The development of cultural identity in early childhood settings.




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


The aim of this research is to examine the support and development of cultural identity in early childhood settings in Leicester and Leicestershire. The main players are the practitioners, the parents and the children, all of whom participated in a variety of ways. No two settings are alike; each has a philosophy, resources, a mix of practitioners, children and parents, local community, and infrastructure unique to that setting. Each responds accordingly. All are committed to the concept of supporting and developing cultural identity, though they do it in different ways.

The research employs both quantitative and qualitative methodology. Initially, setting-questionnaires were employed to establish an overview of resources, opinions, and ethnicity of children and practitioners in twenty-five settings. Seventy-five parents associated with the settings contributed their opinions. Seven varied settings, five in the inner-city and two in the county, were examined in-depth using a comprehensive research strategy employing a range of research instruments.

There are those who say we have no cultural identity until we are older, and those who say it begins at birth. Nonetheless, a cultural identity needs nurturing, recognition, and strengthening through the good practices of the practitioners and parents. The research identifies that one end of the continuum of good practice is excellence; well trained and informed practitioners, the ability to put that knowledge into practice, and well resourced settings. Good practice continued to be demonstrated despite having to share facilities; demonstrating how enthusiasm and commitment can overcome obstacles. The setting further along the continuum was by no means demonstrating restricted practice; it was just fixed in a time-scale that was not progressing along cultural awareness lines.

Cultural identity is a nebulous and elusive concept, difficult to grasp but with an all pervading influence. We all have a culture, but we don’t always recognise it. Children are our future; it is our responsibility to ensure they grow up confident and purposeful, secure in the knowledge of themselves within their culture.

The research leads to the identification of good practice in a sample of settings, through the diversity of approaches appropriate to the users and local community. The intended application of this research, having examined examples of good practice, is to influence the process of initial practitioners’ training and continuing professional development.



children, early years, culture, identity early childhood settings



Research Institute