impact the training of coaches has to be taken seriously to ensure that they are confident and competent across a range of core skills.

A specialist in coaching from Linden Learning was commissioned to write and deliver an intensive three day course on coaching and authentic consultancy skills which focused on building the skills and knowledge that are essential for meaningful coaching. The course was designed and delivered in a highly interactive, coaching style in order to reinforce the learning through the practical application. In addition and through the life of the project, the training was followed up with two joint tutor/staff visits to settings combined with one to one coaching for SIS Learning Consultants themselves in order to embed and take forward the learning. 

At the same time we identified and approached ten settings, primarily from the PVI sector, to be included in the first roll out of the project. We initially looked for settings that were participating in the two year old pilot and were based in areas of deprivation, as identified by the average IDACI score of the addresses of the children attending those settings. We then narrowed the number down by identifying settings whose Ofsted inspection outcomes were at that time either Inadequate (Category 1 or 2), Satisfactory and one Good, or new settings that were due an inspection within the next six months and were considered by members of the School Improvement Service and the Early Years Team that they would benefit from receiving a higher level of support in the short term. The key features of this input would be intensive support in the settings, focusing on quality and using the collaborative approaches developed by the coaching work.

In order to compensate the more intensive intervention from the SIS Early Years team to the ten settings, monies were made available to back fill a post in order the same level of universal support to other settings could be maintained.
Building Effective Partnerships with Parents
Early on in the design process, the project recognised the need to give voice to parents and staff from the ten early year’s settings to help us build a comprehensive picture of what makes a quality early years service. Qualitative insight data from focus groups with 52 of the parents using the ten settings was collected and analysed about their understanding and experiences of quality.

Parents told us that quality was their most important priority when choosing childcare and spoke of the courage that it took to leave their child with other carers. Many spoke of powerful feelings of guilt and anxiety that this can provoke for them and having confidence in the quality of the setting is one way parents can manage these strong feelings and enable them to focus on the other aspects of their lives (such as work). Parents also regularly commented that quality settings enable them to manage their own feelings by providing assurance that their child is safe and benefiting in educational and social ways from being there.

Parents also told us that there are several factors that they associated with high quality and included:
• A welcoming and friendly environment;
• A safe and secure setting;
• An emphasis on a range of learning outcomes for the child including social interaction. Parents in particular felt that they could judge the quality of learning opportunities provided by the setting through evidence of their child’s development and increasing confidence in the setting and the home;
• Good communication and relationships between parents and staff;
• The ability of a setting to work in a positive way with families from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds and with fathers and male carers.

Specific priorities concerning with communication and listening from the parents’ perspective included:
• Time and support during busy times such as arrival and departure including opportunities to speak with staff;
• The entrance and reception areas are important spaces for communication and relationship building. The look and feel of these areas are important;
• Support for the home learning and providing parents with ideas for activities at home;
• Helping parents feel comfortable when providing feedback to the setting or when raising concerns;
• Supporting parents during difficult times such as settling in and transition to school;
• Regular information about what their child is doing in the setting when the parent is not present;
• Confidence and assurance that the specific needs of their child are met each day – for example in terms of health, dietary and cultural needs;
• Opportunities to meet and share experiences with other parents.

In terms of children’s learning, all parents were committed to their child’s learning and wanted to play an active role in the home. Whilst all parents wanted to support the learning for their child, very few were aware of the full significance of the home learning environment and their role as their child’s first and most enduring educator. Given this, combined with the research evidence clearly correlating the quality of the home learning environment with later positive outcomes for children, the QMIP project group arranged for the delivery of the National Children’s Bureau Parents, Early Years and Learning (PEAL) training to all early years practitioners within the ten participating settings. 

The voice of parents whose children attend one of the settings worked with in the QMIP Project was further captured in the DVD – 'Terrific Two’s'. The making of the DVD was commissioned by Informed Families (Enfield’s Family Information Service) as a way of recording the progress of the project and hearing more about parents point of view in terms of choosing quality early years provision. 

Following on from the QMIP project, the London Borough of Enfield has successfully applied through the C4EO Peer to Peer Support programme for the delivery of a 2 day 'Train the Trainer' PEAL course. Participants on the course will include the School Improvement Service Learning Consultants alongside practitioners form the ten early year’s settings in order that in partnership, the PEAL training can be delivered to other PVI’s as part of Enfield’s commitment to the promotion of the home learning environment. This will provide essential capacity building to ensure the approach to parents and home learning can be embedded and cascaded across the Borough.

In addition, the Early Years Training Manual for Autumn/Spring academic year 2012/13 for early years practitioners will include workshops on facilitating parent forums so that that the learning of QMIP in terms of the importance of really listening to parents, and supporting them to voice their issues and concerns, can be followed through on. 

Listening to the voice of young children
To find meaningful ways of listening to the voices of children, the project accessed the C4EO Peer to Peer Support programme offered via the National Children’s Bureau and Department for Education to deliver a series of Listening as a Way of Life: An Introduction to Listening to Young Children workshops, for the ten settings. This also supported the key objective of the QMIP project concerned with increasing the early year’s practitioner’s knowledge and motivation levels by taking training directly to the settings. The PEAL training supported the practitioners to work more closely with parents to increase their confidence and skills in planning for their children’s learning.
The Listening workshops enabled practitioners and settings to explore different tools for listening to young children in their settings and many have gone on to apply these concepts such as listening trees in their practice.
An online video is available at http://www.enfield.gov.uk/if/info/21/videos/159/terrific_twos/2.

Evidence and evaluation - making a difference to children, young people and families

The project ran over a six-month period and we collected both statistical data e.g. RAG rating both before and after the intervention and Ofsted inspection results both before, and where it was available during the life of the project. In addition, we completed an initial analysis of the PVI settings and two Children’s Centres and matched with Foundation Stage results. This had never been done before in Enfield and the intention is to follow the results, year by year, to see if Foundation Stage results improve for those children who attended settings involved in QMIP.

We commissioned an independent evaluator to facilitate focus groups with parents, the early years practitioners and the challenge/support staff so that we could glean further qualitative information about how parents viewed quality, and whether the project had been a success from the view points of LA staff and practitioners.

One of the key indicators for the project will be the Ofsted inspection. However, during the six months of the project there was not a completed synergy with the Ofsted inspection cycle. As a consequence not all settings were inspected within the life of the project but the data from future inspections will still be used and applied when it becomes available. However, six of the ten settings were inspected during this six-month period. Of these six settings, two had their very first inspections and both received a ‘good’ Ofsted outcome. Another two of the six settings bettered their Ofsted grade; one from ‘inadequate’ to ‘satisfactory’ and the other from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’. Unfortunately, the remaining two settings did not fare so well and disappointingly one received a second ‘inadequate’ grade and the other dropped from ‘satisfactory’ to ‘inadequate’. 

In terms of the RAG ratings (based on being benchmarked against Enfield’s internal quality document (Enfield Quality Matters), eight of the ten settings were initially rated at the start of the project. Six of the eight settings jumped up a RAG rating (four from red to amber, one from amber to green and one from red to green). Unfortunately, the two Ofsted judged ‘inadequate’ settings both retained a Red RAG rating.

The Foundation Stage Profiles of children attending the ten participating settings will continue to be monitored each year in order to further evaluate the success of the project. 

Given the limited time frame of the project, the immediate success and learning came from the information gleaned from the face to face focus groups and feedback from the practitioners within the settings as to effective types of approach and behaviours to supporting settings. Much of this data is qualitative in nature and provides important local insights into the relationships between settings, Early Years professionals and parents in Enfield. 

All the settings felt that the collaborative approach was more effective in helping them raise their performance and address any gaps. Collaborative approaches enabled the settings to feel positive and motivated about raising their performance and quality. Relationships are built on trust, respect and open communication.

Authoritative approaches create powerful emotional reactions for the managers, owners and staff in the settings. These reactions are not felt to be conducive to building confidence, positive relationships and developing the quality of the setting. The key element that came from all the settings was an awareness of the potential power relations between the setting and Early Years team member. This difference in perceived power needs to be managed in a sensitive way to avoid setting feeling vulnerable or powerless.

This is particularly important information in terms of how best to engage with practitioners in PVI settings to rapidly increase quality in preparation for the increased number of eligible less advantaged children and access to the free entitlement. 

The project enabled early year’s practitioners and settings to develop their own shared definition of collaboration rather than impose a pre-defined external view. It was clear that good quality collaborative support and input was highly valued with settings appreciating an external perspective on their work. Managers and owners defined this approach as collaborative and they felt it shared the following key features:
• Working as an equal partner;
• Building on a setting’s strengths;
• Relationships are professional but informal;
• Agendas are jointly negotiated;
• Enabling the setting to feel safe and to try new approaches and activities at their own pace;
• Providing clear feedback with advice on how to address gaps and barriers;
• Reasons for advice are explained;
• Staff are engaged as well as the manager;
• Non-judgmental attitudes.

The second style can broadly be defined as authoritative and shared the following key features:
• The external person takes the status of 'the expert';
• There is more focus on weaknesses then strengths;
• Relationships are formal and distant;
• Settings feel that solutions are imposed on them rather than negotiated;
• Feedback may be inconsistent and unclear;
• Staff are not engaged in the learning.

Most helpfully the settings gave their own definition of collaborative working by outlining behaviours and approaches from the Early Years' team that helped them:
• Intensive weekly support provided by the Early Years' team;
• Helping the settings to make positive practical changes;
• Providing the opportunity for one-to-one help and discussions;
• Receiving support in the setting rather than always having to go to outside meetings such as cluster meetings;
• Opportunities to make changes in the setting;
• Independent advice and observations from the team;
• Learning about experiences and approaches of other settings in Enfield;
• Valuing the knowledge that the Early Years' team brings of best practice and new ideas;
• Study visits to other settings;
• Building a relationship with two members of the Early Years' team who may have different strengths and be able to provide specialist support in key areas.

The settings were also able to identify behaviours that did not help them:
• Overly authoritative approaches;
• Framing gaps and development needs as weaknesses in the setting;
• Not recognising strengths;
• Not having a close or open relationship or relationships that are overly formal and distant;
• Being told what to do – feeling that solutions were being imposed;
• Lack of two-way conversation to explore the issues;
• Focusing on small details rather than on bigger priorities;
• Being defensive when challenged by the setting;
• Lack of information to support the manager to make an informed decision and not listening to managers view;
• Lack of precise meeting time and lack of clear agenda or purpose for specific visits;
• More focus on paperwork tasks rather than on conversations and shared problem solving during visits;
• Not having the opportunity to give feedback to the external person at the end of the visits;
• Covering too many things in one visit – leaving settings confused about what their priorities for action should be;
• When giving feedback to the team about preferred working and learning styles not feeling this is listened to or taken into account;
• Closed body language that implied disinterest or distance;
• Lack of enthusiasm for the setting and lack of belief that the setting can make progress;
• Not explaining the underlying reasons for individual pieces of good practice advice, especially around the topic of education and children’s learning.

When experiencing the unhelpful behaviours, settings described a variety of complex feelings and associated thoughts that they felt limited their ability to build trust and engage in meaningful collaborative work. Some examples of these feelings and thoughts included:
• Anxiety; 
• Finding it difficult to relax with the worker;
• Worried that the team member might be coming to the setting to find faults;
• Concern that a poor relationship with the team may result in not having fair access to other types of support and information such as training; 
• Feeling unable to ask honest questions;
• Self doubt;
• Not looking forward to visits;
• Doubting your knowledge and experience.

One key element that came from all the settings was an awareness of the potential power relations between the setting and the team member. This difference in perceived power needs to be managed in a sensitive way to avoid feeling vulnerable or powerless. Emotions were very powerful and either enabled or blocked learning.
All the settings wanted to be challenged by the Early Years team to improve their practice. They wanted this challenge to be given in a supportive way that built on their strengths but also helped them see the gaps or areas for development. Effective approaches to working with managers, owners and staff included:
• Being approachable and accessible;
• Building positive and supportive relationships;
• Understanding the needs of the setting;
• Demonstrating a commitment to the success of the setting;
• Taking the lead from the setting – enabling the manager to feel able to own the agenda;
• Listening;
• Discuss priorities with the setting first before making a plan;
• Having a clear agenda for visits;
• Using coaching skills to formulate effective questions;
• Applying the coaching questions to forms of challenge and using the coaching skills to offer feedback in a constructive way;
• Flexibility;
• Explaining the legal priorities and context for early years work;
• Sharing knowledge;
• Asking for feedback from the setting about the experience of support;
• Modelling practice and approaches;
• Providing ideas and tips;
• Observing practice and providing feedback;
• One-to-one discussions;
• Using reflective approaches;
• Learning to pace the interventions with the setting and to align own working styles with the pace of the setting;
• Practical support can provide a good way to build a relationship and form the basis for more in-depth reflection and challenge;
• Spending time in the setting;
• Providing examples;
• Developing targets with the setting;
• Understanding the dynamics within specific settings and understanding the relationships between the owner, manager and staff;
• Engaging the owner as soon as possible as well as the manager of the setting and building positive relationships with both;
• It is important to be self-reflective as a worker and avoid colluding with the setting.

Setting staff identified the effective challenge as:
• Helping the setting to see their work and practices through the eyes of others;
• Observing their own practice with more detachment and insight;
• Identifying areas of risk;
• Being honest about gaps but always giving options to address them;
• “Spotting things we don’t spot or that we take for granted”;
• “Pushing you to do better without you feeling like they are pushing you”;
• Appreciating the external challenges faced by the manager and the owner;
• Setting realistic goals;
• Giving regular feedback on progress;
• Focusing on the key priorities for the setting and the big picture;
• Providing examples, tools and templates to develop practice;
• Respect;
• Saying “here might be a nice idea to try.”

During the focus group discussions, settings were able to identify their development needs, which included:
• Access to additional training – particular around policy and practice changes;
• Continuation of the intense levels of support provided by the project to help them consolidate their progress and continue to move forward;
• Recognising that development needs will change as setting move forward;
• Helping to set new and more ambitious targets and goals;
• Support for self reflection;
• Updates on legislation, policy and practice;
• Peer networking and support for managers;
• Validating local practice in the setting;
• Helping settings to feel able to share practice and not feel constrained by the issue of competition with other local childcare providers;
• Supporting settings to be able to respond positively to challenging feedback;
• Focusing on the links between quality and outcomes for children;
• Repeating some of the current training to embed ideas and to offer top-up training on key topics such as paperwork, learning journals and child development.

Evaluation and Impact
The project used a mix of evaluation tools (and referred to in the text) included:
• A 360 review of the work of the Early Years' team which included semi-structure interviews and questionnaires with team members and settings;
• Separate focus groups with parents and staff in each of the ten settings;
• Feedback from settings who participated in the Listening to Young Children workshops;
• Evaluation forms from the PEAL and Listening training workshops.

A full and detailed data set relating to the project has been collated, which includes in-depth records of all the qualitative exercises and the participants’ responses. This data set is available to support the internal review and planning process in the Borough.

The findings of QMIP and in particular, the need for local authority staff to shift approaches from authoritative to collaborative when engaging and working with settings will form part of the local authority’s strategy to ensure we are taking every opportunity to increase quality and capitalise on all existing places in existing settings for disadvantaged two-year-old children.

We will continue to monitor the Foundation Stage profiles for all PVI settings and determine if a collaborative approach to quality improvement results in improved NI 92 narrowing the gap data.

The project is also collecting case studies of good practice and success and the vignette below describes the journey of one setting, which has been received support via QMIP.

Vignette: Building Successful Relationships
XXX Playgroup, a registered pre- school provider of long standing in Enfield is one of the real successes stories of the QMIP project. Previously, there had never been an easy relationship between the setting and the local authority staff. However, the Pre School agreed to be part of the project after receiving an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted inspection result. The setting staff and management were very low in morale but responded well to our new more collaborative style of approach which included an emphasis on listening, valuing and working with the setting's existing strengths. Within six months the setting was inspected again and this time received a ‘good’ inspection result and their rag rating jumped from red to green. Most powerful of all was the complete change of attitude in both parties and at the setting manager’s request, we are now ‘partnering’ her, and her team, with the joint vision of working towards an outstanding Ofsted outcome at the next inspection. Additionally, the manager now sits on Enfield's Two-Year-Old offer Steering Group contributing to our strategic planning.

This vignette demonstrates how the re-framing of relationships can help build trust and confidence between a PVI setting and the local authority to focus together on building quality for children.

There is evidence that the insights about collaborative approaches are being applied by the various Early Years teams in Enfield and the coaching approach is being further embedded in the way relationships are framed and managed. 

Outcomes from QMIP are being used to inform the new two-year old strategy in Enfield and will prioritise the collaborative approach to support settings in the PVI sector.

There is evidence from group meetings for children’s centres and the PVI providers every term. These meetings now have a genuine two-way dialogue around issues to do with the two-year-old entitlement. This is a way to exchange information but also give PVI an opportunity to make suggestions and raise issues so that all partners are working collaboratively and in a solution focused way to design the best possible offer for two year olds and their families.

The Enfield Family Information Service has taken the insights from the parent focus groups to align the information provided by the Informed Families: Choosing Childcare fact sheet to now reflect the priorities and issues that parents say are most important to them. This has ensured that the voice of parents in terms of what to look for when choosing an early years setting and how to assess the quality of different providers from a parent’s perspective is made available to all parents in Enfield. 

Costs and benefits 
The total cost of the QMIP project came to £54,400.00 over two years.

Coaching/Training programme for Enfield Early Years Staff: £5,000.00
Additional Listening to Children and PEAL courses: £10,000.00
Hire of Venues/Refreshments: £3,000.00
Evaluation of Project £8,600.00
Terrific Two’s DVD recording of Project £17,800.00
Back Fill of one post £10,000.00

Total: £54,400.00

Enfield has used the above resources to invest in a new approach and many of the costs have been front loaded to explore the needs and create the tools to address them. However, as the real learning from the project lies within the quantitative data gleaned from the focus groups with parents, and the managers and staff within the PVI settings, good practice techniques could be replicated within other Local Authorities for a fraction of the quoted costs. 

Beginning to consider a return on investment on the project, Enfield has been able to quantify the inputs in terms of the investment per setting per year to support them to develop the quality of their practice at £5,440 per setting per year. Whilst the costed inputs have been accrued in one financial year, the benefits and impact of the project (including the on-going measurement of impact via the Ofsted inspections) will continue into the next year.

Helping others to replicate your practice

The learning from the QMIP Project has been invaluable and the Authority now has a much better understanding of the types of behaviours that PVI managers and staff find both helpful and unhelpful when engaging with them on their journey towards quality improvement. This means that local authority teams are in a much stronger position to work respectfully and collaboratively with other underperforming settings so that the local authority can capitalise on the number of places available for two-year-old free entitlement. 

The project faced a number of challenges that emerged during the course of the work and that have needed addressing in sensitive and consistent ways.

1.Recognising the experience of the private and voluntary sector in general and the diversity of organisations that are included in this group: It has been important to appreciate that many private and voluntary sector organisations share common features that distinguish them from the statutory sector including their organisational and business forms, their relationships with each other as partners and potential competitors, the economic models on which they are based and their relationship as a group with statutory services. At the same time, each setting is unique with different management styles, organisational cultures, voluntary perspectives and different community links. The project has had to manage these differences by learning to tune in to the different experiences and working practices of each setting whilst using the concept of quality as an overarching theme for the work.

2. Applying feedback from organisations and parents in sensitive and empowering ways: Some of the feedback and experiences that have emerged from the work have been challenging for individuals, teams and systems as they have sought to understand the connection between their work and the experiences and perspectives of those who they work with. As the feedback has become more direct and honest, powerful experiences and insights have been shared. It has been important to recognise the sensitivities of this way of working and support people to reflect and manage these new insights. There is always the potential for uncomfortable or painful messages to be seen as too difficult to deal with and it is essential that the project is able to address this challenge and support people in a positive way. Focusing on learning and building on the strengths of all parties has been an effective way to try to embed the QMIP approach in to managing the work.

3. Creating a collaborative working environment between a range of teams and departments in the Local Authority to share common goals for the QMIP project: At the organisational and systemic level it has been important to recognise different priorities, cultures, professional groups and working styles between different parts of the organisation and find ways to create shared goals. Making sure communication is effective within the organisation and working in collaborative ways in how the project is developed and managed has been an essential challenge to address.

QMIP has produced a range of material that could be used and adapted to replicate the project elsewhere. This includes:
• Focus group facilitation plans and templates;
• A training programme to support front line practitioners to develop the skills and knowledge to apply focus group and small group discussion techniques to their work;
• Questionnaires;
• A series of mini-case studies and practice vignettes to illustrate the QMIP approach and the impact this has had on different settings;
• Recording templates for qualitative information;
• Reports summarising key messages;
• Coaching materials;
• DVD 'Terrific Twos' – can be found at http://www.enfield.gov.uk/if/info/21/videos/159/terrific_twos/2.

QMIP has also drawn on pre-existing material such as PEAL and Listening to Young Children and cascaded these through the network of settings.

Full references are available from the C4EO team at C4EO team at the NFER.

Core leadership behaviours and C4EO Golden Threads
The following eight core behaviours have been identified as part of successful elements of leadership (see National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL. Those that apply to this example have been emboldened.

i. openness to possibilities

ii. the ability to collaborate

iii. demonstrating a belief in team and people

iv. personal resilience and tenacity

v. the ability to create and sustain commitment across a system

vi. focusing on results

vii. the ability to simplify

viii. the ability to learn continuously.

C4EO Golden Threads
The golden threads that apply to this example are:

Know your communities
Evidence is presented that demonstrates that private and voluntary settings in the early years can leverage their knowledge of their local communities to ensure that quality criteria reflect the concerns and interests of diverse groups of parents and children who use their services. 

Together with children, parents and families – involve service users
The case study demonstrates a range of ways to engage with children and parents and how to embed their contributions, insights and experience into a shared understanding of what quality means. Practical approaches are then explored to ensure that the voice of service users can enable settings to develop their practice.

Culture not structure – learning together
A range of qualitative insights are shared that have enabled early years settings, early years staff and parents to have conversations about the issue of quality of early years provision for two-year olds in Enfield. The focus group and coaching methodologies are presented as positive ways to promote learning and collaboration between different groups – providing a way to respect and value the diversity of experiences and views about a setting.

Prove it – making change happen
The case study provides evidence of settings developing new ways of working to improve the services they provide – these changes are recognised and valued by parents, early years staff and Ofsted

Contact Us

t. 020 7833 6825
e. contactus@C4EO.org.uk

Latest News & Events

  • Working with families with multiple needs - Practitioner Training | 16.06.16

    20th July 2016 - London - One day course. Practitioner training to gain the knowledge and understanding of the potential impact of parental mental health problems, substance misuse and domestic violence on children.

    Read More>
  • A Quiet Place - evidence based, personal development programmes | 12.05.16

    A Quiet Place provides evidence based, personal development programmes, supporting the achievement of unique outcomes for all ages and abilities, focusing on future aspirations and dreams, whilst drawing upon a completely holistic approach.

    Read More>

Latest Best Practice

  • Operation Encompass, Plymouth

    Themes this local practice example relates to: Vulnerable (Looked After) Children Safeguarding Families, Parents and Carers General resources Early Help Priorities this local practice example relates to: Protecting children living in families where they are at high risk of abuse, harm or neglect Basic details Organisation submitting example

    Read More>
  • Parent Champions

    Parent Champions originated as a small-scale pilot scheme following research conducted by Daycare Trust between 2004 and 2007, which found that despite advances in childcare provision in the UK in that period, disadvantaged groups still remained less likely to take up childcare. 

    Read More>
Copyright © C4EO, 2012. All Rights Reserved