Researching our Early Years Curriculum: Policy, Practice and Professionalism








A BCF Event for schools, colleges, universities and early years settings

Online registration has now closed. If you want to attend this event, please email for details of how to register onsite.

This BCF Early Childhood event (in association with Early Education) brings together researchers, leaders, managers, teachers, practitioners and policy makers to share their critical perspectives and assumptions about the early childhood curriculum. The conference explores what is meant by curriculum research and how this might be shaped by globalisation, nationalism, wellbeing, diversity and the status of childhood. Aimed at all key stakeholders interested in an Early Years curriculum, this event considers the perspectives offered by leading practitioners, subject associations and universities, focussing on knowledge emerging from research and practice through a range of keynotes, workshops and panel sessions.

09.30 Registration – Tea/Coffee biscuits
10.00 Welcome/opening comments/housekeeping
Gerry Czerniawski

Writing in the early years curriculum
Dominic Wyse

Early years settings in England are required to support children to develop their confidence in expressing themselves in writing. However, there is a disconnect between the requirement for expression through writing, and the emphasis on learning “phonic knowledge” that is first and foremost in the detail of the requirements for literacy, and in the early learning goal for writing. A multi-disciplinary research perspective shows that intention to communicate meaning should be paramount in teaching and learning, and that the ‘ear of the writer’ may be key to this (for a glimpse see



A knowledge-base for working in early childhood education care
Verity Campbell-Barr

Irrespective of theoretical or methodological approach, explorations of quality early childhood education and care (ECEC) routinely demonstrate the contribution of the ECEC workforce.  However, what is a ‘quality’ workforce? Whilst modernist interpretations of quality and professionalism have sought to identify attributes of a quality workforce that are knowable and can be observed, more philosophical approaches have questioned what is excluded from modernist frameworks and challenged top-down constructions of professionalism. The result is opposing perspectives of a quality workforce, whereby modernist interpretations are rejected for being too narrow an interpretation, and more philosophical constructs are too intangible to provide certainty.  Those working in ECEC risk becoming caught between these two perspectives. The focus on A knowledge-base for working in early childhood education and care is about bringing knowledge back in, recognising knowledge in the plural – knowledges – to reflect the rich and varied ways people know how to work in ECEC.



Under the spot-light – Our Achieving Early Programme
Sonia Blandford and Maureen Hunt

Maureen Hunt introduced the early years work from Achievement for All – the Achieving Early Programme and demonstrated how it had impacted on outcomes for children and increased practitioner skills to work in partnership with parents. She also raised the question of when does Early Years end?  arguing that an abrupt end at the end of reception is not logical or sensible given that each child is at a unique stage of development and their ages also vary.  Exploring this issue in schools led to the development of the Achieving Early Firm Foundation Programme that supports head teachers to better understand how the EYFS works and how to build on excellent practice to have a more streamlined and smoother transition into Key Stage 1, leading to improved outcomes for children.


10.55 Panel Discussion and questions from the audience
Chair: Karen McInnes
11.20 Tea / Coffee break
11.40 Choice of parallel seminars

Understanding Play – Through the eyes of a child
Karen McInnes

During this workshop we looked at what is play and playfulness and the tensions inherent in current curriculum usage of terms such as ‘planned purposeful play’ and the implications of this for practice. Through the use of photographs used with children in recent research studies, we discussed children’s views of play, adult assumptions regarding children’s play and the similarities and differences between children and adults’ views. Finally, we identified the need for practitioners to have in-depth training in play to develop their understanding, to listen to the voices of children concerning play and to develop their own playfulness so they may become advocates for child-informed play and playfulness in the curriculum.



Developing understanding of creativity in early science enquiry through Video Stimulated Reflective Dialogues
Rebecca Digby

My presentation shared findings from my PhD study, which examines the potential of Video Stimulated Reflective Dialogues (VSRD) (Moyles et al. 2003) in facilitating early years practitioners’ understanding of the role of creativity in science enquiry. Drawing on Barad (2003), I focused on practitioner’s exploration of the relationship children held with materials and spaces whilst immersed in science enquiry. I also shared practitioners’ recognition of the importance of expansive spaces for children to immerse themselves in and an emphasis which was put on practitioners ‘being present’ without talk and in order to ‘see the science’. 

  • Barad, K. (2003) Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter, Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28:3, 801-831.
  • Moyles, J., Hargreaves, L., Merry, R., Paterson, P., and Escarte-Sarries, V. (2003) Interactive Teaching in the Primary School digging deeper into meanings. Buckingham: Open University Press.



We Need to Talk About Humour: Reframing and Repositioning Young Children’s Humour in Early Childhood Practice
Laura Tallant

The workshop explored humour research and the suggestion that the high status of seriousness, rationality and innocence in early childhood practice may be interfering with children’s opportunities to engage with and communicate through humour. We were a small and intimate group – perhaps indicative of humour not being valued as pedagogically significant by many early childhood academics and professionals? However, despite our small number, rich discussions were had whilst reflecting on concrete examples of young children’s humour, particularly in relation to internally persuasive ideas about dominant childhood constructs within early childhood practice. Fundamentally, the workshop challenged the current lack of status that humour has within the early childhood education field, and attendees intimated they would look at children’ humour ‘with fresh eyes’!



‘British Values in the Early Years – practitioners’ and children’s navigation of the ideology’
Jenny Robson

The promotion of Fundamental British Values as a specific measure to prevent young children being drawn into terrorism has raised questions about the role of the early years sector, as an instrument of wider government policy, beyond early education and care.  This paper critiques this policy development as an ‘instrument of social control’ (Lavelette and Pratt, 2006) and analyses the ways in which early years practitioners applied a critical moral pedagogy in the mediation of Fundamental British Values in their practice.  Such a pedagogical approach placed recognised children’s agency in constructing and determining values relevant to their lives.

12.50 Lunch

Teaching Babies
Kathy Goouch and Sacha Powell

The research landscape of ECEC for babies and toddlers reveals a dominant discourse among academics and practitioners of mindfully caring curricula and pedagogies of nurturance. This discourse sits uneasily within a political landscape that reifies hard-edged concepts of neoliberal educational goals such as competition, individualism and exchange value and thereby devalue non-market values such as caring and remove them from the language of education. How do conceptualisations of babies and their learning give rise to particular curriculum intentions and pedagogical orientations? Is there space for divergence, debate and conflict; or room for agonistic pluralism in curriculum development and interpretation?

In this presentation we will explore connections between the political landscape for ECEC, the researched landscape of baby rooms in England and the ideologies that emerge from analysis of both these domains.



Does quality really matter? Conflicting results in Early Childhood research
Kathy Sylva


An early years curriculum for the  21st century
Janet Georgeson


15.00 Question and Answer session to panel
Chair: Janet Georgeson
15.20 Completion of evaluation forms
15.25 Networking
15.50 Close of meeting
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