Visual art education in early childhood has been shown to have an especially significant impact on children living with high levels of disadvantage. Yet, evidence also indicates that the curriculum in the reception year of school is narrowing, with an increased focus on literacy and numeracy, to the detriment of children from disadvantaged backgrounds in particular. Concerns have been voiced from across the sector that these changes will have a negative effect on the status afforded to visual art in the classroom. A lack of research evidence regarding this phenomenon suggests a pressing need to better understand the place of visual art in the early years. A qualitative dual-phase design is currently being implemented to explore the status of visual art from the perspectives of children and teachers. The first phase is using semi-structured interviews with teachers currently practicing in reception classrooms with cohorts of above average levels of economic disadvantage to understand the value they place on the subject, how they conceive of visual art in relation to their pedagogy and their personal and professional experience of visual art. A second phase will use participatory methods to explore visual art from the perspective of reception children themselves. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the second phase has had to be postponed until further notice. As a result, the paper will focus on the results and preliminary analysis of the first phase of the study.
Isobel Traunter, University College London, United Kingdom