Wednesday, 11 December 2019


Children & Childhood Seminars - School Readiness

Brooks Building, Room 2.12

Neoliberalism, Governance and Early Childhood Education and Care

Guy Roberts-Holmes (Manchester Metropolitan University)

In this talk I will examine the governance of early childhood education and care services by the neoliberal state. First, by the application of New Public Management principles, in particular an emphasis on output control by the setting of explicit standards and measurement of performance. Second, by making performance visible and public through the publication of inspection reports, datasets, league tables and progress measures designed to stimulate the forces of competition and parent choice. Third, by means of governmentality, that process by which participants come to embody and espouse the behaviours and outcomes desired by the state, such as developmental stages or learning goals or some notion of ‘readiness’. Neoliberal governance of ECEC is, however, no longer confined to the nation state. A ‘global education race’, with nations competing in a global market, is increasingly subject to a new, global form of governance of ECEC which is beginning to emerge from the OECD. Neoliberal governance has certain intended consequences in mind, in particular that a market of disparate and competing providers should produce certain uniform and prescribed outcomes. But it has other, unintended consequences, that are often highly adverse to both children and adults involved in early childhood education and care. I conclude the talk by considering some of the democratic alternatives and possibilities to the current hyper-governance of ECEC.

Dr Guy Roberts-Holmes is an Associate Professor at UCL, Institute of Education. His research focuses upon neoliberalism and early childhood education. His national report The Introduction of the Reception Baseline Assessment (Bradbury and Roberts-Holmes, 2015) won the BERA Impact Award (2016). Grouping in the Early Years and Key Stage 1: A necessary evil (Bradbury and Roberts-Holmes, 2018) demonstrated the unintended consequences of early childhood education’s hyper-accountability in the form of early years ability labelling. The Datafication of Early Years and Primary Education (Bradbury and Roberts-Holmes, 2017) examines the development and impact of neoliberalism’s accountability through processes of digitalization. Professor Peter Moss and Guy are currently writing Neoliberalism and early childhood education: imaginaries, markets and pedagogies Routledge: Contesting Early Childhood Series (2021).

Discussant: Martina Street