Making judgments on the environment: quality issues
There has been much debate about the concept of quality and how you measure it. Pence and Moss (1994, p. 172) suggest that: ‘Quality childcare is, to a large extent, in the eye of the beholder’, with the implication that quality is not a neutral word but is based on the underlying values and beliefs of those making the judgments. How you see your setting and what you offer may therefore be different from how colleagues and parents see it. Parents, for instance, will apply their own criteria about the building, the staff and the children that could be different from the criteria of other parents, staff or regulatory authorities.
Debbie, returning to work, was given the names of several childminders for her one-year-old son, Jack. She visited them all, choosing one where she felt welcomed, where the childminder discussed fully with her what she offered and showed her positive references from other parents. She was informed that she could view the Ofsted reports on the internet but was dismayed to find that the setting she had chosen was designated ‘satisfactory’ unlike the other two which were ‘good’. It transpired that the childminder had only been registered for a short time and although scoring highly on most criteria, including those involving the care of the children and parental involvement, had not fulfilled some of the other criteria, according to Ofsted. After much heart-searching, Debbie decided to go with her own judgment and this setting proved just right for Jack and her.
So, was Debbie right? Can the setting be judged with clear and definite criteria, designed by academics, government ministers, or the range of personnel working in early years? As you would probably agree, there are certain visible factors on which one can base one’s judgments. But any judgments will be underpinned by the ‘beholder’s’ own values and beliefs such as cultural ideas or teaching methods.