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Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education
History, Philosophy and Experience

Second Edition

January 2014 | 216 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

This accessible introduction to the history of early childhood education emphasises the role of history and philosophy in early childhood practice today. Firmly grounded in current policy from across the UK, the text features a series of imagined conversations with key figures and pioneers, which exemplify various philosophical positions in early childhood. This second edition has been fully updated and revised in line with recent policy changes, and contains new and updated biographies of key pioneers as well as three brand new conversations with historical figures.


The book is useful for a range of students of Early Childhood Education or History of Education, from first year undergraduates to PhD students. It will also be incredibly valuable to Early Years trainee teachers, practitioners and policy makers.

The Legacy of History
Early Childhood Education in the UK: A Brief History

Foundation Stones: Some Key Figures Whose Work Has Influenced Thinking and Development of Provision for Young People

Into the Twenty-First Century: Twenty-Five Years of Policy Change
Understanding Recent History: 1988-2013

Into the Future, Learning from the Past


John Amos Komensky (Comenius)

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi

Robert Owen

Friedrich Froebel

Charles Dickens

Charlotte Mason

Rudolf Steiner

Sigmund Freud

Rachel McMillan

John Dewey

Margaret McMillan

Maria Montessori

Alexander Sutherland (A.S. Neill)

Susan Sutherland Isaacs

Louis Christian Schiller

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky

Donald Woods Winnicott

Jean Piaget

Erik Erikson

Carl Rogers

Robin Tanner

Burrhus Frederick Skinner

Sir Alexander Bradshow Clegg (Alec Clegg)

Loris Malaguzzi

Chris Athey

Conversation 1 So, Who Needs History?

Conversation 2 Why Early Childhood Education?

Conversation 3 What Motivates Young Children to Learn?

Conversation 4 How Do Young Children Learn?

Conversation 5 A Policy of Creativity

Conversation 6 Looking Back to 'Education' and 'Care'... Challenging Current Policy through History

Conversation 7 Literacy in the Early Years: A Pedagogy of Patience?

Conversation 8 Children's Rights and Early Learning

Conversation 9 From God and Church to Awe and Wonder: Spirituality and Creativity in Early Childhood Education

1. Children's Rights

2. The Arts and Creativity

3. Literacy

4. Play, Learning and Pedagogy

5. Early Intervention

6. Home Learning and Parental Involvement in Early Education

7. Inclusion

8. Professional Development and Training


‘This book is an essential read for all those studying and working in the early years.  It does indeed give a rootedness to our work and allows us to ponder. Most importantly it reminds us about the importance of the early years and our responsibility to continually advocate for the youngest children.’

Dr. Eunice Lumsden
Deputy Divisional Leader for Early Years, The University of Northampton

'This unique text helps readers craft strong professional identities, unambiguous educational philosophies and conviction in their practice. The authors encourage reflexive and situated interpretations of lessons from the long history of early education; perceptive and respectful responses to signals young children give adults about their roles; and a weather eye to the policy telescope. Like a compass, this book provides points of reference for new pioneers to steer a course towards principled early years education, now and for the future.'

Dr Sacha Powell
Reader in Early Childhood, Canterbury Christ Church University

As ever with Cathy's books an insparational book that allows early childhood to be understood by all undergraduates. The students have started to apply Cathy's knowledge to their work. Good book to adotpted for any undergraduate.

Mrs karen Cooke
Sport and Public Services, The Manchester College
December 5, 2023

This book has lots of information on the history of ECE, including classic and contemporary influential theorists. I will recommend this book to students who wish to examine how the history of ECE has shaped today’s practice.

Mrs Emma Harvey
Education, Suffolk New College
January 6, 2023

Perfect book for my students who have very little time to think, let alone learn, how the theoretical underpinnings relate to practice. Great book for EYs professional trainees.

Dr Judy Sayers
School of Education, Leeds University
June 10, 2020

The book gives a very good overview of the history of early childhood education. Moreover, the philosophical origin of educational science is considered as well.
The British centered view on education history is understandable - I will need to provide extra information for my German students in this case.

Miss Kirsten Frieda Bruhn
Elementary Education , Leuphana Universitat Luneburg
December 17, 2015

This is great book for those who are interested in the foundations of early childhood. It can be an ideal textbook for students and tutors in the field and it is strongly recommended for university courses. It introduces all the most important aspects of early years care and education, and will help you develop the key skills needed to study at degree level. Importantly, it goes beyond theory and puts theoretical aspects and principles of early childhood into practice.

Dr Kyriakos Demetriou
Faculty of Education, Liverpool Hope University
November 11, 2015

A balance of facts and an interesting reflection on their place in todays early years.

Mrs Nicola Demetriadi
Childhood Studies : Early Years, Chichester University
October 2, 2015

Personally I enjoyed the concept of interviewing past theorists for their opinions on Early Years Education today. Students also seemed to find this concept made theory understandable and relatable to Early Years today

Mrs Nicola Demetriadi
Childhood Studies : Early Years, Chichester University
October 2, 2015

The book is informative and does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a straightforward introduction to the history of early childhood education and emphasises the role of history and philosophy in early childhood practice today. It will be a good book for first year students on Childhood Studies and Early Years degree courses.

Mrs Amanda Crow
school of Education and Professional Development, Huddersfield University
July 7, 2015

Cathy Nutbrown

Cathy Nutbrown is President of Early Education and Professor of Education in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield. Her research over the last 30 years, has focussed on young children’s learning and work with parents to support young children’s literacy development.  She won an ESRC Award for Research with Outstanding Impact on Society and a Nursery World Lifetime Achievement Award. She is author of over 150 publications including Early Literacy Work with Families (with Hannon and Morgan, Sage, 2005), Early Childhood Educational Research (Sage, 2019), and Home Learning Environments for Young Children (with Clough... More About Author

Peter Clough

Peter Clough is Professor of Education at the University of Brighton. Often using innovative, arts-based qualitative methodologies, his research is concerned particularly with the inclusion of marginalised voices, and spans all age phases. Among his many publications are Inclusion in the Early Years (Sage), and Narratives and Fictions in Educational Research (OUP). Recent research includes the Family Literacy in Prisons project in collaboration with the Prison Advice and Care Trust.  More About Author

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