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The early years of a child’s education are among the most important in their lives. So providing a curriculum which meets their needs, and ensuring educators have the information and support they require to deliver it, is vital.

With that in mind, a new research project at the University of Plymouth aims to explore how children up to the age of five can get the most out of early years education, whether that is delivered at home, in day nurseries, or in their first months at school.

It will also explore how early years educators can be best supported to provide this education and take advantage of existing and new best practice in teaching methods.

Funded by the Montessori Group, the project was launched on the same day as the Department for Education’s revised Early Years Foundation Stage framework comes into force.

That framework sets the standards that school and childcare providers must meet for the learning, development and care of children from birth up to the age of five.

To start, the new research will initially involve a series of questionnaires being directed at experts in the field on the nature of the curriculum and how it relates to child development.

The project team will then speak with groups of practitioners, including childminders and day nursery staff, to get their views and to understand how the curriculum is delivered in practice.

Once those exercises are complete, the researchers will work with the Montessori Group to develop an online module for early years educators on Appreciative Enquiry. The module will support educators to undertake Learning Walks to document their curriculum delivery and it is ultimately hoped that will become a standalone course with formal certification.

The project is the latest in a long line of research on child-centred early years education by academics in the University’s Plymouth Institute of Education.

Dr Verity Campbell-Barr
Dr Verity Campbell-Barr, Associate Professor in Early Childhood Studies

It will be led by Associate Professor in Early Childhood Studies Dr Verity Campbell-Barr and Associate Professor Dr Jan Georgeson, working alongside Lecturer in Education (Early Childhood Studies) Dr Katherine Evans and Doctoral Teaching and Research Assistant Sasha Tragenza-May.

Dr Campbell-Barr said:

“The education children receive in the first years of their lives can often shape their future opportunities and successes. So it is important, if not essential, that it is delivered in the best possible way to support their development. With the recent revisions in the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, this project is extremely timely. It also raises important questions that seek to evidence some commonly held assumptions as to what good early years education looks like in support of child development.”

The Montessori Group (which includes teacher training provider, Montessori Centre International) has commissioned the project as part of its ongoing efforts to pursue relevant, sustainable research projects that reflect and monitor, challenge and support the important and topical issues relevant to the educational sector of the future.

It hopes to use the findings to raise the profile of the vitally important pedagogical decisions that the early years professions are faced with in the sector today.

Maccs Pescatore, CEO, Montessori Centre International says:

“In a rapidly changing world, undergoing a digital revolution and with the consequences for humanity as far-reaching as those of the industrial revolution, we believe these choices are vitally important to prepare children for the world in which they are growing up. As such, we are very interested to support discovery and exploration to develop sector confidence in the positive benefits of the Montessori approach, cross-industry and away from the more-traditional view of the perceived Montessori image.”

Karen Chetwynd, Director of Academic Quality and Partnerships at Montessori Centre International, said:

“In order to ensure that we are promoting relevant and sustainable approaches to education, we need to engage with innovative sector-wide research activity that supports our high expectations and complements our vision to measure, monitor and consolidate the potential impact of high-quality pedagogy for children worldwide. We are thrilled to be working with the team at the University of Plymouth in this endeavour.”

Research with Plymouth Institute of Education

Research in Plymouth Institute of Education (PIOE) is both excellent and highly distinctive, with its lifelong and life-wide approach; foregrounding the vital role learning plays in society and culture. Our researchers explore how and why people learn at every stage of life, from babies to the very old. We have strong research links and networks across the world and a wide range of externally funded national and international research projects.
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