<Download the final project report here>

This pilot study, funded by Cambridge University, brings together a team of experts at the University of Cambridge (Early Years Creativities & Music practice), Middlesex University (Early Childhood Education & Museum Education), Manchester Metropolitan University (Museum Education, Communities, Childhood, Sensory Ethnography and Visual Methodologies), Roehampton University (Early Childhood Education, Early Years Music Education) and Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (Early Childhood Music Education and Community Music).


The study recognizes that museums represent a potentially rich space for families with young children in disadvantaged communities to access, and hence enjoy multiple benefits. Specifically, museums hold the potential to engage such families in Early Years music making programmes, which have been shown to offer myriad cognitive, social, emotional, and educational advantages (Pitt & Hargreaves, 2017; Pitt & Hargreaves, 2016; Osgood et al., 20132). However, despite the recent and dramatic increase in museum education, disadvantaged communities neither regularly access museums nor do museums offer inclusive music programmes for Early Years.

The literature shows overwhelming gaps in Early Years music making programmes, provision and practice in museums. This pilot study (2017-2018) will inform the development of a large grant application to the AHRC.

The Research Objectives for the pilot:

  1. Map an accurate and grounded understanding of the policies and practices that a sample of museums employ regarding their music programmes, Early Years provision, and/or inclusive community engagement (to be completed by early October).
  2. Gather perceptions of Museum educators and senior management stakeholders (including the chair of the Museum Association) and the attempts they are making, or have made, to include and sustain music programmes, Early Years provision, and/or inclusive community engagement (to be completed by late October).
  3. Identify and grow three regional teams (East Anglia, London, Manchester), and regional community networks; to develop the processes of teamwork (to include museum educators, community workers, Early Years artist practitioners, Early Years music educators and researchers); and to establish a basis for joint planning and collaborative practices. This phase will include a one-day team building and programme development workshop (early December).
  4. Coming to understand the crucial issues concerning programme evaluation and what this means for the development of an innovative tool for evaluating Early Years music-making in museums, emphasizing the role of collaboration and reflection in museums and community engagement.


This pilot study includes preliminary case studies at museums in East Anglia and London; and concludes with a one-day SUMMIT:

a. Two regionally diverse PRELIMINARY CASE STUDIES for the purpose of conducting fieldwork and analysis of: (a) a sample of stakeholder interviews, (b) a sample of observations of museum programmes, (c) a desk based literature review, (d) document analysis and (e) documentation and analysis of a one-day SUMMIT.

b. A one-day SUMMIT, will generate knowledge, with 40 strategically chosen/invited experts. In addition to staff from three participating museums, experts from Early Years arts practice, music education, arts council, community arts and museum research, or with an involvement in museum associations would be invited to participate.

The SUMMIT will enable:

  1. Charting and positioning a critical overview on current inclusive museum practices of Early Years music making; developing a theoretical lens on conceived, perceived and representational spaces of museums and Early Years practice;
  2. Generating understandings from a workshop led by a Finnish Early Years artist/music educator expert and researcher who has developed a BA program in higher education with learning outcomes in professional facilitation of participatory, creative music activities in museum contexts. Following a 30-minute segment with young children and their parents/carers, summit participants will reflect on the learning opportunities and potential benefits and challenges, both personally and socially, for individuals participating in this type of community engagement experience in museums;
  3. Documenting current practices in a sample of museums.
  4. Mapping and analysis of focus group discussions which facilitate network sharing and storying of museum practices, partnership/participatory programmes and the policy space from various stakeholder perspectives;
  5. Generating new understandings for developing a unique theoretical framing and thinking tools for: (a) building and evaluating diverse community partnerships and research relationships; (b) unpacking and evaluating neighbourhood issues that have impacted on museums; (c) critically thinking about theory and methods that have had impact on museum practice; and (d) identifying existing programmes and practices, challenges and expectations.


The outputs anticipated from this pilot will include:

  1. A substantial report on the main findings drawn from interviews, observations, document analysis and the one-day forum, identifying the responses of 2 pilot case study museums. It is expected that key themes which arise from the data will be problematized and theorized in two articles submitted to two peer reviewed journals collaboratively written by researchers.
  2. Two articles, collaboratively written by research teams, each one led respectively by  Co-Is (Prof Pam Burnard and Prof Jayne Osgood), with each reporting on: (i) new and existing understandings of Early Years inclusive practices in museums and ‘good practice’ perspectives and challenges  in ways of working collaboratively to deliver Early Years music programmes in museums; and (ii) a critically annotated review of relevant literature and findings from this pilot, drawing the links between results of other research and the results of this pilot. The two journals will include (i) The International Journal of The Inclusive Museum and (ii) The International Journal of Early Years Education. We will present the findings from this pilot at The Inclusive Museum Research Network Conference held at University of Granada, Spain 6-8 September 2018.
  3. The major output of the pilot will be laying the foundation for a grant proposal to be submitted to the AHRC. The AHRC proposal will be informed by the findings from the pilot study and will provide clear evidence of established regional networks, participating museums and collaborative partnerships. Furthermore, the pilot will demonstrate an effective research team that is working to extend knowledge and inform practice in this neglected field.


Principal Investigator – Dr Leena Robertson

This Erasmus+ funded project (2014-2017) involves People to People Foundation in Romania and four collaborating universities: Newcastle University, (UK), Univerity of Montpellier (France), Helsinki University (Finland) and Middlesex University (UK). The project arises from two long-standing, global and well documented educational challenges: firstly Eastern European Traveller, including Roma pupils’ poor participation and persistently low achievement in education, and secondly the decline of home language use in primary classrooms (age 5-11) as a pedagogic tool to raise the academic achievement of pupils whose home language(s) differs from the official language of schools.

The project’s response to these challenges will begin in UK with the development of an innovative integration of two technologies working in tandem (digital table and large scale 360 degree projected displays) to act as a medium through which pupils can experience high quality dual language learning. Accompanying software will incorporate sound files in pupils’ home languages alongside English, and pupils will be encouraged to communicate in whichever language supports their activity, i.e. their home language or the language of the school or a mixture of both. The objective is to improve the Eastern European pupils’ motivation and engagement towards institutionalised school activity, at the same time as improving their proficiency in using cognitive academic language for learning in both their home language and English. Collaboration with parents, and the transformation of teachers’ attitudes towards Traveller communities is an integral part of the project so that children’s cultural and linguistic backgrounds are made available to schools by parents who trust this information is respected, valorised and used by teachers to improve the educational and social inclusion of their children. At the same time families become more knowledgeable about institutionalised education.

ROMtels project – please visit


‘I destroyed you. I love you. You have value for me because of your survival of my destruction of you…while I am loving you I am all the time destroying you’.

Psychoanalyst DW Winnicott’s theory of object relations and use of toys or ‘transitional objects’ was a starting point for Supertoys, an arts/education project, exhibition and book. Begun in 2007, this was an arts collaboration between artist-educators Kahve-Society, 90 children from Headley Primary School in Bristol, the Arnolfoni Gallery and UK government funded initiative, Creative Partnerships.


The general principle of the project, that children are largely disenfranchised in that they play with toys, but have little input into their design or production, remains relevant in our increasingly commercialized, high-tech commodity cultures and societies.  Using psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott’s object relations theory, Melanie Klein’s notion of the ’perfect’ object which is in pieces, and much like the character ‘Sid’ in Pixar’s animation Toy Story, children broke up old toys and inventively recycled or rebuilt them into ‘mutants’. As Winnicott’s idea was that an object must be capable of withstanding the destructive and loving impulses in order to become real, the project enquired into what made play ‘real’, working towards children examining play and designing toys for themselves, including robot toys (as seemingly ‘perfect objects’ but in reality flawed, transitional ones).




The children’s work formed the starting point and a substantial part of an exhibition featuring Codemanipulator, Chris Cunningham, Michael Anastassiades and Dunne & Raby, Natalie Jeremijenko, Kahve Society, Alex McLean, Philippe Parreno and Unmask Group held at the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol in 2008, where a ‘toy factory’ was installed in the gallery for visitors to destroy donated unwanted toys and reassemble new ones which were displayed on shelving. Hugely popular with the public of all ages, the exhibition produced hundreds of new toys and displayed a film about the project, which, with some digital images and text of the original project are still available at:



The Supertoys Symposium, “Hello Toy”, included new media/engineer artist Natalie Jeremijenko and Lo-Tech Songs/Servo Drive performance artist Paul Granjon and selected speakers from academic institutions interrogating theories of play such as Dylan Evans, Seth Giddings, Helen Kennedy, Claire Pajaczkowska, Victoria de Rijke, and Paul Hoggett. The symposium also took its cue from Winnicott to explore some of the themes of the exhibition: play, affective machines and object relations.

Supertoys: A user’s Manual (2008) presents new ways for children to think about and playing with toys – part instruction manual and part gallery of mutant toys made by children. The work featured is thanks to school children from Headley Park Primary School in Bristol and Raglan Junior School in London, as part of an arts project deconstructing /constructing toys.

SUPERTOYS: A User’s Manual, London: Cornerhouse Publications


The Supertoys project, exhibition, book and website had international interest and continue to provoke arts and educational spin-offs in the UK. In 2011, Victoria de Rijke presented  ‘Supertoys: are they playing with you?’ at  the Play Creativity & the Imagination Conference, Columbia University, New York.  Toy Story ‘mash ups’ in the US include:

A few artists’ toy stories:

Early Years qualifications and training

The Centre for Education Research & Scholarship (CERS) at Middlesex University has been commissioned to undertake an important study on behalf of The Association for Professional Development in Early Years (TACTYC). This study recognises that over the past two decades, the Early Years Qualifications and Training pathways available to the workforce have been subject to numerous, significant revisions with important implications for public perception, financial remuneration and career progression.

During the 2000s the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC), in its attempts to enact the Children’s Workforce Strategy (2005), introduced the Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) – which went on to become the subject of both critique and praise. Considerable government commissioned research was undertaken to establish an evidence base about the effectiveness of EYPS to create positive change in early childhood provision.

By 2013, following The Nutbrown Review (2012), Early Years Teacher Status (EYTS) replaced EYPS and there ensued a debate about its parity with school teacher qualifications. A number of issues emerged; chief amongst them was that EYTS lacked QTS and all the associated benefits, including observation of practice, support during a NQT year and national pay scales.

There have been ongoing concerns that EYTs and Training Providers are subjected to the same demands as those in the maintained school sector, but enjoy fewer benefits.

Alongside the challenges and tensions to arise from the introduction of EYTS and EYITT pathways are those associated with the Early Years Educator (EYE) qualifications, introduced in 2014, for practitioners seeking a Level 3 qualification. A significant issue with the EYE route is the requirement for applicants to hold GCSE English and Maths at grade A-C. For many, this acts to deter them and presents recruitment challenges to training providers.

These are some of the core issues to be investigated by CERS; a focus on other concerns frequently cited in debates about training and qualifications including the schoolification of early years training content and the erosion of early childhood specialist skills/expertise in the interests of school readiness will also be explored. The costs of pursuing EY qualifications and the ultimate exchange value they represent within the labour market will also be addressed. Sustained policy attention and reform to the qualifications and training pathways available to the EY workforce has been the subject of much research and debate, and this study will make a vital contribution to gain new insights as the terrain continues to shift.

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