The Five Aspects of Effective Engagement in Early Childhood Education

Approachability, Acceptability, Availability, Affordability, Appropriateness

Early education offers significant benefits for children who attend before school, but not all children are able to access it. Campaigns for free or very low cost childcare are driven, in part, by a desire to increase the proportion of children who engage in early education and care (ECEC). While affordability is important, there are other reasons why children do not attend ECEC. Often such children are labelled as belonging to ‘hard to reach’ families, but in this study, we inverted this concept, instead examining services to understand what might make them ‘hard to use’.

In this seminar, we present a new report on 5 Aspects of Engagement: Approachability, Acceptability, Availability, Affordability, Appropriateness: drawing on a framework developed by Lazzari and Vandenbroeck (2012), which we have renamed and adapted for ECEC. We use this framework to report on the findings of a Delphi study with 23 experts in ECEC services and systems.

We found a high level of understanding of most aspects of engagement, with the most well-articulated by respondents being ‘Approachability’ and the importance of outreach if ECEC services are to connect with families who might be cautious about enrolling their children. Appropriateness, particularly in terms of pedagogy, was less often highlighted as an area of ECEC which they might adapt, for example teaching while drawing on the ‘funds of knowledge’ which children bring with them from home. Importantly, we found that some of the additional tasks required to address the 5 Aspects of Engagement are costly and not readily absorbed by service budgets.

Dr Megan Blaxland is a Research Fellow at the UNSW Social Policy Research Centre. Her research focuses on the implications of policy for low income families, particularly, Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) policy. She is currently working on the ARC Linkage project, Engaging Families in Early Education which includes six case studies of high quality ECEC services who connect well with local families who have found early education difficult to use.

Recent and current projects include:

  • Families at the Centre (Linkage Project) which explored how low income families related to the early childhood sector.
  • Stories of Resourcing and Resourcefulness (Linkage Project) which investigated the capacities of young people facing multiple adversities to negotiate complex service systems.
  • Perspectives on Quality in Australian Family Day Care and Comparative Perspectives on Family Day Care for Family Day Care Australia.
  • Engaging Families in Early Education (Linkage Project).

 

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