Canterbury Christ Church University
Developing high quality ECEC (Early Childhood Education and Care) provision for young children remains high on the political agenda in England (Bilton et al., 2016). However, there is a lack of research into babies’ access to the outdoors when they are being cared for in ECEC settings despite increasing public concern about young children’s connection and relationship with the natural world. This is particularly the case for children living in areas of disadvantage. The recently published environment plan (DEFRA, 2018) recognises inequitable access to outdoor and natural environments and tasks schools and educational settings with addressing this.
Whilst there is considerable literature on outdoor learning experiences for 2-5 year olds, the nature and extent of provision for 0-2s is unknown with a dearth of research on the subject. Anecdotal and peripheral evidence (NICE, 2008; Bruce, 2012; Clare, 2012; Goouch and Powell, 2013) suggests that a concern identified by Jolley more than twenty years ago in the Netherlands may be extant in England today:
“often in group care situations, where a preschool also provides care for infants and toddlers, the available outside space is very limited…Infants and toddlers who are fortunate enough to attend a center offering a separate space for them outdoors, often spend little time in these areas because the activity choices to be found there are limited” (Jolley 1995:5).
The situation may be changing with the growth of nature and outdoor nurseries but little or no research evidence exists.
The proposed project will explore outdoor provision for 0-2s attending baby rooms in nursery settings. This focus chimes with the centrality of outdoor learning in Froebelian education traditions (Tovey, 2012; Read 2012; Werth 2018).The proposed research will audit environments and explore practices in Kent, which has diverse geography and demography and includes some of the highest levels of socio-economic deprivation in the South East of England.