From Children's Services to Children's Spaces: Public Policy, Children and Childhood

From Children's Services to Children's Spaces: Public Policy, Children and Childhood

From Children's Services to Children's Spaces: Public Policy, Children and Childhood

From Children's Services to Children's Spaces: Public Policy, Children and Childhood


More than ever before, children are apparently being recognised as social actors and citizens. Yet public policy often involves increased control and surveillance of children. This book explores the contradiction. It shows how different ways of thinking about children produce different childhoods, different public provisions for children (including schools) and different ways of working with children. It argues that how we understand children and make public provision for them involves political and ethical choices. Through case studies and the analysis of policy and practice drawn from a number of countries, the authors describe an approach to public provision for children which they term 'children's services'. They then propose an alternative approach named 'children's spaces', and go on to consider an alternative theory, practice and profession of work with children: pedagogy and the pedagogue. This ground breaking book will be essential reading for tutors and students on higher education or in-service courses in early childhood, education, play, social work and social policy, as well as practitioners and policy makers in these areas.


The Venture is an adventure playground, in a town in North Wales. It occupies a large area of ground, perhaps 2 acres, enclosed with a wooden stockade. In addition to being a playground for a wide age range of children, Venture includes a playgroup, motor bike club, homework club and reading club, all of which are very popular with children, many of whom have not been succeeding at school. Activities are seen as a means for forming relationships with and between children and this is an important part of the work.

The terrain is varied in many ways. There are open spaces for ball games, an enclosed camp fire area with its own graffiti board (when one of us visited, there were no other graffiti on the site), ramps, tyre swings, aerial runways, platforms and towers built of logs and a tree house area. It has been in existence for more than twenty years and the manager says that this is 'children's own space'. They use it for their purposes and their friendship groups. Older children may ride and repair their bikes, younger children play in the sand, while parents can come and sit with their toddlers.

In the course of using the playground, children gradually come to take responsibility for it. They rake sand, make a cup of tea, take over from staff in games with younger children and get involved in the staff group activities in other ways. The manager says it would be impossible to operate with so few staff without the children's consent: 'staff respect children for what they are, not for what they want them to become. This is a refuge where they can be themselves.' Staff must explain and negotiate with the children, rather than take an authoritarian stand. There are only a few rules, which are based on health and safety considerations. For their part, children have the expectation that staff will respect them. They take part in staff selection, meeting candidates and giving their opinions.

The manager says that children are aware of child abuse, 'but if there is no sign of physical affection between child and adult, then something has been cut off. If a child likes an adult, they'll touch them'. He comments

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