Editorial: Taking Stock

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

The June issue of the Webmag will be the hundred and fiftieth, and so it is a suitable time to take stock, look back and look forward. This Editorial lays out the ideas on which the Webmag is based. Are they sound? Are they relevant? What should be the basis for what the Webmag does in the future?When the Webmag was first published, on 1 January 2000, the use of the internet for professional magazines was still pretty new. We may or may not have been the first to coin the word ‘webmag’, but we were at the technological cutting edge as far as child care professionals were concerned. Now, the technology has moved on, with Twitter, Facebook and a host of other communication systems, and other magazines have created e-versions. Is the Webmag format defunct, or is it still a useful vehicle?

The eight main ideas described below have underpinned what we have done to date. They have not been formalised as an editorial policy authorised by the Board, but they have influenced the material we have sought and the content of the editorial columns. Do they match up to the profession’s thinking today? Do they offer pointers for the future? Comments and contributions to our thinking for the future will be welcome.

1 Quality child care

It should go without saying that we have wanted to promote high standards of child care, but it is sometimes worth stating the obvious, so that it is explicit. While we have published much material about child care services, we have also emphasised the need for the right principles, values and beliefs as the foundations for high quality services.

2 The Whole of Childhood

We have tended to publish material inclusively, and have covered issues ranging from pregnancy through to young adulthood, as well as general social issues. This is because we have considered that growing up is a continuous process and that, while services for children and young people may need to be organised by age groups, professionals should view their work holistically. “The child is father of the man”, and babies grow up through childhood into adolescence and young adulthood. It is important that professionals working with one age group understand about the needs and potential of other age groups. In practice we have probably focused more on residential child care than other fields and there are some which we have covered inadequately, but that is because we depend upon in part what contributors want to write about and in part on our range of contacts. We have tried to get children and young people to contribute, but have only succeeded intermittently.

3 A Child Care Profession

As an extension of this thinking, we have argued that the child care profession has suffered from being split into specialist silos. Child care professionals tend to see themselves as residential workers, foster carers, nursery nurses, childminders and so on, rather than as members of the larger profession, and this splintering has weakened the profession. We have published a lot of articles to brief professionals about areas of service with which they may not be acquainted.

4 Social Pedagogy

As a conceptual vehicle for bringing child care professionals together under a common banner, we have promoted social pedagogy, and we are pleased to see that more local authorities and child care organisations are piloting and researching social pedagogy. We do not argue that it has the magic answer to every problem, but the concepts underpinning social pedagogy have served continental child care well for sixty years or more, and the holistic thinking is consistent with our approach.

5 International Thinking

In the Webmag’s early days we carried a separate section of articles from countries round the world. Clearly, the bulk of the readership is from the United Kingdom, and many of our articles and news items reflect the UK base, but we have always tried to include material from a wide range of countries, as child care professionals have much to learn from each other. To say the least, it can be eye-opening to realise that workers in other countries may do things quite differently, and it can help us challenge our own assumptions. In particular we have given publicity to the work of FICE and AIEJI.

6 Learning from the Past

Child care workers and managers tend to live in the present, dealing with current challenges, and it is easy to forget that our predecessors faced similar problems decades or even centuries earlier. If we ignore what they learnt we risk repeating their mistakes. Yet governments press on, ‘innovating’ without knowing whether ideas have been tried in the past. Many of the best child care texts were written fifty years ago, and they can be hard to obtain, so we have tried to include retrospective articles about child care in the past and have published the Key Texts series - 75 summaries of the most important books and reports from the past.

7 Encouraging Thinking

Most of the content has been articles - some of them of a standard suitable for professional journals, some of them news items or opinion pieces. The standard of writing has varied, but we have considered it important to encourage the sharing of ideas, and we have wanted contributors to feel able to express themselves. We believe that child care requires sensitivity, awareness and fresh imaginative thinking if individual children’s needs are to be met, and this entails urging readers to think creatively and maybe to challenge accepted ideas.

8 Format

We have published the Webmag monthly, partly as a discipline, partly to be able to organise publication without creating excessive pressures. With all the technological developments, this format may now be considered dated, reflecting the old hard copy magazines which are dying out. However, if professionals are to lay out their ideas and argue their cases at any depth, they need more space than a tweet.

A final thought: how about writing a piece for our one hundred and fiftieth issue?

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