A Foucauldian analysis of the discourses of quality and its relationship to tools of surveillance in early learning and childcare in Scotland

Allan, Agnes Helen (2024) A Foucauldian analysis of the discourses of quality and its relationship to tools of surveillance in early learning and childcare in Scotland. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The concept and pursuit of quality in the early years sector in Scotland is highly significant to the Scottish Government, wider policy actors such as the OECD, SSSC, the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland, and most importantly early years practitioners and managers. The pursuit of quality is foregrounded in the plethora of current Scottish Government guidance and frameworks and is the ‘golden thread’ running through core policy the Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland, Quality Action Plan (Scottish Government (2017:2). I argue that quality, as presented in the policy, frameworks, standards, and inspection is something objective, real, and knowable – something that is presented, measured, regulated, and inspected through a neoliberal discourse. I am concerned that as practitioners and managers strive to be ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ their autonomy, subjectivity, and agency as professionals is diminished and the criteria and standardised categories become tools of surveillance and power. Children and childhood in this discourse becomes datafied. Through the use of 1-1 interviews, my research explores practitioners' and managers’ lived experiences of, compliance with, and possible resistance to, current policy discourses and processes of conceptualising quality. I argue that the current, dominant discourse of quality – control, predictability, measurement – disregards the complexity and plurality of early learning and childcare in Scotland. I utilise Foucault’s (1978) theory and perspectives on discourse, power, and its relationship to subjectivity as particularly apt for my study. Foucault’s power/knowledge ideas help to unsettle current dominant discourses and taken-for-granted assumptions present in early learning and childcare through the speaking of other ‘truths’ such as those spoken by the participants in this study. In this study I propose that there are alternative ways of being, those that value diversity and plurality, and that although the early learning and childcare sector in Scotland has undergone many recent policy changes and is considered to be in a fragile state (Audit Scotland, 2023) the practitioners and managers working in the sector know the quality they value and can find a way to have their voices heard.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Proudfoot, Dr. Kevin and Wingrave, Dr. Mary
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84339
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 May 2024 13:31
Last Modified: 28 May 2024 13:31
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84339
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/84339

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