Remediating child poverty via preschool: exploring practitioners’ perspectives in England

An interesting article exploring the perspectives of pre-school practitioners in the North East to child poverty has just been published in the International Journal of Early Years Education. The author, Donald Simpson, has kindly provided a link for readers of this blog who do not have access to academic publishing. There are 50 free copies of the article here * for those of you who do not have academic sign-ins and for those of you that do, you can access the article in the usual way here

The abstract of the article is below

Within developed countries child poverty is a social problem with significant negative effects. With a backdrop of austerity, the UK’s first child poverty strategy was released in 2011. Pervaded by neo-liberal ideology this strategy identifies preschool services as key to remediating the negative effects of child poverty on children and families as a means to ‘unlock social mobility’. Drawing on interviews with preschool practitioners working in the poorest region of England, this article provides a rare, close-up insight into how they have responded to assumptions about their role within the policy discussions and debates about child poverty. Findings reveal how those interviewed have internalised the UK Coalition government’s discursive formation of child poverty and social justice. Their narratives also indicate how, alongside the child poverty strategy, ‘policy technology’ accompanying the emergence of related reforms to the preschool sector in England and financial cuts are regulative and restrictive to practitioners’ thinking and actions. Although only small scale, this research identifies challenges which will potentially prevent practitioners from creating the conditions necessary to address the effects of child poverty and ensure the Coalition government’s vision of social justice in England.

The conclusions note that:

the findings challenge contemporary policy thinking about the alleviation of child poverty and the promotion of social justice via preschool practitioners. Most practitioners interviewed internalised and repeated the ideological position of the government on child poverty pointing to the negative subjectivities and skills of poor parents as its cause. Poverty was viewed as ‘normal’ when parents lacked aspiration and motivation. Consequently, these practitioners felt that working with such parents should be a priority focus of early intervention measures to address negative aspirations and motivations of parents. Moreover, practitioners spoke of a continuing disconnection between themselves and many poor parents.

These findings mirror the findings from the work we did exploring the priorities identified by North East local authorities in their Child Poverty Strategies. Many of these documents highlighted that tackling ‘cultures of worklessness’ and ‘raising aspirations’ were a priority and it is little wonder, therefore, that practitioners within these same authorities feel ‘disconnected’ from people on low-incomes. It would appear that, in some cases, parents who are poor have been quite successfully ‘othered’ and are viewed by practitioners as ‘poor parents’.

Many thanks again to Donald for sharing the link with us.

*I haven’t clicked on the free link as I didn’t want to take up one of the free copies. If it doesn’t work – or if you’re the 51st person or later who clicks on it, please let me know.*


4 responses to “Remediating child poverty via preschool: exploring practitioners’ perspectives in England

  • Annette de Grandis

    Really useful article – thanks for the free copy, as a charity we can’t afford to subscribe to lots of stuff and when someone does this it is much appreciated

  • Stephen Crossley

    Hi Annette, glad you found it useful and thanks for leaving a comment. If you don’t already know about it, Policy Press offer three or four journal articles a month for free and they are often very relevant to practitioners and policy makers working with children and families. If you go onto their website and join their mailing list you get a monthly email which tells you about new book releases and free articles. One of the free ones this month is called ‘How the state constructs family’ and is really interesting.

    Best wishes,


    • Annette de Grandis

      Thanks Steve I will do. That’s one I didn’t know about – I find the way language is used to shift perceptions and to mould a cultural response is fascinating (if sad when it’s used to drive a neo-liberal separatist agenda e.g the ‘deserving’ poor). I think it’s important to keep challenging the way in which causes and symptoms are conflated to produce spurious definitions that then drive policy

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