A research collaboration examining how young children’s rights can be embedded into teaching practice has secured a major funding boost.
The team, which includes Swansea University experts, has been successful in securing just under £700,000 funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), via the ESRC Education Research Programme.
The three-year project explores the challenging issue of translating policy intention into education practice with a focus on young children’s participation rights and how these are enacted in classroom contexts.
Dr Jacky Tyrie, senior lecturer in education in the School of Social Sciences, and Professor Jane Williams, from the Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law, have been working alongside colleagues from UWE Bristol, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Cardiff Metropolitan University, and pedagogical consultant and artist-educator Debi Keyte-Hartland.
Dr Tyrie and Professor Williams said: “We feel privileged and excited to be provided with this opportunity by the ESRC to explore, with children and teachers, how participation of young children aged five to seven can be embedded into daily practices within our Welsh primary schools.
“We are delighted to be building on Swansea's cross-disciplinary research strengths on children's rights, including through the work of the Children’s Rights in Early Year Network, Observatory on Human Rights of Children, Children's Legal Centre Wales and Lleisiau Bach Little Voices.”
The project wants to see children's rights placed centrally within legislation and provision in Wales and, in the school context, that the Curriculum for Wales is underpinned by a commitment to the four purposes which enshrine children's rights.
The researchers say pedagogic practices - how educators facilitate and promote children's lifelong learning - to support the enactment of young children's participation rights are inconsistent. At times they reflect 'restricted' approaches to children's enactment of rights in which only certain children can make certain choices, at certain times, within certain spaces, and for certain reasons.
Focussing on young children, this project considers how pedagogic practices can embed participatory rights for all children, and attend, routinely, to children's voice and agency.
It adopts an innovative participatory research design, exploring the research problem with children and their teachers via creative methods, and then with student teachers and their educators in Welsh university and school-based accredited partnerships.
Principal Investigator Dr Sarah Chicken, from UWE, added: “As a team we are particularly excited by the opportunity of working collaboratively with children and educators across Wales and to develop sustainable networks beyond the life course of the study. We feel that our project has potential impact on the space where theory, practice and policy meet. “
Professor Gemma Moss, Director of the Education Research Programme, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for the education research community to work in partnership with other stakeholders and find new ways of tackling some long-lasting challenges in school-based education.”
Professor Alison Park, Interim Executive Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council, said: “Through the Education Research Programme, ESRC is funding important new research that will generate insights and help address ongoing challenges for the UK’s compulsory education systems, including how to attract, educate and retain excellent teachers, and how to adopt and harness the benefits of new technologies.
“The programme will support both teachers and children by tackling issues such as resilience, participation, recruitment, training and retention.”