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It Takes a Special Type of Person to be an Early Years Practitioner

Sucker for punishment? Come and make a career out of caring for young children, says Andi Turner…

  • It Takes a Special Type of Person to be an Early Years Practitioner

Despite the fact that the early years sector is navigating the most troubled waters I’ve ever experienced since the contentious ‘More Great Childcare: raising quality and giving parents more choice’ reforms; the 2013 adult-to-child ratios catastrophe; and the 2014 childminding agency initiative (and changes in the role of local authorities in the development and funding of early years education and childcare) controversy, there are still those beaux sabreurs determined to weather the storm and open brand new settings – whether home-based or on non-domestic premises.

It obviously takes a great deal to scare off this bunch and so it begs the question, how can they be so full of hope when confronted by so many adversities?

Well, let’s go there…

Consider the unique skill-set of the typical early years practitioner. A skill-set so prodigious that any other professional from any other sector couldn’t be anything but wonderstruck.

If you’re finding this a bit too abstract I’ll break it down into three categories for you.

1 | Required skills

This is the boring statutory stuff like being suitable for being around a kid and knowing how best to keep them safe and prevent them from becoming sick or injured on your watch and how to respond if they do.

That and being able to keep a kid happy and healthy and engaged and all the while keeping the essential legal and financial documentation bang up to date.

This set of skills won’t make them stand out in the least for they are crucial and the least that can be expected, but the everyday practitioner is nevertheless undaunted. This really does sort the mighty from the milksop.

2 | Preferred skills

This is the non-statutory stuff like actually liking kids and the stuff that kids generally say and do, and perhaps having a repertoire of songs that can be sung and signed all the way through in more than one modern foreign language and thoroughly enjoy doing so.

Being able to recognise when a child does and does not need help zipping up his hoodie, or is ready for big-boy pants, or when a parent needs a shoulder to cry on or a carer needs signposting to other services.

Or, arguably equally importantly, being able to think of a dozen uses for an IKEA spice rack besides an actual spice rack.

3 | Desired skills

This is the ability to perform utterly brilliant miracles on a day-to-day basis without even realising how utterly brilliant you are.

Things like making the 16 chocolates from the box of Milk Tray that Scott Snot brought in for your birthday go around 27 kids (figure that one out) and remembering right off the bat which ones have a dairy intolerance and which ones have a life-threatening nut allergy.

And ungrudgingly chatting in Wetherspoons at 7.55 on a Saturday night with a ‘merry’ anxious parent who’s infiltrated your drinking posse with the primary purpose of asking you whether she should be concerned about Manky Franky’s first wee of the day smelling like Sugar Puffs.

Then, of course, there’s the being perfectly happy to roam charity shops and car boot sales for ‘authentic’ tea sets and vintage kitchen scales and manual typewriters all weekend long; and being in your element upcycling pallets and cable drums with materials you’ve scavenged from around your own home, garden and garage and making sand and water tables from your leftover bits of decking and not being able to wait see the look on their chubby little faces on Monday morning when you drag them out of your car.

That and being able to see the funny side of earning just £1.94 per hour gross (all things considered) and instead of crying about it, reminding yourself that if your life goal were disembarking from your luxury yacht (is there any other kind?) in Marina di Pisa before speeding through Toscana in a Maserati to quaff Vino Nobile di Montepulciano in some piazza in Firenze then you’d hardly have chosen the early years sector would you?

Sharing your life with children? Now that’s an entirely different kind of hedonism. And I totally get it.

Andi Turner is an outstanding early years practitioner, mentor and blogger. Find her at allearlyyears.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @turner_aturner.

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