Parents’ and Practitioners’ Perspectives on How an Open Listening Climate in Early Years Settings Can Facilitate Child Voice

Moore, Alison Dilys (2022) Parents’ and Practitioners’ Perspectives on How an Open Listening Climate in Early Years Settings Can Facilitate Child Voice. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Alison Moore PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Jul 2021_Final Award Feb 2022.pdf - Accepted Version

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This research explores the concept of how an open listening climate in early years settings can facilitate child voice. Driving the study was a commitment to make a change to children’s lived experiences and those of the parents to make a lasting impact on children’s wellbeing.

A previously under-researched area, the study was carried out in two Children’s Centres in a large city in the West Midlands in England which provides multi-professional support to children and their parents. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of development ([Bronfenbrenner, 1979) provides a theoretical framework acknowledging the interrelatedness of a child’s environment, the relationships and their impact on the child’s development.

My central research questions were: ‘What are parents’ and practitioners’ perspectives on child voice within Children’s Centres? and How might early years practice be transformed to create a more open listening climate within multi-professional early years settings?'

The rights model of child participation, developed by Lundy (2007: 932) provides a theoretical and practical understanding of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (UN, 1989) by conceptualising Article 12 and providing an accessible interpretation when applying a rights framework. Lundy’s model asks us to consider the four interrelated elements of: Space; Voice; Audience and Influence when considering child participation.

Using a qualitative case study, I adapted the Lundy Model (2007), and accompanying participation checklist (2015) as ‘tools’ to inform both the data collection and data analysis by applying them with adults. Connecting with the most significant adult in a child’s life (in the main, the parent) is essential when applying a holistic lens to view the lived experiences of a child and those of the practitioners who are invited into their world. A further level of analysis was applied, informed by Braun and Clarke’s (2013) use of thematic analysis, when conducting qualitative research.

The concept of an open listening climate was explored with five parents (all mothers) whose narratives, collected using portraiture in order to gain deep insights into their lived experiences, are presented in the thesis as portraits to ‘tell their stories’ (Lawrence Lightfoot and Hoffman Davis, 1997). Four senior managers were interviewed, and nineteen practitioners [who were working in early years and family support] took part in focus groups to explore the perspectives and understanding of their practice in relation to child voice. This innovative use of Lundy’s Model creates a shared dialogue with adults in order to ‘increase children’s voice and efficacy’ and which Swadener (2020:393) considers ‘is a powerful new area of research’.

The data revealed a rich picture of what life was like for the child and parent at home, outlining positive examples of how the Children’s Centres had been able to influence change and make a difference to the life of the child and parent. However, the research revealed a disconnect between the roles undertaken by early years whose work primarily focused on meeting the needs of the child, and the emphasis of the work of family support which was directed at supporting the parent with indirect impact on the child’s wellbeing. The findings suggest that issues relating to significant changes, which drive the policy and political priorities of Children’s Centres and the early years sector had, at times, influenced the misdirection of focus away from the child. The findings further suggest there is a need to reconsider redefining the roles of practitioners to place the emphasis on offering holistic support to children and parents through an early years and rights-based lens.

The research makes contributions to knowledge by suggesting applying a rights’ theoretical model in early years settings will support practitioners to create a more open listening climate focused on child voice. It opens the dialogue between practitioners and parents to view the child through a holistic lens when considering how best to support children and parents to enhance their wellbeing.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
July 2021Submitted
22 February 2022Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Early years, child voice, child rights, Lundy model, open listening climate
Subjects: CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Education and Social Work
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2022 12:14
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2022 12:14

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