Elizabeth Ann Wood, University of Sheffield, UK || Spyros Spyrou, European University Cyprus

Elizabeth Ann Wood  is Professor of Education in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield, England. Her research focuses mainly on early childhood and primary education with specific interests in play and pedagogy, curriculum and assessment, teachers’ professionalism, professional knowledge and leadership, policy analysis and critique. In addition to papers in academic and professional journals, she is author of the internationally successful Play, Learning and the Early Childhood Curriculum, London, Sage (2013 3rd edition), and co-editor of Play and learning in the early years, from research to practice, London, Sage with Pat Broadhead and Justine Howard. Recent work is focused on children’s interests and funds of knowledge in super-diverse communities, and children’s agency in play. Her work with colleagues at the University of Auckland Aotearoa/New Zealand has focused on comparative approaches to curriculum in early childhood policy frameworks. She has worked with colleagues at Australian Catholic University Melbourne on two funded research projects focusing on children’s converged (traditional-digital) play, and the formation of educational leaders in Australia and England. She has provided policy and practice guidance to several governments on play, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment. 

Keynote Abstract: The politics of play: policies and practice

Many countries have policy frameworks for Early Childhood Education, which provide guidance on curriculum, pedagogy, and play. Often the ‘policy’ version of play is concerned more with structure than children’s freedom, so that play contributes to outcomes and goals and is a means of supporting children’s progress and achievements. In this presentation I will show how some policy statements position play within a wider discourse of raising standards and improving outcomes. I will then offer contrasting perspectives from research on play and children’s cultures, particularly the richness of meanings, perspectives and practices that children bring to their play.  The conclusion will consider the ongoing dilemmas in practice of structure and freedom in children’s play, and the implications for equality, diversity and inclusion. 

Spyros Spyrou is Professor of Anthropology at European University Cyprus. His work explores, among others, the political lives of children in relation to diverse phenomena such as nationalism, migration and climate action. In his most recent work, he engages with broader questions related to the ethics and politics of knowledge production in childhood studies as well as the notion of the future. He is the author of Disclosing Childhoods: Research and Knowledge Production for a Critical Childhood Studies (2018, Palgrave Macmillan) and co-editor of Reimagining Childhood Studies (2019, Bloomsbury) and Children and Borders (2014, Palgrave Macmillan). He is also co-editor of the journal Childhood (SAGE), co-editor of the book series Studies in Childhood and Youth (Palgrave) and a co-convenor of the Reimagining Childhood Studies project (www.reimaginingchildhoodstudies.com).

Keynote Abstract: When childhood studies meets ontology and design: Engaging in critical explorations of possible futures with children

Though the concept of ‘design’ might appear to be of little theoretical relevance to childhood studies as a field (partly reflected in its limited use by childhood studies scholars), I will try to show that a critical understanding and application of the concept might in fact rejuvenate childhood studies and its remit. I will turn to ‘ontological design’ in particular to suggest that when the ontological underpinnings of design (as this pertains to any form of design such as products, services, policies, etc) are brought to light, it is possible to not only critique with more acuity current design practices as these impact children’s lives but to also consider the role of critical design in producing other ways of being, knowing and doing. The latter highlights the potential role of children in co-designing with adults (whether through their everyday situated practices, their activism, or other forms of social and political engagement) other, more sustainable futures and ways of being with all the challenges and possibilities entailed in such an effort.