Being part of a network gives Early Years Professionals reflection time and the opportunity to share knowledge and support one another. Many say coming to a network is inspiring; it gives them confidence, motivation, and self-esteem. The network gives Early Years Professionals the time and space to focus on their own development.
- How can local authorities go about setting one up?
To date, CWDC has provided funding to 140 local authorities to set up support networks for Early Years Professionals.
In many areas networks start off from small beginnings. In West Sussex, for example, two Early Years Professional representatives with the Workforce Project Office set up the first day meeting.
All local Early Years Professionals were invited along, as well as people in the process of attaining EYPS, the people running the EYPS training at the local universities, the managers of settings where Early Years Professionals work, and the workforce development team.
Currently, West Sussex has 34 Early Years Professionals and 29 people who are in the process of gaining the status, so the network will double in size in the next year. As numbers grow, the existing group may well form cluster groups.
- How does a network support Early Years Professionals after they gain the Status?
In West Sussex, newsletters are sent out after each network meeting so the information is there for those who were unable to attend. Some members will be in e-mail contact with each other, supporting and coaching one another.
Many sessions will feature a keynote lecture on a chosen subject. Updates on local and national initiatives will be provided, as well as time for professional development. In between sessions, the network may go on visits to other settings.
An Early Years Professional may be asked to give a presentation during the visit so the people who could not go to network meetings do not miss out. Giving the feedback also enhances the presentation skills of the person doing it.
Often sessions are very practical. For example, West Sussex had a storyteller looking at how practitioners can get children involved in telling their own stories.
Attendees may be asked to do a forward plan saying what they are going to take back with them from the network into the setting.
- How often does a network tend to meet?
In West Sussex the network meets every other month, at different locations around the county. Some may take place in settings themselves. Visits to local settings will be arranged in between network meetings.
- Does the network ever link up with others from across the country?
This is an important activity for many networks. For example, there is a big Early Years Professional South Eastern regional conference planned for the summer for Early Years Professionals from across Sussex, Kent, Surrey and Hampshire and with the people from the different universities running Early Years Professional Status Pathways.
- How do Early Years Professionals find out about local networks?
In West Sussex, the workforce development team keeps in close contact with the universities so they know the people on EYPS Pathways and the settings where they work. The people in the process of becoming Early Years Professionals are invited to some network meetings. Once they have attained EYPS, they are contacted by the EYP network representatives who send them a welcome pack.
Comment from Liz Burrows, EYP Network Consultant, West Sussex Early Childhood Service.