Practitioners with degrees or graduate professionals: Early childhood education and care practitioners’ engagement with HE study and workforce professionalization in England.

  • Mary Dyer (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Workforce reform strategies in the English ECEC (early childhood education and care) sector intended to professionalise the workforce have introduced higher-level qualifications including degrees, but have not included a mandate for graduate-led practice. This paper draws on narrative data from semi-structured interviews with 23 graduate ECEC practitioners, asking the previously unasked questions – what does it mean to them to be an early years practitioner, and has increasing human capital alone (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012) professionalised this workforce? Previous research argues that their vocational habitus, in combining class, education and gender, restricts their access to social capital (Colley et al, 2003), limiting their level of professional agency. Osgood (2012) challenges this gender and class inflected perception of the workforce, problematizing instead how professionalism, and the contribution of practical and relational knowledge, is understood.

Data analysis using the Listening Guide (Doucet and Mauthner, 2008) foregrounds practitioners’ voices, exploring their understanding and articulation of their role and status. Findings indicate that although specialist knowledge has increased, academic knowledge and practical skill remain separated, and practitioners’ constructions of identity continue to privilege the interactions and relationships of their immediate practice. Transformative professional education, that raises awareness of the impact of social and political ECEC policy drivers, and challenges their naïve articulation of identity, is required to develop the social and decisional capital needed to support a stronger claim to professional status (Hargreaves and Fullan, 2012).
Period10 Dec 2019
Event titleProPEL 2019
Event typeConference
LocationSydney, Australia, New South WalesShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational