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BERA Bites Part of series: BERA Bites

BERA Bites, issue 1: Early childhood

The BERA Bites series presents selected articles from the BERA Blog on key topics in education, presented in an easily printable and digestible format to serve as teaching and learning resources for students and professionals in education. Each collection features an introduction by editors with expertise in the field, and each article includes questions for discussion, composed by the authors, prompting readers to further explore the ideas and arguments put forward in the original articles.

This collection on early childhood, the first in the series, offers contemporary insights into understandings, trends and dilemmas around educational policy and practice in the early years.

Inside, you’ll find discussions of accountability, ‘datafication and hyper-governance’, the fundamental purpose of early years services, the pernicious encroachment of summative assessment into the reception curriculum, the contradictory meanings of ‘play’ to children and policymakers respectively, and the positive impact of music education on wellbeing across the life-course.

One article describes a project that has empowered staff to develop better and more inclusive systems to meet children’s speech, language and communication needs; another asks, ‘Why is it that even in schools that explicitly value children’s home languages, children may become reluctant to use their language in the classroom?’.

Further pieces consider the difficulties facing professionals in the early years sector in the context of the government’s workforce strategy, while another problematises the CPD needs of early years educators in England. Others engage with the question of how to gain children’s consent to participate in research; the benefits of using the Tavistock method of observation to support reflective practice; and the undimmed effectiveness of Dorothy Heathcote’s ‘mantle of the expert’ approach to learning.


Editorial / Gerry Czerniawski & Rachel Lofthouse

1. Professionalism and the early years practitioner / Mary Dyer

2. Hyper-governance and datafication in early years education: Children as ‘abilities-machines’ or ‘like sausages in a factory’ / Alice Bradbury, Siew Lee & Guy Roberts-Holmes

3. Cui bono? The myth of the closing gap and the need for radical reconceptualisation of early childhood research / Mathias Urban

4. The potential of inter-professional learning in supporting children with speech, language and communication needs / Jo Flanagan & Bibiana Wigley

5. The language we carry inside / Rose White & Fran Paffard

6. Play and pedagogy / Elizabeth Wood & Liz Chesworth

7. The arts: An interesting approach in early years settings / Evgenia Theodotou

8. Making a difference through music / Graham F Welch

9. Early years as a career? Policy, practice and professionalism, 2003–2017 / Jane Payler and Geraldine Davis

10. Problematising the continuing professional development needs of early years educators in England / Ewan Ingleby

11. Researching with young and developmentally young children: Ethical considerations, dilemmas and compromises / Carolyn Blackburn

12. Observing to understand: Using the Tavistock method of observation to support reflective practice / Kelly Brooker

13. Dorothy Heathcote’s ‘Mantle of the Expert’ approach to learning / Tim Taylor

14. Bold beginnings or black holes? The encroachment of summative assessment into the reception curriculum / Yinka Olusoga & Mandy Pierlejewski