A new book by Nóirín Hayes has just been published: “Early Years Practice: Getting it Right from the Start”. The book, which is aimed at both students and practitioners, draws together the Síolta quality framework and Aistear curriculum framework, offering guidance for practitioners on how to link their practice to theory.
It is aimed at all types of early years “practitioner”, including not just those working in pre-school services and crèches, but also childminders, infant class teachers, and trainers.
Published shortly after the Prime Time documentary exposed poor practice in some early care and education settings, and in a context of policy failure to roll out Síolta and Aistear together, the book is a timely resource.
In this new book, Nóirín Hayes aims not just to indicate what good practice looks like, but to show why it is good practice, and why it matters. She argues that this sort of theoretical understanding is critical: “The content of this book is based on the premise that the most effective early childhood practice is that which is always open to new knowledge and new ideas and has a sound theoretical basis.”
The core of the book is four chapters that take the four themes of Aistear (well-being; identity and belonging; communicating; and exploring and thinking) and explore the linkages between Aistear and Síolta. Within each theme, examples of practice are presented and discussed to show how the different components of Síolta and the different aims and learning goals of Aistear fit together in practice, and at the same time to illustrate how practitioners can themselves reflect on examples from their own daily practice.
Through these illustrations, the book invites practitioners to reflect on their practice, and offers them a language they can use when doing so. The final chapter discusses the meaning of reflective practice and its importance in achieving high quality standards, whatever the setting.
The book is, in many ways, a guide to being a reflective practitioner. It is not intended to be a manual of examples. Instead, it shows how to think about good practice, helping the reader understand how theory and practice can – and should – fit together.
Recent developments strengthen the importance of a book such as this. The Prime Time documentary raised awareness of the importance of quality in early care and education – and of how harmful poor practice can be. It also focused attention on the role of the practitioner in nurturing young children and supporting their development.
Raising quality standards will require change at the level of both policy and practice. It will require more training of staff (both current and new), an enhanced inspectorate, the national roll out of Síolta and Aistear (together), higher wages and better working conditions for the sector. And it will need practitioners to benefit from the (paid) time and leadership that should support reflective practice of the type encouraged in this book.
See information on the website of the publisher Gill & Macmillan for more details.