2 Working in teams
Although early years settings operate in a variety of contexts, one thing they have in common is that a number of adults are involved. The complex and demanding nature of safeguarding and promoting young children’s welfare, learning and development means practitioners cannot work in isolation from colleagues and other professionals. Early childhood services involve people, relationships and feelings and interactions between adults, whether formal or informal, and have a crucial impact on the quality of the provision. Whether you work with other adults in your setting or outside it, how you relate and work with other practitioners is influenced by your attitudes towards other people and vice versa. Rodd (2006, p. 146) makes the important point that ‘effective leadership and collective responsibility – that is teamwork’, can have a major impact on quality. It is therefore important for you, as an early years practitioner, to understand what effective ‘teamwork’ might look like in practice and to consider how working with colleagues and other professionals is influenced by your underpinning values and beliefs.
Teamwork can be regarded as the building block of children’s services, but it is important to understand that building, leading and working in a team is a complex, ongoing process rather than a simple event. The commitment to working together in a multi-agency context stems from the belief that children’s needs cannot be boxed into health, social or educational compartments and should be viewed holistically. However, this presents a major challenge to traditional ways of working not only between those agencies but for individual practitioners in settings that, up until now, have viewed professionals beyond the setting as from ‘outside’ agencies rather than part of an extended team around the child.
In this section, the term ‘core team’ is used to encompass those close working colleagues who you work or have contact with on a regular or day-to-day basis. Most early years practitioners will have some contact with a variety of other practitioners, ranging from other childminders, support workers, and practitioners from other settings such as children’s centres. Many practitioners have successfully forged positive working relationships with colleagues via the Internet. Indeed, the use of the Internet takes developing working relationships with others into a new dimension. There are a large number of websites that enable you to contact others, share information and keep up to date with childcare issues.
The term ‘wider’ team includes those professionals who may be less closely involved with your day-to-day practice – for example, health visitors, speech and language therapists or educational psychologists – but who it may be necessary to collaborate with, as and when appropriate, to enhance your provision or meet children’s individual needs.