Practitioner perspectives on the enactment of article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with babies and toddlers in early childhood education and care settings in England.

  • Erica Evans

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This doctoral study explored practitioner perspectives on participation rights of the youngest children (aged 0-3) in early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings in England. Participation rights are informed by Article 12 of the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), highlighting the rights of children to express opinions about matters that impact on their lives and for these views to be given due consideration. Exploring understandings of the youngest children as competent beings, or vulnerable becomings, the study draws on sociological theories of childhood and developmental theories rooted in psychology to consider the capabilities of the youngest children as holders of participation rights.

The qualitative research design is underpinned by an ethical commitment to listening to the voices of leaders of practice working with the youngest children. Framed within a narrative inquiry, perspectives of ten graduate practitioners working with babies and toddlers in ECEC settings in the south east of England have been gathered. Using individual narratives as a “catalyst for the movement of thinking,” analysis has identified themes across the data that expose understanding about the ways in which practitioners conceptualise young children and how these constructs relate to the enactment of participation rights (Macintyre Latta and Kim, 2011, p.685).

Findings highlight the dual construction of the young child as both capable and dependent. Young children display competency as active social agents, able to voice preference in their learning and care experiences. However, they equally demonstrate interdependence with attuned practitioners who provide responsive care-giving, acknowledging the vulnerability of babies and toddlers. Through relationships of attunement the world of the baby is known to the practitioner, thus providing the conditions necessary for participation rights to be realised. Whilst the study did not originally aim to explore barriers to participation rights, resulting narratives present a complex picture detailing the multiple challenges facing practitioners as they embed listening pedagogies.

Practitioners are grappling with the emotional demands of their work, within contexts where participation rights are not always consistently understood or enacted. The wider policy context presents additional constraints as practitioners are directed towards practices informed by accountability regimes that prioritise standardisation and measurability over responsive relationships that underpin listening pedagogies so central to ECEC.
Date of AwardJan 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorAvril brighton (Supervisor), Carol Robinson (Supervisor), Keith Turvey (Supervisor) & Michael Hayler (Supervisor)

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