Occasional Papers

Those accessing the TACTYC website seem to enjoy our Occasional Papers which are on issues about which we – or others selected for their expertise – have undertaken significant research or thinking. If you think you would like to contribute, there is a small fee payable to those who write a successful 3,500 word paper.

All these Occasional Papers are free to those who access our website with our compliments. We will attempt to produce two Occasional Papers each year so keep your eyes open for new ones.

16. Questioning the relationship between pre-compulsory education and school.  At a time where 94% of four-year-olds are in some form of funded education in England (National Statistics, 2020), often reception classes in schools, Victoria Bamsey, Lewis Fogarty, Mabel Encinas and Mandy Andrews question the relationship between education and school in a system of hyperactive policy change (Ball, 2018) in this occasional paper. The authors report on research into different aspects of pre-compulsory education, considering parental choice of education for their cuildren, partnership working through mathematical play in the reception class and learning through unsupervised play outside the school gates.  They trouble the idea of education as school, consider approaches to education at school, and address what education looks like other than school to challenge schoolification of early education.

15. The re/constructed role of nursery schools as local community hubs in the current context of austerity. Dr Kate Hoskins, Dr Alice Bradbury and Mr Lewis Fogarty: Brunel University London. This paper examines the re/constructed role of nursery schools in their local communities over the past decade, exploring the unique, social justice contribution that Nursery Schools make to the early years sector. This research confirms that the role of the nursery school in supporting all children, but particularly those from socio-economically disadvantaged families, has expanded considerably in the past decade as a direct consequence of austerity policies.

14. The significance of children’s play and empowerment: An observation tool. Natalie Canning, Open University. This paper is based on Natalie’s research into children’s play and her subsequent framework for observing empowerment. This ethnographic study explores indicators of empowerment in child-initiated social play, based on case study analysis of 7 children, following them in different play contexts. The research consisted of non-participant video observations; semi-structured interviews and talking with children about their play preferences. Natalie suggests that by drawing on different views from parents and colleagues who know the children, a layered picture is revealed, not only of the complex nature of play and empowerment, but also the significance of individual values and beliefs about the importance of play. A questioning approach provides a platform for exploring children’s social worlds, and the empowerment framework enables a way in which educators can examine the intricacies of children’s play, the connections they make and why empowerment in play is important for children’s learning, development and social relationships.

13. What role do maintained nursery schools play in Early Years sector improvements? Carla Solvason*, Rebecca Webb** and Samantha Sutton-Tsang* (*University of Worcester/**University of Sussex). This study, funded by TACTYC, is focused on the past, present and future of the maintained nursery school (MNS) in England. This study identifies themes pertinent to the transformative effects of the MNS both historically and
contemporaneously, within and beyond the parameters of the Early Years sector. This paper also alerts the reader to significant challenges that may mitigate against MNSs’ ability to continue, due to structural pressures that are beyond their control.

12. What is ‘early reading’ for under-threes? A reflection on ‘conversations’ with graduate practitioners in England: A response to Ofsted’s ‘Early reading’ training video, Karen Boardman, Edge Hill University. This paper suggests an alternative approach in supporting under-threes with early reading, which is not focused on teaching phonics. The paper highlights that the policy driver from OfSTED is reducing early years children to being ‘school ready’, which is not how the EYFS was intended to be interpreted or implemented. Karen suggests it is time to reconsider how best to support early reading for under-threes, rethink pedagogy and separate phonics teaching from early reading.

11.  ‘Big, strong and healthy’? Children, food and eating in the early years, and the role preschools can play,  Mimi Tatlow-Golden, Open University.  This paper explores why preschool educators can be key figures in formal and informal pedagogies of food. In this paper, Mimi draws on interdisciplinary research to illuminate who’s responsible for children’s early eating preferences: children, parents, educators or others? Are preferences innate or do they originate in the worlds around children? The picture, as it turns out, is quite complex.

10.  ‘Collaborative quality improvement’ – a way forward for England’s maintained nursery schools? Julian Grenier, Leader: Teaching School Alliance (the East London Partnership).  This paper explores one possible future for nursery schools: as the leaders of quality improvement for the whole of the early years sector in England. The paper will argue that a cultural and historically-based understanding of the fragmented early years sector is needed, and that peer learning and professional development require funding at every level if the ‘collaborative quality improvement’ model (DfE, 2017: 35) is to be successful. Maintained nursery schools will also need continued protection if they are to adapt to this new role.

9.  Early Years Training and Qualifications in England: Issues for policy and practice. Professor Jayne Osgood and colleagues, Middlesex University. This study was commissioned in a quest to map the main issues with which the sector is currently grappling in relation to the current training and qualifications context through a review of policies since 1997.  By gathering empirical data the study aimed to identify the impact, experiences and associated issues with the newly introduced qualification pathways: Early Years Teacher and Early Years Educator. Findings suggest that the workforce must be supported to be researchers, adventurers and explorers so that young children can also be understood as researchers, adventurers and explorers from whom we have a great deal to learn (see Murray, 2017). To shift the perceptions of the wider public will require the concerted effort across the entire sector, from advocacy groups, employer organisations, unions, training providers, academics and every single member of the early years workforce, to push for a re-imagin(in)g of the child, the setting and the worker.

8.  Reception Baseline Assessment:  Dr. Guy Roberts-Holmes and Dr. Alice Bradbury .  This very topical new Occasional Paper critically analyses the policy context and implementation of Reception Baseline Assessment. The paper reports on a national research sample of Reception staff and parents who stated that Baseline Assessment is a flawed, inappropriate and unethical means of assessing young children. The paper concludes by suggesting that BA can be understood not only as an accountability and governance measure but also as producing new forms of commercialized digital knowledges about young children and their families.

7.  Relationship based pedagogies with babies and toddlers: Issues from teaching and implications for learningSheila Degotardi Associate Professor in EC Education, Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University, Australia. Relationships play a central role in human existence. As individuals, we define ourselves with reference to these relationships – as a friend, a partner, a colleague, a parent, a teacher, a learner, a community member and so on. The nature  and the function of these different relationships will shape the activities that we engage in, the interactions that we have with others and the intensity and purpose of these interactions. Our relationships with others therefore comprise an interpersonal context through which we develop the socially and culturallyrelevant ways of thinking and acting that shape our present and influence our future.

6.  Staff perspectives on working with two-year-olds: preparation, support and working together: This study, commissioned by TACTYC in 2014, sought to find out how the early years workforce was responding to the government’s funding initiative for two-year-olds in England (see full report here). This Occasional Paper is based on some of the findings. The two-year-old offer asks a lot from early years practitioners, but settings and practitioners are working hard to provide for them, including those taking two-year-olds for the first time. Settings are working very quickly and effectively to adapt their practice and provision to meet this new challenge; the consequent demands on time and resources, however, need to be recognised.

5.  The Development of Humour and Pretending from Infancy to Three-Years:  Play is an important part of early learning and development. Humour and pretending are two forms of play which have the potential to encourage exploration and imagination. Children engage in a variety of types of humour and pretending from infancy through three-years, reflecting their developing understanding of artifacts, language, and social norms, as well as increasingly abstract thought as outlined in Occasional Paper 5, written by Dr Elena Hoika.

4.  Quality for babies and toddlers in early years settings
Achieving quality early childhood services and experiences for children and their families is an overarching goal for policy-makers as well as early years practitioners. Defining quality, however, is not straightforward. Occasional Paper 4, written by Carmen Dalli, sets out to explore a range of literature and research outcomes which can inform our understanding of the issues in relation to our youngest children.

3.  Early literacy: a broader vision
Literacy lies at the heart of education and has been formally enshrined as a basic human right since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. For centuries, acquiring literacy has been associated with children needing to acquire knowledge about the alphabetic code in order to read and write, but broader understandings of what literacy is have developed over recent decades

2.  The ‘Readiness’ literature review 2011
The ‘Readiness’ literature review 2011 which we commissioned from Dr. David Whitebread and Dr. Sue Bingham from University of Cambridge to gain a better understanding of this concept of ‘readiness’ which we can share with all those in early years given that this is a significant concept in current English government thinking.

 1.  The Early Years Foundation Stage through the daily experiences of children
The Reception Class research we undertook in 2010/2011 which partially replicates research undertaken by Prof. Janet Moyles and colleagues in 2004 with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (Recreating the Reception Year). The findings give a picture of children’s actual experiences in reception classes across the country and makes interesting reading.

Published: January 12, 2018 |

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