Discourses in power: Policy and curriculum demands in the first year of compulsory school

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood




School of Education




Ruscoe, A., Barblett, L., & Barratt-Pugh, C. (2021). Discourses in power: Policy and curriculum demands in the first year of compulsory school. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 24(3), 298-312. https://doi.org/10.1177/1463949121990905


© The Author(s) 2021. The influence of curriculum and policy documents on the decision-making of educators is of particular interest in the field of early childhood. Reports of competing pedagogical approaches with a ‘push-down’ of curriculum alongside advocacy for play-based pedagogies raise questions as to the potential of curriculum and policy documents to create tension through multiple discourses. This is significant in light of politically driven discourses in education and their potential to influence the decision-making of educators. This research draws on an interpretivist epistemology framed by a post-structural approach to induce and examine discourses that exist across curriculum and policy documents relevant to the first year of compulsory school in Western Australia. A discourse analysis revealed three powerful discourses: inclusivity, achievement and ‘PED’ – a discourse encapsulating the interrelationships between play, engagement and development. The power embedded within these discourses provided evidence of how persuasive and prescriptive language is used to engender distinct ethical responsibilities. The findings illuminate the potent influence of powerful discourses on the negotiation of priorities in pedagogical decision-making in the early years.



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