Citizenship and inclusion in the early years: understanding and responding to children’s perspectives on ‘belonging’

Cathy Nutbrown, Peter Clough

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper argues for, and demonstrates the effectiveness of, including young children in commenting on and improving their learning environments. It reports the experiences gathered from of 16 setting‐based, small‐scale, practitioner‐led projects. Taking a view of citizenship as ‘participation’ the paper shows how practitioner‐research can support the evolution of inclusive environments for all children. Following a critical review of the literature on citizenship, young children, and ‘inclusion’ the paper considers the usefulness of the participant methodology of practitioner action research and the concept of ‘voice’ in educational research and report. Examples of practitioner‐research projects involving children aged three to six years identify and illustrate key themes from the data. Thus, they demonstrate: (1) the range of factors which excited or worried the children; and (2) the ways in which children’s concerns and ideas were listened to and action for change was developed. The children’s ideas and extracts from their comments are included alongside the practitioners’ responses in the cases which are discussed. Four main points are considered in conclusion: (1) children’s views can contribute to the development of inclusive practices; (2) children’s voices are central to studies of their perspectives and the methodological challenges of listening to children’s voices in research must be addressed; (3) identity and self esteem are key to the successful promotion of young children’s positive sense of inclusivity and belonging in their early years settings; and (4) supported practitioner‐research can enhance inclusive early years practices. The paper argues that including children in the identification and exploration of issues important to them promotes a positive sense of inclusivity and that such approaches to developing pedagogies of citizenship and belonging constitute a practical enacting of ‘voice
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2
    Pages (from-to)191-206
    Number of pages15
    JournalInternational Journal of Early Years Education
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2010


    • inclusion
    • citizenship
    • voice
    • practitioner research
    • participation


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