Early Childhood Education research cluster


Our research centres around the key themes of Children, families and communities; Play; Education policy and practice; and Participative methodologies.

In each of these themes, our research focuses on children from birth to eight, in different settings, contexts and communities. Working with our research partners and our doctoral students, we are interested in global discourses and local contextualisations of policy and practice. Our research creates pathways for public engagement and impact with families and communities, and across professional groups and organisations, to support transformative change.  We engage with a range of theoretical and methodological orientations to understanding children’s learning and development, informed by our commitment to equity, diversities and inclusion. 

Children, families and communities

Our research focuses on children and families in diverse communities, to reflect migration and change, community and heritage languages, histories and cultures. Our theoretical, methodological and ethical orientations involve respectful and multimodal ways of engaging with children and their families in research and practice to inform inclusive and equitable practices. A key focus is on valuing home and community identities, interests, social practices and funds of knowledge. Our research aims to understand learning in home, community, pre-school and school settings and to explore connections and continuities. 


We take a critical and interdisciplinary approach to researching play, including education, sociology, psychology and history. Our research critically explores the tensions between children’s agency in freely chosen play, and ‘instrumental play’ in international policy frameworks for education, health and well-being.  Our interests include new and traditional forms of play, digital play, children’s play cultures, popular culture, and intergenerational play. We lead the Massive Open Online Course ‘Exploring Play’ which attracts participants from across the globe. 

 Education policy and practice: Birth to Eight

This theme reflects the global expansion of early childhood education, and the socio-political contexts in which ECE is defined and organised in the UK and internationally. Our research takes a critical approach to policy analysis, specifically in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, school readiness, literacy, leadership and professionalization, and the ECE workforce.  We engage with contemporary debates, drawing on a range of theoretical and analytical perspectives. In collaboration with teachers, practitioners and family workers, we support professional development towards creative pedagogies, and transformative change in education and community settings.  

Participative methodologies 

Our research incorporates diverse methodological orientations, with a focus on ethical and respectful approaches to work  with children, their families and communities. Taking a Children’s Rights perspective we are concerned with voice and voices, including children’s engagement with matters that are of concern to them wherever they are in the world. We have developed a range of multimodal, inclusive methods for engaging children and families in research, and ensuring authentic participation that enables them to express their voices, identities, perspectives and experiences. 


The following concepts underpin and intersect our research aims, ethos and methods.  







Transformative practice



Creative practices

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