Transforming trajectories for disadvantaged young children: lessons from Tasmania’s Child and Family Centres

Leiden: Brill
Publication Type:
Harnessing the transformative power of education, 2020, B Shelly, K te Riele & N Brown (eds), pp. 265 - 281
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The early years influence children’s learning, wellbeing and health and continue to do so into adulthood. As a result, they constitute an effective target for intervention seeking to transform the trajectories of children affected by disadvantage. The complex, multi-faceted nature of disadvantage makes it a ‘wicked problem’ – one that defies simple solutions delivered through isolated initiatives or organisations. As a result, the need for integrated and place-based approaches across education, health and other domains is recognised. Tasmania’s Child and Family Centres exemplify such initiatives. Interviews were conducted with parents, volunteers and staff in three Centres, each located in communities affected by high levels of disadvantage. Analysis draws on cultural-historical theory to explore transformation resulting from expanding ways of making sense of the world and acting in it – i.e. learning. Evidence of significant change was found across three planes: children’s engagement in activities such as play; family practices, especially in interaction with children; and the communities in which children grow up. Integration and the place-based nature of the Child and Family Centres were found to be important in accomplishing these changes. However, these in themselves are not sufficient to address the wickedness of poor outcomes for disadvantaged children. Activities, practices and communities are shaped by, and shape one another, in dialectic relationships. Re-directing children’s trajectories in the early years benefits from approaches that work across each of these planes, and foster mutually enabling connections between them. The Child and Family Centres are achieving precisely this.
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