Government plans to get children on the right educational track from a young age are creating new job opportunities as universities look to recruit experts in childhood studies. Pat Leon reports
Chancellor Gordon Brown's push on early-years projects such as Sure Start is leading to a growth spurt in childhood studies in universities and colleges. The subject's home has traditionally been teacher-training and education departments, but a shift in how academics and the government view childhood is leading to more diverse locations. University College Chichester is advertising for a programme coordinator/senior lecturer in its School of Social Studies, and Wolverhampton University for lecturers in the psychology division of the School of Applied Sciences.
Jean Duncombe, Chichester's subject leader in childhood studies, says: "Early years is a trendy new subject, more sociological than educational. The shift ties in with government policy on child poverty and the emphasis on class, ethnicity and gender."
More government money means more jobs, which translates into more student demand. "Childhood studies is not nursery nursing by another name but a popular, expanding degree gaining acceptance," Duncombe says. "Our biggest dilemma is not producing joined-up thinking but joined-up working. We want teachers, social workers and youth workers to take shared study modules to equip them for inter-agency work."
Applicants for the post can come from any discipline, but, Duncombe says: "They must be able to work from an interdisciplinary perspective. They must show awareness of the debates about childhood."
Early-years training in Birmingham is located in the College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies. Joan Hendy, director of childhood, education and care, says this is for practical reasons. "We are a new higher education institution and have traditionally run these courses because of our central position," she says.
The college is advertising for a programme leader for its early-years postgraduate certificate in education, which starts in September. Hendy says: "There's a real push in the West Midlands to have good early-years provision and our local students want higher-level study. A third of students on our childhood studies degree want to be teachers, and 90 per cent of these want to teach in early years."
A dearth of research on how to educate gifted children is behind the year-old National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth's advert for a research director. The new post will be based at Warwick University science park. The successful candidate is expected to build a strong research team from scratch. Academy director Deborah Eyre says: "The real limiting factor is the lack of knowledge of what really works in educational terms for these children. In England, there is a dearth of research.
"Education for the gifted elsewhere in the world is about taking children out of the mainstream system and giving them something different. Here we are working within the system and offering opportunities."