“Have you heard me?” Consulting with young children at a time of transition and change in early years.

As schools and settings prepare to welcome back all children it is important to be aware that the past 6 months will have been a different experience for each child. We also cannot assume that all children have the same feelings, thoughts and emotions about the transitional processes that they are currently undergoing and the educational-associated transitional processes that they have been through.

Children have encountered a multitude of change in recent months as a result of the cultural and socio-economic impact of the global pandemic and we need to be proactive in ways to listen to children, valuing children as experts in their own lives and differentiating according to the ‘voice’ of individual children.

One setting I spoke to informed me that they would be using the Mosaic approach (originally designed by Clark and Moss 2001) to consultation with children as part of their transition process. The Mosaic approach is a multi-method and participatory approach which involves methods such as child conferencing, tours of the setting, observation and parent and practitioner views. The method that the Mosaic approach is most renowned for is it’s use of cameras as a tool for children and the powerful, rich information that this can give us when asking a child what is important to them.

Once data is gathered children and adults are given time to discuss children’s perspectives and to bring about change as a consequence of this. This can be done in many creative ways such as map making with the images created by children or slideshows of images taken by the children, sometimes referred to as a ‘magic carpet’.

Clark (2017) describes her work as ‘a multi-method, polyvocal approach that brings together different perspectives in order to create with children an image of their worlds’. A pertinent view to consultation with children at a time of such change.

Regardless of which praxis we choose to adhere to there is a duty in early years to promote a culture of listening to young children, this is their right. The research of Robinson et.al (2019) which scrutinised English education regulations found that there is a lack of emphasis on supporting children to understand that they have a right to express their views freely and in providing opportunities for children to express views in ways other than verbally. They also found that there is very little reference made to informing children about the outcomes of decisions that affect them. A reflexive culture of consultation and participation where children are valued as agents of change needs to emerge.

A whole team approach is required to embed a culture where children feel valued and listened to. This needs to feel meaningful to children and not tokenistic. Through listening to young children and valuing their contributions we could not only help to embed high levels of self-confidence and resilience for children but could enhance our relationships with children and learn from them. Children need to know that we place value on what is important to them. At a local authority level an emphasis has been placed on supporting transitions in early years. Consulting with young children should not be viewed as a separate entity but integral to this.

We cannot afford to make assumptions on behalf of our children!

Laura Gregory is a Lecturer in Early Years at Edge Hill University.


References

Robinson, C., Quennerstedt, A., & I‘Anson, J. (2019) The translation of articles from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into education legislation: The narrowing of Article 12 as a consequence of translation. Curriculum Journal31(3). Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1002/curj.6

Clark, Alison. Listening to Young Children, Expanded Third Edition : A Guide to Understanding and Using the Mosaic Approach, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2017. ProQuest Ebook Central


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