'How do you feel? What is your heart doing?'... 'It’s jumping': the body and health in Early Years Education (EYE)

2016-11-24T10:40:43Z (GMT) by Julie Stirrup
Policy agendas for early childhood education in the UK as in many countries elsewhere are driven by expectations that play will impact positively on a child’s educational attainment, health and wellbeing. This paper focuses on health knowledge, social class and cultural reproduction within early year education in England, looking specifically at how health discourse is framed by Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) policy imperatives and subsequently by practitioners as they re-contextualise health knowledge through play across three socially and culturally different early years education (EYE) settings within England. Across the three settings, fifteen practitioners and eighty children, aged 3-4 years old, participated in the research. Drawing on the theoretical work of Basil Bernstein particularly his concepts, ‘pedagogic device’ (PD) and ‘classification’ (c) and ‘framing’ (f), the paper documents how health is designed, defined, constructed and experienced through play pedagogy within each of these EYE settings. The analyses illustrate how the different organisational and curriculum structures, pedagogical interactions and transactions of each setting cultivate distinctive relationships to health knowledge. These relationships, in turn, play their part in the reproduction of social class and cultural inequalities, despite the best intentions of EYE policy to address these matters.