Young children's participation in a Sure Start Children's Centre

MACONOCHIE, Heloise (2013). Young children's participation in a Sure Start Children's Centre. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Between 2006 and 2010 New Labour launched a network of children's centres as one element in a programme of reform of services for children. Sure Start children's centres were set up as multi-agency settings for children under the age of five and their families. Concomitant with these developments a number of policies converged to give momentum to the notion of children's participation in matters that affect their lives. Political measures included Every Child Matters (DES, 2003) and section 3.5 of the Childcare Act (2006) which stated that local authorities must consider the views of children in relation to early childhood services. Consequently, there was and remains an imperative for children's centres to bring children's perspectives to bear upon their policies and practice, and to ensure that children participate in decisions regarding service design, delivery and evaluation (Sure Start, 2005). Using a methodology that draws upon the traditions of ethnography and participatory action research, this thesis presents an analysis of how the notion of children's participation has been conceptualised, enacted and enhanced in a Phase One children's centre in the North of England across the following services: education and care; family support; child and family health; inclusion and therapy services. Fieldwork was conducted with children, parents and staff of Towersham Park Children's Centre over a twelve month period during 2008-2009 and involved a variety of observational and participatory methods. Previous research about Sure Start predominantly focuses on the effectiveness of programme delivery. However, there is very little research which explores children's participation across a range of children's centre services and includes the perspectives of those who often face barriers to participation, such as babies, preverbal and disabled children and those from ethnic minority and migrant groups. This study addresses these gaps. Research findings suggest that, to understand what young children's participation means in a children's centre context, we need to pay attention to the different socio-spatial domains, cultural-ethical dilemmas and dominant discursive regimes within which participation is situated. Unmasking these domains, dilemmas and discourses enables practitioners to examine their effects of power in constraining and enhancing children's participation and to construct new ways of thinking and being with children. I conclude by arguing that children's participation is as much a micro-political and ethical process of embodied performance in space, as it is a cognitive, discursive activity of children expressing their views and making decisions. These findings have significant implications both for broadening current conceptualisations of participation to make them more inclusive of young, pre-verbal and disabled children and for informing early childhood multi-professional practice to make it more democratic.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Institute of Education
Depositing User: Helen Garner
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2013 15:26
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2016 22:27

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