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Perceptions of ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) practitioners on how their gender influences their approaches to play

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Jo Josephidou
Publication date2018
Number of pages251
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Quality Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) has the potential to impact greatly on outcomes for young children and improve their life chances. Children (0–5 years) in England benefit from a play-based curriculum although there is little uniformity in the ECEC settings they attend. One consistent element is that the adults who engage with them in these settings are predominately female. Some suggest this situation is detrimental to children’s learning and development, particularly in the case of boys or for children where no male father figure is present in their home life. This thesis makes an original contribution by considering the perceived gendered roles that ECEC practitioners adopt when working within a play-based curriculum. It examines whether practitioners believe that their gender influences how they engage with children in play. Through qualitative surveys and open-ended interviews, practitioners shared their own definitions of play and approaches to play. Connell’s framework of masculinities and Synodi’s play labels were used as a lens for analysis. Findings reveal that practitioners use contradictory gender-blind and gender-binary scripts. They articulate both a perception that men can bring a ‘missing pedagogy’ and, also, an underlying tension between the child-centred curriculum and the practitioners’ sense of agency. This thesis argues that gender sensitivity training is vital for both ECEC students and practitioners to ensure that a high-quality workforce is developed that can be gender flexible in its practices and pedagogy.