Bristol Early Years Research and Development

Bristol Early Years Research
Life at Bristol Early Years Research and Development Life at Bristol Early Years Research and Development Life at Bristol Early Years Research and Development Life at Bristol Early Years Research and Development Life at Bristol Early Years Research and Development Life at Bristol Early Years Research and Development Life at Bristol Early Years Research and Development


Masters Research Dissertations


Hugo Turvey - read details of his Masters level research.


Post-Graduate Research

We will be using this page to publish post-graduate research in Early Years.  If you have research you would like to share please get in touch.


Lockett, A. (2016) The Development of Reflective Dialogue and Participation in Young Children Through Engagement with Documented Learning Narratives.  Submitted to: Centre for Research in Early Childhood.

Anjali Lockett, Redcliffe Nursery School and Children's Centre, has recently published this piece of research investigating how young children's active, reflective dialogues and metacognitive thinking can be stimulated through engaging with documented learning narratives (learning stories and learning diaries), leading to increased participation in the process of documentation and assessment by the child and transformation of the practitioner researcher's practice.  The research works within a praxeological paradigm, seeking to uphold values of democracy, ethics and the rights to participation.  The research engages with current discourse on Article 12 of the United Nations rights of the Child, the right for the child to participate in all aspects of decision making and applies this to the researchers own practise in relation to assessing children's learning and the implications for wider practise amongst the early childhood workforce.

Young, S. (2016) Infant Feeding Practices among Somali-born women now resident in Bristol. MLitt Thesis, University of Bristol.  A study at Redcliffe Children’s Centre, Bristol.

 This ethnographic study sought to understand Somali women’s infant feeding not from a public health stance but from their own perspectives and within the wider context of their lives, including their migration from Somali territories. The pattern of basic features is explained as a legacy of evolved adaptations to life in the resource-scarce environment of the Horn of Africa.

Young, S. Crescent moon and star: Working towards intercultural approaches in early childhood music education. A study in Rosemary Nursery, Bristol.

 There is an increasing need for music education pedagogies that are sensitive to and serve the needs of multi-ethnic and multi-religious populations.  This article reports on an interesting project that sought to develop intercultural approaches in early childhood music provided for multi-ethnic Muslim mothers and their young children. The study invited information via structured interviews from multi-ethnic Muslim mothers about their family musical activities, including beliefs and values; a second strand exploring intercultural approaches to music practice by involving the four practitioners working with those same groups of mothers in action research. The author concludes that rather than viewing music as a body of knowledge, reflexive professionalism listens to parents and children and involves them in making decisions about content and pedagogical processes.

Young, S. (2014) Visible Thinking: the Performance Arts Club. A study at St Judes, Easton, Bristol and in partnership with Rosemary Nursery, Bristol.

 The project team ‘Visible Thinking’, have built up considerable experience over many years of designing and leading projects with young children, refugee and minority communities, in educational and community settings.  They draw on their own skills of music, theatre and dance and can call upon a wide range of multi-skilled musicians and artists to add additional music and organisational skills. This article documents music sessions with parents and children from diverse ethnic communities exploring a wide range of musical instruments, including some from other cultures and some of the elements involved in the sessions

Worthington, M. (2015) Draft title of doctorate: The genesis of mathematical semiosis in early childhood.

 This doctoral research analyses data from case studies of seven 3-4 year olds attending the maintained nursery at Redcliffe Children’s Centre in Bristol. It considers the children’s cultural mathematical knowledge of home and ways in which they adapt and extend this knowledge within their rich pretend play in the nursery. The research focuses particularly on the children’s own graphical communications of mathematics, highlighting ways in which the children make meaningful beginnings with the abstract symbolic language of mathematics and how these connect to the mathematical notations of ‘school’ mathematics. The study argues that meaningful social and cultural contexts such as pretend play provide potentially rich and sustained contexts for young children’s mathematics. The findings are likely to challenge current narrow ‘basic skills’ approaches in England.

 Abstracts for three doctoral papers for this ongoing research are attached below.

Abstract for PHD:   The genesis of mathematical semiosis in early childhood.

Worthington, M. and Van Oers, B. (2016) Pretend play and the cultural foundations of mathematics. European Early Childhood Research Association Journal. Online, 1-16.

The aim of this study is to uncover the emergence of cultural mathematical understandings and communications in young children's spontaneous pretend play. It is based on Vygotskian cultural-historical perspectives and social-semiotic theory, informed by research into ‘funds of knowledge' and considers how children's informal knowledge of family practices enriches their play and cultural mathematical understandings. Longitudinal, ethnographic data were gathered in an inner-city mainstream nursery in the south-west of England. Data include written observation and graphics of seven children aged three to four years of age engaged in social pretend play. The findings reveal that many play episodes included aspects of mathematics and that these increased through the year: they show how the children's home cultural knowledge underpinned their pretend play and informed their mathematics. Where children are immersed in mathematical- and graphical-rich environments, bridging home and early childhood cultures becomes a natural feature of their pretend play.

Worthington, M. and Van Oers, B. (2016) Children’s social literacies: Meaning making and the emergence of graphical signs and texts in pretence. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. Online, 1-29.

This study builds on recent research into young children’s pretend play. Social literacy practices and events in which children engaged were investigated to reveal features of their meaning making. Data were collected from case studies of seven children aged three to four years in an inner-city maintained nursery school in southwest England, as part of a larger longitudinal ethnographic study. Data comprise written documentation of the children’s play and their visual representations, and the analysis follows an interpretive, social semiotic multimodal paradigm. The findings make a compelling case for greater appreciation of pretence as a potentially valuable context for the enculturation of literacies, highlighting the diversity and richness of children’s spontaneous meaning making and self-chosen literacy events. Informed by cultural and literacy practices of home and nursery, the children’s communications show how meanings and signs are carried across time, space and contexts. Rich and sustained play supported the children’s self-initiated literacies in which they explored a heterogeneous range of textual genres, revealing their developing semiotic understandings and expanding repertoire.


Worthington, M. (In process). The emergence of mathematical abstraction in the nursery.

Clark, T. (2014) Relationships between Socio Economic Status and the Development of Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage: A Secondary Analysis of Data from the Growing up in Scotland and Effective Provision of Pre-School Education Reports. Doctorate in Education, University of Reading.

 The recent introduction of ‘free early education’ entitlement for the most ‘disadvantaged 40%
of two year olds’ in the UK (Dfe 2013) represents the latest government policy focussed on
‘closing the gap’ in attainment between children from the most and least wealthy
backgrounds. In the context of this, this paper utilises a range of sociological theories to
analyse potential understandings of the apparent connections between socio-economic status
(SES) and children’s early development, as highlighted by secondary research data from the
Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project (Sylva et al 2004) and the
‘Growing up Scotland’ Report (Anderson et al 2007). The highly positivist methodologies
these adopt, plus the unavoidable cultural and social positioning of quantifiable development
tests within them is explored. Various theoretical interpretations of the results are explored
and an argument made against the adoption of highly deterministic theoretical positions
which dismiss the potential for human agency to overcome the potentially negative impacts
of social structures. It is then asserted that the introduction of the two year old entitlement
offers a renewed opportunity to focus on supporting families, with consideration best placed
on ‘what parents do’, not ‘who parents are’ (Kellaghan et al 1993).

Dr Duggan, M. (2014) People at the Heart of our Processes’ - a Case Study of how an Early Years Setting promotes Community Cohesion. Ed.Doc. Bristol University.

 Data for Martine Duggan’s doctoral research into community cohesion was gathered at St Werburgh’s Park Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Bristol. The findings emphasise a number of principles including the setting’s affordance as a ‘community haven’; practical measures taken ‘to disrupt parallel social segregation’;  ‘dynamic efforts to ‘connect’ with their families and community’ and ‘the importance of recognising and affirming the identities of all community members’.

Dr Duggan, M. (2014) How does St Werburgh’s Park Nursery School & Children’s Centre promote community cohesion? Poster: overview of Ed. Doc. Research. Bristol University.




Latest Tweets