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School Readiness: A Culture of Compliance?

Kay, Louise (2018) School Readiness: A Culture of Compliance? EdD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

'School readiness' is at the forefront of current Early Childhood Educational policy and is seen politically as a way of narrowing the attainment gap and breaking the cycle of poverty, and preparing children for the formal learning of Year One. However, there is no clear definition of what 'school readiness' means for teachers and children. Without this in place the phrase is left open to interpretation and contradictions, resulting in key divisions between policymakers and the Early Childhood community as to what being 'school ready' means. Furthermore, when 'school readiness' is positioned within policy as 'academic readiness', conflicts and tensions arise between traditional Early Childhood pedagogical practices and the realities of working within a framework where there is a clear emphasis on Mathematical and Literacy outcomes. Viewed through a socio-constructivist lens, 'readiness for school' is seen as a fluid construct, dependent on the beliefs of those working with children. The aim of this research was to explore the beliefs of two Reception teachers using Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) that acknowledges teachers as being part of a collective activity system. Within this methodological framework, teachers are seen as thinkers and actors whose purposes, values and knowledge are displayed within the activity systems they inhabit. The ways in which 'school readiness' was constructed through pedagogical practices were identified, and the tensions and contradictions that emerged between these practices and the beliefs of the teachers were explored in depth. An Internet survey questionnaire was used as a way of providing a broader understanding of teacher perceptions around constructs of ‘school readiness’. Interviews with the two participants were carried out to illuminate specific beliefs about 'school readiness', and to identify how teachers conceptualised the construction of 'school readiness' in the classroom. The analysis of these interviews focused on 'manifestations of contradictions' (Engeström & Sannino, 2011) within the data that highlighted tensions between beliefs, pedagogical practices, and curricular and assessment policy frameworks. The findings from the research illustrate the complexities of 'school readiness' as a transitional concept, and the reductionist nature of using the Good Level of Development (GLD) as a measure of 'school readiness'. Using 'school readiness' as a performativity and accountability measure serves to subjugate both teachers and children, and further marginalises already marginalised groups of children if they fail to reach the GLD. This study reiterates the importance of providing a clear definition with regards to what 'school readiness' means, and whether it refers to the institutional transition into school, or the curricular transition from Reception into Year One. The research also furthers the debate around the outcomes children are expected to reach by the end of Reception as a measure of 'school readiness', particularly those focusing on more instrumental skills such as Mathematics and Literacy.

Item Type: Thesis (EdD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.742349
Depositing User: Dr Louise Kay
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2018 12:58
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:54
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20433

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