“I think I’ve had ideas since before I was born” working with reception children to challenge ‘school readiness’

Heads, Laura (2020) “I think I’ve had ideas since before I was born” working with reception children to challenge ‘school readiness’. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Much attention has been drawn to the way we work with young children in the early years, particularly given the pressures to ‘ready’ children for a more formal curriculum in Year 1. Many conceptualisations of ‘school readiness’ emphasise children’s academic abilities, including the current Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (DfE, 2017), which describes the knowledge and skills considered important for children’s future success. The aim of this research was to use Reception children’s ideas to destabilise academic notions of ‘readiness’ and to capture moments of their everyday lives. The research, which brings together qualitative and post-qualitative approaches, was divided into two studies, in which I took different approaches to conceptualising children’s voice. In an ‘illuminative’ first study, drawing and talk-based mosaic methods (Clark and Moss, 2011) were used to capture the ideas of 64 Reception children in 4 schools, as they prepared for their transition to Year 1. For example, in one key activity, children were asked to draw and talk about their ‘perfect’ classroom. The drawings revealed that objects and ‘things’ appear to be important in children. The classroom drawings also prompted reflection from Reception teachers about children's 'school readiness'. I then draw upon a second 6-week study in which an after school ‘Ideas Club’ created a space offering open-ended play for three small groups (n=8-10) of Reception children. In the development of Study Two, ‘plugging into’ the field of post-structuralism (Jackson and Mazzei, 2013), and the work of Deleuze (and Guattari) in particular, was key to helping me consider how a slower, more indeterminate research space, and approach to ‘school readiness’, might look. During the analysis process I worked with moments of ‘wonder’ (MacLure, 2013) from Study One and Study Two to consider how Reception children’s ideas might make us think differently about ‘readiness’. Ideas from the fields of New Materiality and post-humanism emerged unexpectedly during analysis as a way of further problematising these understandings. The ‘findings’ from this research and the playful, open methodology applied have implications for how we perceive Reception children’s intelligence and abilities and the kinds of opportunities and experiences children need in the early years and beyond.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Early years, Education, Post-qualitative, Post-strucuralism, Deleuze
Subjects: X900 Others in Education
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2020 09:16
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2022 10:00
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/44717

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