Call for practitioners to take part in 'professional love' project

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Dr Jools Page of the University of Sheffield is carrying out a research project on 'Professional Love in Early Years Settings.

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Dr Page is looking for early years practitioners to share their experiences through an online anonymous survey.

She said, 'In recent years, a small but growing number of early years practitioners have been convicted of child abuse, and the continued media exposure of abusive clergy and then of various ‘celebrity’ entertainers has led to a climate of wariness, and even suspicion, that has grown around adults’ professional relationships with very young children; and it is extremely likely that this wariness increases the reservations often felt around male ECE practitioners.

'A difficulty for those who work in early years settings is how to express the affectionate and caring behaviours which the role demands of them in their loco parentis, and which very young children need in their development of healthy attachments.'

Dr Page said she developed the term ‘professional love’ to try to understand these intimacies. 'Though sections of a prurient media are eager uncritically to advertise aspects of rare cases of professional abuses, the real issue, of an appropriate professional love, remains for the most part unexamined in the daily practice of early years settings, obscured in this climate of wariness.'

A research team at the University of Sheffield has developed a funded project to explore these issues. They want to know what early years professionals think about:

  • the quality of their relationships with very young children;

  • the place of ‘love’ in those relationships;

  • the boundaries to those relationships;

  • the concerns they may have about any intimacy in early years settings

  • the ways in which they define and practice appropriate loving relationships with young children in early years settings


In the second part of the project, they will work with staff in a large group of ECE settings to develop guidelines and a ‘toolkit’ for use in all early years settings.

Dr Page says, 'If these challenges and dilemmas about professional love in early years resonate with your experience and practice with young children we want to hear from you. Please do tell others in your networks about this survey as we are keen to gather as many views as possible from those who work in the early years sector in England.'

A later stage of the project is planned to look in parallel at parents’ experiences of intimacy in ECE.

The PLEYS project is being led by Dr Jools Page and is funded by the University of Sheffield Innovation, Impact and Knowledge Exchange (IIKE) as Constructions of Intimacy in Early Childhood Education and Care: practitioners experiences.

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