The History of the Bristol Standard

The Bristol Standard journey began in 1996 due to the vision and determination of the Early Years Advisor Elspeth Davis OBE to raise the quality of children’s experiences in Bristol. A working party of practitioners from all sectors of Early Years provision was convened, to explore how the project might proceed.

Bristol had already been involved in the Effective Early Learning Project (EEL) based on research undertaken at University College, Worcester, and Professor Chris Pascal kindly gave permission to use the ‘Ten Dimensions of Quality’ headings from EEL, as a framework for the Bristol Standard. It was agreed that The Bristol Standard approach would begin with the belief that reflective practice is at the heart of all quality initiatives. Chris Pascal and Tony Bertram have now developed the Baby Effective Early Learning (BEEL) project and AcE programme (Accounting Early for Lifelong Learning).

The second edition of The Bristol Standard for 3-5s was re-launched in 2000 alongside the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage. A third edition was published in 2004 and included a new Birth-to-3 section as well as Race Equality and Child Protection chapters. This edition was awarded the Investors in Children Kitemark for Quality. A sister document, Promoting Inclusion, led by Dominique Robathan, support teacher for inclusion, was developed alongside the third edition. This recognised the importance of settings developing inclusive practice and was designed to be used alongside the second interim submission.

In 2001 an exciting new development to the Bristol Standard was the commissioning of a new self-evaluation framework for Play settings. The Bristol Standard for Over 5s and Playwork was launched in 2003. A review in 2009 brought together all the different elements of previous documents and recognised changes in legislation, including the Every Child Matters agenda. The result of the review was a fourth edition document for Birth to Five and a second edition for Play Provision. The Investors in Children award was replaced by the Quality Improvement Principles. The Bristol Standard has been recognised by the National Quality Improvement Network as a collaborative and rigorous process which has been underpinned by their twelve quality principles.

The 2013 review took place as a result of a revised Early Years Foundation Stage. The framework is reviewed every three years to ensure it reflects current early years thinking and research.

The Bristol Standard Purposes

These purposes have been mapped to the 12 Quality Improvement Principles developed by the National Quality Improvement Network.

The purpose of the Bristol Standard is to:

  • Establish a clear understanding of vision, values, principles and practice.
  • Achieve high quality provision for all children from birth in a culture of inclusion and anti-discriminatory practice.
  • Enable teams to work together, have a voice and learn from each other.
  • Celebrate current good practice and develop the quality and effectiveness of provision through a continuous process of reflection.
  • Enable settings to develop and improve the quality and effectiveness of their practice.
  • Support the development of genuine partnerships with children’s families or carers, other professionals and the local and wider community.
  • Support a culture of shared leadership – key people who motivate, sustain, challenge and empower others.
  • Support a process of continuous professional development.
This Quality Improvement framework has used the National Quality Improvement Network principles, in discussion with their local authority and partner settings, in order to review and develop their Quality Improvement Programme (NQIN 2009)