Listening carefully: Engaging families in early childhood education in the context of disadvantage

The research responds to enduring inequalities in children’s participation in high quality early childhood education and care (ECEC). Contemporary families face precarious labour markets and a childcare system with stringent workforce participation requirements. This project will illuminate the affordances of everyday life for families most challenged by these emergent conditions and develop understandings of how to calibrate services accordingly. Findings will support universal ECEC access through knowledge translation about contemporary disadvantage to policy and practice forums. A strong Indigenous component contributes to research training and knowledge about effective practice for Indigenous children an their families.

The research aims to:

  1. Generate new knowledge about the everyday lives of Indigenous and non-Indigenous families with young children living in high poverty contexts;
  2. Provide deep insights into innovative, responsive and effective practices with these families that have hitherto not been effectively documented, strengthened and brought to scale;
  3. Strengthen the evidence base for government policy making with particular regard to the ECEC needs of families living in high poverty contexts.

The project aims to produce outputs that can be adapted for professional development and teacher training. We will develop ethnographic data into contemporary Australian resources that support practitioners to harness the funds of knowledge in families in teaching and the delivery of services. Practice architectures methods enlist practitioners in the generation of evidence and analysis of their practices. As such it is a methodology that can be successfully adopted by end-users allowing processes to be scaled up. Partner organisations intend to be actively involved in these processes so they can apply learnings to their organisations and develop a more responsive service system for families in disadvantage through policy advocacy.