The research study considers insights and challenges to listening to young children’s voices in a pre-school in England. The study was motivated by the political and social agendas which assert the fundamental involvement of young children as active decision-makers in all aspects of their lives (for example, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and the Children Act 2004).
The researcher aimed for participatory research with the children and staff to explore effective ways in which young children’s communications might be supported through the co-creation of their early years curriculum. The intention was to focus on ‘tools’ and techniques that might support children’s voices which were gaining attention in the academic literature (for example, the Mosaic Approach introduced by Alison Clark and Peter Moss).
As a recent early years practitioner at the pre-school, the researcher offers a frank view of the potential complexities of implementing such participatory research. The researcher took an innovative, flexible and highly reflective stance to adapting the research approach in response to the challenges to establishing participation that emerged, using a postmodern framework to assist meaning-making.
A substantive finding was that although the ‘tools’ and techniques opened a significant space for beginning to listen to children’s voices, it was the constructions of the underpinning relationships that offered the most potential (and the greatest challenge) for genuinely participating with and hearing children. The study concluded a focus on the latter is paramount for children to be accorded their rights as active decision-makers.
Bowden-Clissold, N. A child-centred early years curriculum? How do we increase children's voices to realise this?. (Thesis). University of the West of England