Rethinking early years: how the neoliberal agenda fails children

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2020 Number 76

Rethinking early years: how the neoliberal agenda fails children
Celia Burgess-Macey, Clare Kelly, Marjorie Ouvry, pages -
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.76.09.2020


Early years education in England is in crisis. This article looks at what is needed to better provide the kind of education and care that young children need outside the home, from birth to school-starting age. It explores: the current arrangements and varieties of provision and approaches in England; educational and developmental research about young children’s development and early learning; the current national early years curriculum and how it contrasts to other international models and pedagogical approaches; the importance of play-based learning; the role of adults in observing, recording, assessing and supporting young children’s learning; and the holistic nature of children’s learning - which makes education and care inseparable in young children’s lives. Neoliberal governments have had little interest in these questions: they have been focused instead on marketising the sector, which has led to great inequality of provision; and they have been unwilling to provide the necessary funding to train staff and maintain appropriate learning environments; most fundamentally, they have engaged in an ideological drive to impose on very small children a narrow and formal curriculum that ignores all the evidence about good practice in the sector, and is focused on making them ‘school ready’ - that is, ready to fit into the rigid frameworks they have already imposed on primary school education.

Part of the Soundings Futures series

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To cite this article
Celia Burgess-Macey, Clare Kelly, Marjorie Ouvry (2020) Rethinking early years: how the neoliberal agenda fails children, Soundings, 2020(76), -

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