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Learner identities, assessment and equality in early years education

Bradbury, Alice (2011) Learner identities, assessment and equality in early years education. PhD thesis, Institute of Education, University of London.

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Abstract: This thesis is concerned with issues of policy and equality in early years classrooms in England. It explores the impact of an assessment system introduced in 2003, the Foundation Stage Profile, on Reception classes of four- and five-year-old pupils. A theoretical framework influenced by poststructural conceptions of discourse and identity, feminist and postcolonial studies and Critical Race Theory is employed to examine how circulating discourses reinforced by the Foundation Stage Profile prescribe a particular notion of 'learning' and the 'learner' which works to exclude some groups of children from positions of educational success. Ethnographic studies of two Reception classrooms in inner London are used to explore how the Foundation Stage Profile and the practices associated with it contribute to the perpetuation of inequalities in attainment in terms of several axes of identity, including gender, race, class, religion, language and urban/rural location. An intersectional analysis is used to explore how individual children are constituted through discourse as particular kinds of learners (their learner identities). It is argued that these young children in inner city schools are constituted as a whole as a "difficult intake", incommensurable with high attainment, at the very beginning of their school careers. Discourses relating to class, parenting and race are used to contrast these children with an idealised 'White middle-class' norm. However, some children in very specific intersectional positions are intelligible as good learners through complex webs of discourses relating to their identities. The practices of assessment are discussed in detail, with a focus on how the Foundation Stage Profile legitimises a conception of 'teacher knowledge' as objective and factual, and how assessment results are influenced by the school management and local authority's expectations. I conclude that current assessment policy, classroom practices and discourses relating to educational 'underachievement' in Reception work to produce and maintain inequalities in early years education.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Depositing User: IOE Repository Editor (10)
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2013 11:51
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2015 14:53
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