Early Years Placements: A Critical Guide to Outstanding Work-based Learning

Early Years Placements: A Critical Guide to Outstanding Work-based Learning

by Jackie Musgrave, Nicola Stobbs


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This is a key text for all those undertaking placements or work-based learning (WBL) in early years settings. Taking a practical approach underpinned by theory and research, it guides student practitioners through their WBL to help them achieve an outstanding experience. There is a focus on the variety of child, parent and practitioner perspectives plus case studies involving the full range of ages from across the early years. While it is invaluable in answering key questions about placements it also encourages a reflective and critical approach throughout that develops and promotes professionalism. It is completely up to date with the latest Early Years Foundation Stage and includes reference to the Early Years Teachers' Standards. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781909682658
Publisher: Critical Publishing
Publication date: 03/09/2015
Series: Early Years
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 6.85(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.35(d)

About the Author

Jackie Musgraveis a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Early Childhood at the University of Worcester.  She qualified as a sick children’s nurse and then taught early childhood care and education at a college of Further Education.  She has taught Higher Education students for the past 10 years. Jackie has a Masters degree from the University of Sheffield, where her research focused on an aspect of practice-based learning for level 3 students. Her doctorate research examined the effect of chronic health conditions on young children’s inclusion in their early education and she has just been awarded her PhD.

Nicola Stobbs initially trained as a primary school teacher, and worked as a class teacher for 5 years.  She worked at a pre-school and was promoted to the manager’s position, running the setting for another 12 years.  She has an MA in Early Childhood and also gained Early Years Professional Status.  During her time as a setting manager Nicola was a mentor for many students on placement.  She is committed to providing excellent care for children and supporting students to become the excellent practitioners that children deserve.  She now works at the University of Worcester supporting student practitioners.

Read an Excerpt

Early Years Placements

A Critical Guide to Outstanding Work-based Learning

By Jackie Musgrave, Nicola Stobbs

Critical Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2015 Jackie Musgrave and Nicola Stobbs
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-909682-67-2



Work-based learning (WBL), sometimes known as practice-based learning or professional practice, is a vital component of vocational higher education courses. The skills and knowledge that you can gain from WBL can dramatically increase your employability. The focus of this book is to guide you as student practitioners on early childhood education and care (ECEC) courses through your WBL with the aim of enabling you to have an outstanding experience and maximise your future employability. This focus is especially pertinent because the early years workforce is becoming increasingly professionalised.

The Nutbrown Review has focused attention on WBL as a vital part of becoming an effective early years practitioner:

Practice placements are an essential part of training. ... Students need to observe and work alongside practitioners whose practice is high quality ... Only settings that are rated 'Good' or 'Outstanding' by Ofsted should be able to host students on placement.

(Nutbrown, 2012, p 7)

There was also a recommendation that students should 'be experiencing practice in a variety of settings ... so that they can see different ways of working and learn from a variety of expert practitioners' (p 21). Further emphasis on the importance of placements was stressed by the recommendation that this should take place in 'at least three different and appropriate settings, to last a total equivalent of a minimum of twenty percent of the total course duration' (p 23).

Although some of you will have undertaken some WBL prior to beginning your course, many of you may regard the expectations of you as undergraduates as daunting as well as liberating. This is partly because you are expected to work as part of a team of practitioners rather than as a student under the direction of teachers or college tutors. Tutors will explain the activities that you are expected to undertake during placement, however, there may be little time to address individual concerns or cover all possible eventualities. In addition to addressing the needs of undergraduate students, this book will address those of you who are already graduates and are working towards achieving Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS).

About this book

Each chapter has a visual map, which signposts the content of the chapter, and an explanation of how the content links to the Early Years Teachers' Standards (that were published in September 2013). This book has been written in a way that incorporates our students' opinions and views, as well as advice from practitioners, in the form of Dear Student letters. The content of the letters is intended to offer you support by covering a range of subjects and issues relevant to WBL. Other features to help you understand the topic being covered include critical questions, case studies and critical reflections, as well as suggestions for further reading.

Chapter 2 includes a range of practical considerations for you to address ahead of starting your placement. The theme of the chapter is to help you plan carefully for your WBL so that you do your utmost to ensure that you have an outstanding experience.

Chapter 3 deconstructs the meaning of professionalism for student early years practitioners. It explains the concept and helps you to understand what it means to be a professional student.

Chapter 4 outlines the main points about safeguarding and child protection. It draws on the messages learnt from serious case reviews and focuses on your role in safeguarding children as a student in practice.

Chapter 5 summarises key documents that have formed government policy in recent years. The chapter content makes links to your practice and includes suggestions of how they influence your practice and how they can be used in your academic work.

Chapter 6 includes a range of practical guidance of what you can do to make a good impression on your first day. For example, how getting to know the routines straight away can reflect well on how you are viewed by your temporary colleagues.

Chapter 7 helps to define what is meant by 'theory' and explains how and what you can use to support theoretical understandings of your practice.

Chapter 8 emphasises the vital place of observation, planning and assessment in contemporary ECEC. The content explains in clear language the links between these three concepts. The content explains how observations are the key to knowing children and how, in turn, knowing children can help you to plan how best to manage children's behaviour.

Chapter 9 addresses the statutory assessment elements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), including the two year-old check and the end of key stage profile.

Chapter 10 gives you some suggestions of how to manage relationships with colleagues when on placement. It addresses some of the difficulties that male practitioners can experience in a predominantly female environment.

Chapter 11 discusses some of the challenges associated with working with parents from your perspective as a student practitioner.

Chapter 12 explores the difficulties associated with student practitioner and child(ren) relationships. The content encourages you to acknowledge your own feelings in such relationships and encourages you to think about your responses to contradictory, and sometimes unethical, practices that you may encounter.

Chapter 13 helps you to explore the concept of reflective practice in relation to your WBL experiences. There are examples that you can adapt to help you develop your skills in this important aspect of ECEC.

Before the appendices is a glossary of terms and acronyms used in ECEC.

Our commitment

As a Registered General Nurse/Registered Sick Children's Nurse and a trained primary school teacher, we are committed to the practice and principle of WBL, having benefitted from this when we were student practitioners and then subsequently as we mentored students undertaking WBL in our institutions post-qualification.

This commitment, based on our personal experience rather than evidence-based research, was upheld as we moved into higher education and we became responsible for the preparation of early childhood studies students in becoming professional practitioners. As we planned programmes that included elements of WBL we struggled to find a theoretical framework to guide our planning for student preparation for placement. Therefore, we decided to gain students and practitioners' views of what they think all students need to know as they partake in this valuable learning experience. We hope that you enjoy your placements, and most of all we hope that you find this book useful.


Preparing for placement

Teachers' Standards (Early Years)

The content of this chapter links to the following Early Years Teacher Award indicators:

8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.6 and 8.7.


This chapter highlights some of the practicalities you need to consider when planning your professional placement or work-based learning experience. How well you plan will directly contribute to making your placement both useful and enjoyable. It is worth remembering that settings provide a placement on a voluntary basis and most practitioners are more than happy to invest time in mentoring students. However, you have an ethical responsibility to ensure that you are as professional as possible so that you make a positive contribution to the setting and, most of all, to the children's education and care. If you do not prepare well and do not have a professional approach, you are likely to divert practitioners' time away from the children in order to mentor you. Therefore, you have a responsibility to invest time and thought into this important aspect of your degree.

Choosing your setting

Universities have different approaches to how placement is organised and there are pros and cons to each approach. Whichever approach your university has, it is your responsibility to familiarise yourself with the guidance and do all you can to follow it.

Some universities may have a member of staff who is responsible for finding you a placement. It can be reassuring for you to know that someone else has this initial responsibility, especially if you have moved away from home to live at university. However, it may mean that you have little influence on where you go and this could be problematic in terms of how far you have to travel to get to your placement. On the other hand, your university may have a policy that expects you to find your own placement. If this is the case there will be support available to you from the university. For example, there is likely to be a named contact with responsibility for co-ordinating aspects of students' professional placements, even though they may not be responsible for allocating a placement. There may be a database of settings that the university works with in the near vicinity.

The importance of early childhood education and care (ECEC) means that there are many courses related to this subject and, therefore, there are many students seeking professional placement experience. It is a good idea to ensure that you find out the dates for your placement and start the process of finding a setting as soon as possible, so that you have a greater chance of being offered a place that best suits your objectives.

The range of early years settings

You may know exactly where you would like to work after you complete your degree and feel that going into practice in a setting that is different from what you want to do, or working with an age range that you do not want to work with in the future, is a waste of time. However, it is important that you take the opportunity to gain experience in different settings and with children across the age range. Doing so will help you to gain an holistic view of children's learning and development needs and this will be beneficial to you in gaining a broad understanding and knowledge of ECEC. You may also find that you enjoy another age group or setting far more than you expected. In addition, a broad range of experience will contribute to your employability. There are several settings for you to consider for your placement and Table 2.1 lists some of the options available to you. Use the table as a template to record your thoughts about the advantages and disadvantages of each setting for your career development. Start to keep a list of all of your professional experience so that you can include relevant details in your CV and/or job applications.

Critical questions

Using the list of settings in Table 2.1, think about government policy, the needs of children and families and consider the following questions.

* Why is there such a range of early years settings available?

* Copy out Table 2.1. What are the advantages and disadvantages for children and families? Fill in the second and third columns of the table with your ideas.

* What are the advantages and disadvantages to your career development of spending time in professional placement in the above settings? Add your thoughts to the second and third columns of the table.

The importance of a good or outstanding Ofsted rating

The Nutbrown Review (2012) emphasised the importance of professional practical experience for students. This is because it is vital that you learn from observing good practice so that you can develop your own good practice. Conversely, if you observe poor practice, it is possible that you will perpetuate this in your own practice. A measure of the quality of a setting is its rating from Ofsted (2014) inspections. As Chapter 5 explains, a recommendation of The Nutbrown Review is that students experience practice in a variety of settings (at least three) that have an Ofsted rating of 'good' or 'outstanding' (at the time of writing, 80 per cent of settings have been rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding). For this reason, it is important that you are in a setting with these ratings for your practice.

The exception to the recommendation that placement should be in a good or outstanding setting is if you choose to go and spend time with a childminder. There are requirements that childminders must meet if they wish to be on the Childcare Register. If they comply with the requirements, they will be issued with a certificate of registration by Ofsted. It is important that you check that a childminder has their certificate of registration available for you to see prior to starting a placement.

Researching a suitable setting

It will be necessary to research several practical aspects relating to your placement. If you are finding your own placement, you may need to do an internet search or use the university database, if they have one, to locate a setting that will offer you the kind of experience you are seeking. It is a good idea to select at least two settings that you think are going to be suitable. You can find out some useful information about settings by looking at their websites and also accessing their latest Ofsted reports.

Think about the following issues.

• How far away is the setting?

• Can you get there by public transport?

• Is there parking available?

• How many members of staff are there?

• How many children and what age ranges?

• Is the setting rural or urban?

• Have they offered placements before and if so for how many years?

• Does the setting provide mentorship for students?

Critical questions

* What do you think is your ideal setting and why?

* What are the advantages/disadvantages for your career development?

Communication with settings

Once you have an idea of where you would like to go, or if you have been allocated a placement, you will need to get in touch with the right person in the setting. Your first contact with the setting may be to ask if it is possible to work there as a student volunteer, or it may be to follow up the details you have been given by the university to make arrangements about starting your placement. Your university may advise you of the best way to approach your setting. Initial contact may be via telephone or email. You may find the idea of making a telephone call to somebody you do not know a aunting prospect, but it will be less so if you are well prepared. Jessica has written a letter giving her tips to help you make effective telephone calls with your chosen setting.

Making contact via email

If you make initial contact with your setting via email, you can use a similar approach. It is always worth investing the time in finding out the name of the correct person to send your email to if possible. Here is an example of an email you could adapt.

For the attention of the student co-ordinator

My name is Josh Hill and I am a second year student at the University of _____. As well as being a student on the early childhood degree, I am also an Early Years Teacher Status trainee.

I have a two week block placement coming up starting on Monday _____ and ending on Friday _____. As part of my EYTS training, I need to spend some time in a Key Stage 1 setting. One of my student colleagues worked at your school last semester and she speaks very positively about the school. In particular, she learned a lot about the teaching of maths in KS1, which is an area I am interested in and need to know more about.

I would be very grateful if you would consider offering me a placement for these two weeks.

I hope that it will be convenient for me to phone you at the end of the week to find out if you think this is possible.

Perhaps you would be kind enough to email me back and let me know a good time to phone you, as well as the best number on which to contact you. In the meantime, if you wish to contact me, my mobile number is _____.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Josh Hill

When you have specified a time to make a call, it is professional to do your very best to make sure that you keep to the arrangement and don't miss the opportunity to speak to the correct person. Consider putting a reminder on your phone or an alert on your computer.

A pre-placement visit

If possible a pre-placement visit is a good idea to familiarise yourself with both the place and the people.

Other considerations

This section looks at some of the other considerations that are important for you to bear in mind while you are preparing for your placement.


Excerpted from Early Years Placements by Jackie Musgrave, Nicola Stobbs. Copyright © 2015 Jackie Musgrave and Nicola Stobbs. Excerpted by permission of Critical Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1 Introduction,
2 Preparing for placement,
3 Becoming a professional in practice,
4 Safeguarding,
5 Key documents,
6 Your first day,
7 Linking theory to practice,
8 Observation, assessment and planning,
9 Statutory assessment,
10 Working with colleagues,
11 Working with parents,
12 Relationships with children,
13 Reflecting on and writing about placement,
Appendix 1: Teachers' Standards (Early Years) September 2013,
Appendix 2: Self-assessment audit of skills and knowledge,

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