This research seeks to investigate the extent to which synergies are present in the new early years curriculum guidance for Wales and the extent to which these perceived synergies can facilitate the enactment of the new curriculum.
Jennifer Clement at Cardiff Metropolitan University recognises the theoretical synergies forming between Froebelian Principles (Bruce, 2021) and the Four Purposes within the new Curriculum for Wales (Hwb.gov.wales). For example, the first of the four purposes refers to capable learners and can be associated with Froebel’s perspective of seeing children as capable, curious and active, learning best through self-activity and reflection (Tovey, 2017). The third of the four purposes refers to ‘ethical, informed citizens’ and resonates with Froebel’s ideas around freedom with responsibility where children might have, for example, freedom to make choices but these choices are constrained to some degree by the choices of others or the resources or spaces to which they have access (Tovey, 2018). The fourth purpose, which situates children as valued members of society might be associated with Froebel’s perspective of the child as an individual who is also a member of society but it also reflects the importance he placed on the whole child, the holistic nature of development and the significance of being emotionally secure within the relationships they have with themselves, their families and wider community (Bruce, 2012) . So, synergies can be identified between the four purposes and Froebel’s philosophy, principles and ideas. However, despite these apparent similarities, there is no recognition given to how both the theoretical understandings and practical applications of Froebel’s principles might provide early years practitioners in Wales pedagogical support as they transition into the new curriculum. Previously, Froebel was recognised within the curriculum framework for all children aged 3-7 years in Wales (Welsh Government, 2008; Spratt et al, 2018), but this has not been replicated across the new documentation.
This research takes place at Froebel House, a newly created resource space within the CSESP provision at CMU, which is dedicated to supporting the enactment of Froebel’s principles and practices. It integrates indoor and outdoor spaces, providing students and children in the locality opportunities to experience Froebel’s gifts and occupations, including block play, clay, woodwork and gardening. Using Design-Based Research (Reimann, 2011), the research project explores what happens in relation to processes, relationships and learning when spatial and pedagogical drivers are solely created to engender Froebelian principles and practices. The originality and significance of this research lies within its ability to create a space that removes a number of the competing discourses often found in current early years settings, for example, the discourse of apprenticeship (Blundell, 2012) versus Citizenship (James & James, 2012) that can often compromise Froebelian principles. This will allow the research team, alongside the children and practitioners, to develop an understanding of these principles and the extent of their relationship with the Four Purpose of the new Curriculum for Wales.
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