Stuart Gallagher (IoE)
This paper engages with the overlap of flexible and distributed learning (FDL) in higher education, Early years professional development and statutory responsibilities to protect children and safeguard their development. Learning how to prevent the maltreatment of children is an urgent need in professional child welfare practice and a critical dimension of professional development. Identifying the critical relation between knowing about causes and correlates of child abuse and knowing how to prevent it through sufficiently robust and early interventions is a significant practice challenge. For example, given that babies and young children are disproportionally represented in serious case reviews, how might Early Years practitioners learn from these tragedies in order to learn how to protect the babies and young children in their current present professional care? This paper addresses the contribution of higher education to students’ preparation for this challenge. The specific context of this exploration is an FDL delivery model for an undergraduate Early Years foundation degree and the opportunities and constraints provided by a specific safeguarding module within it. Drawing on organisational learning theory and the role of imagery in learning, this paper focuses on the development of an abstract three-dimensional model to help students learn how to prevent the maltreatment of children. The purpose of this model is to enable students to transfer their learning from higher education FDL contexts to frontline child welfare practice. The model serves to discipline students’ imagination when considering possible practice actions in order to support their ability to move from good intentions to sound professional action. This paper will explain the model and its use in learning and teaching activities and invite feedback for its development.