Children and Families

The Children and Families node of excellence within Plymouth Institution of Education focuses on the lives of children and families and the professionals who work with them. 

The node comprises an interdisciplinary group of researchers and professionals with a breadth of knowledge and expertise on the lives and experiences of children and families; working with children and families; and practices of social inclusion and justice in the field of children and families. 

Members of the node specialise in considering theoretical perspectives on, and their practical consequences for, the lives of children and families and those who work with them locally, nationally and internationally. The research activity of the group involves working in partnership with children, families, professionals and academics to question and enrich theories, policies and practices relevant to the lives of children and families.

Funded research

Child-centred diversity in quality early childhood education and care

How might different understandings of child-centred practice promote learning amongst diverse groups

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is internationally recognised as a social investment strategy for supporting parental employment and providing the foundations to children’s lifelong learning. ECEC provides early intervention for disadvantaged groups; high quality ECEC can help lessen the negative consequences of disadvantage on children’s later learning.  Our research focuses on how different understandings of child-centred practice promote learning amongst diverse groups within early childhood education and care provision. 

Childminder Sustainability in England and Wales

The number of childminders in England and Wales has been steadily declining since their peak in 1996. There is some indication that it is the increase in the number of places offered by other parts of the early childhood education and care sector that is contributing to the smaller proportion of places being offered by childminders. However, there is also some suggestion that childminding is a less desirable profession due to continued challenges regarding sustainability and increasing expectations of those in the role.

Funded by Pacey, researchers from Plymouth Institute of Education will under undertake a macro to micro analysis of childminding provision in England and Wales. The research will entail:

  • an analysis of existing literature and data on childminding
  • a survey of local authorities and other relevant stakeholders exploring the perceived reasons for the decline in childminders
  • a series of case studies of local authority areas to offer a detailed analysis of the views of stakeholders and childminders as to the decline in numbers.

The project will offer a unique insight into the provision of childminding services in England and Wales.

A Systematic Review of Early Years Degrees and Employment Pathways 

Degree level qualifications of those who work in early years services are recognised as pivotal to the quality of provision. However, despite the evidence pointing to their benefits, little is known about what constitutes a degree-level qualification for working in the early years. In England the issue is compounded by the range of degrees available (e.g. BA, BEd, PGCE), with further variation in their content and composition.

Dr Verity Campbell-Barr (University of Plymouth) and Dr Sara Bonetti (Education Policy Institute), funded by the Nuffield Foundation, are undertaking research to analyse the full range of early years degrees and the respective employment trajectories of graduates. The research will:

  • Identify the range of degrees on offer and analyse the entry requirements, structure and content.
  • Analyse students’ employment trajectories in relation to the type of degree.

The project will provide a rich understanding of early years degrees in England, bringing forth a deeper understanding of the early years workforce in support of high-quality services.


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Campbell Barr, V. & Nygard, M. (2014) 'Losing sight of the child? Human capital theory and its role for early childhood education and care policies in Finland and England since the mid-1990s' Contemporary Issues in Early childhood (4) 346-359 

Campbell Barr, V. (2014) 'Constructions of Early Childhood Education and Care Provision: negotiating discourses' Contemporary Issues in Early childhood (1) 5-17

Campbell Barr, V. (2017) 'Interpretations of Child Centred Practice in Early Childhood Education and Care' Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education , DOI PEARL

Campbell Barr, V. (2018) 'The Silencing of the Knowledge-base in Early Childhood Education and Care Professionalism' International Journal of Early Years Education 26, (1) , DOI PEARL

Campbell Barr, V., Georgeson, J., & Nagy Varga, A. (2015) 'Developing Professional Early Childhood Educators in England and Hungary: Where Has All the Love Gone?' European Education (4) 311-330 

Campbell-Barr, V. & Bogatic, K. (2017) 'Global to local perspectives of early childhood education and care' Early Child Development and Care 187, (10) 1461-1470 

Campbell-Barr, V, & Coakley, A. (2014) 'Providing choice? A comparison of UK and Ireland's family support in a time of austerity' Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy 1-14

Campbell-Barr, V. (2017) 'Quality early childhood education and care – the role of attitudes and dispositions in professional development' Early Child Development and Care 187, (1) 45-58

Campbell-Barr, V., Lavelle, M., and Wickett, K. (2011) Exploring alternative approaches to child outcome assessments in Children's Centres, Early Child Development and Care, IFirst

Gabriel N. R. (2014) 'Growing up beside you: a relational sociology of early childhood' History of the Human Sciences 27, (3) 116-135

Gabriel N. R. (2016) 'Learning to mock - Challenging the teaching establishment' Research in Comparative and International Education 11, (4) 369-379

Gabriel N. R. (2017) The Sociology of Early Childhood - Critical Perspectives. London: Sage.

Gabriel N. R. (2017) 'Growing Up in Society - A Historical Social Psychology of Childhood' Historical Social Research 42, (4) 207-226

Georgeson J, Campbell-Barr V, Bakosi É, Nemes M, Pálfi S & Sorzio P 2015 'Can we have an international approach to child-centred early childhood practice?' Early Child Development and Care 1-18 Author Site

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Huggins, V & Wickett, K. (2017) Very young children’s learning outdoors: its place in the schooling system (ch 5) in Waite, S (Ed) Children Learning Outside the Classroom from Birth to Eleven, London: Sage

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Webber, L. (2017) 'Women, education and family capital: 'I could not have done it without my family!'. Research in Post-Compulsory Education. DOI: 10.1080/13596748.2017.1358521 

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Wickett, K. (2015) Sensory Activities and Risk Assessments in Early Years Settings Independent Report for London Boroughs of Merton and Richmond upon Thames

Wickett, K. (2017) ‘Elements’ A report reviewing an arts and ECEC collaboration for Take Art, Somerset

Wickett, K. (2017) Environments for Listening (ch 7) In Georgeson, J. & Campbell-Barr, V. (eds) Places for 2 year olds in the Early Years: Supporting learning and development London: Taylor and Frances

Wickett, K. (2017) Exploring the transition to school: Are we all talking the same language? in Dockett, S, Perry, R & Greisel, W. Families and the transition to school Springer