ItemChildLinks Issue 3: Pedagogical Approaches in Early Childhood(Barnardos, 2023) BarnardosThe choice of pedagogical approach in an early childhood setting is an extremely important aspect of quality provision to ensure the best possible health, wellbeing and learning outcomes for young children. Choosing an appropriate approach is complex, and requires knowledge and understanding across a range of factors. While there are many different pedagogical approaches available, and settings may choose to use a blend of approaches, some warrant particular consideration. This issue of ChildLinks considers how pedagogy influences the experiences children have in early childhood settings. It also looks at the factors in play when considering age-appropriate approaches for young children, and examines some of the key pedagogical approaches. In the first article in this issue, Marie Willoughby from Barnardos explores what we mean by pedagogy, examining the educator’s role both in choosing an appropriate pedagogy and in putting it into practice. Dr Geraldine French of Dublin City University then considers slow relational pedagogy, which encompasses all that educators do within relationships, environments and experiences in their daily care of young children, looking at why it is important and how it can be achieved. Later in the issue, Sharon Byrne considers an Infant Mental Health Approach in Early Childhood Education and Care, outlining how Youngballymun focuses on improving wellbeing and learning outcomes for children in north Dublin. Milica Atanackovic from Early Childhood Ireland later highlights the Reggio Emilia Approach and how this approach is disseminated in Ireland. Also in this issue, Dr. Christina Tatham from the University of Sheffield considers third space pedagogy, outlining a study that explores the complex, superdiversity of children, and suggesting a third learning space, one beyond the formal learning spaces, where children explore multiple identities, funds of knowledge, and cultural and linguistic repertoires. Cecilia A. Maron-Puntarelli from Indiana University in the U.S. then gives an overview of her research, reflecting with her former university students about the classroom activities that shaped their adoption and implementation of play pedagogy during their early years of teaching, and considering the influences that support or inhibit play as a pedagogical practice. Finally, Dr Carmel Conn, Associate Professor at the University of South Wales, explores findings from a study carried out in primary schools with an early years provision in the UK that considered what constitutes inclusive pedagogy for young children in mainstream settings. ItemChildLinks Issue 2: Men in Early Childhood Education and Care(Barnardos, 2023) BarnardosIn Ireland, there has been rapid development across all areas of the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector over the past two decades, with a four-fold increase in the number of educators in the sector. The workforce remains, however, predominantly female, with the percentage of male ECEC educators only around 2%. This gender imbalance can also be seen across the US and the UK, and in most EU countries. The low proportion of male employees in professional care and education for the youngest children has been on the international agenda for decades, but little seems to have changed. But, why is this? First, although there have been sustained efforts to improve gender equality and eliminate widespread gender stereotypes in all areas of society for many years, even today we are bombarded with gendered messages, including that of women as having a more caring nature and being better suited to caring roles. Second, there is the issue of the generally low status and wages of the ECEC profession, often consisting of part time hours. The role of ECEC educator may not be seen to be a viable option for men, with the income judged insufficient for the ‘main breadwinner’ to sustain a family. The profession is widely perceived as more suited to women, who traditionally have combined their parenting roles with part-time employment. Other barriers cited as preventing men entering the sector include fear of or actual judgements of their sexuality, motives, and ability to care for young children. From a practical point of view, at a time when staff recruitment is an issue across the sector, it makes sense to widen the potential workforce, making ECEC a more visible career option for all. More gender balance in the workforce could have a positive impact on staff teams, affecting everyday practices. Improved gender balance in ECEC would also be beneficial for children, offering them an environment that is more representative of society in general. The absence of male role models in early years settings, and a lack of opportunity to interact with and build relationships with men outside their home and extended family, at a time when children are developing a sense of identity in relation to others, helps to reinforce gender stereotypes of women as more suited to such professions. The most important consideration in recruitment of course is that, during these formative years for children, those employed in ECEC – both male and female – have the knowledge, skills and aptitude to provide quality care and education that supports young children’s holistic development. Broadening the potential workforce increases the chances of recruiting the best person for the job. In this issue of ChildLinks, academics and educators from across Ireland, the UK, the EU and Australia consider the issue of gender imbalance in the ECEC workforce and examine the challenges for men entering the profession. They also explore how the issue is being addressed internationally, both to raise awareness and to employ practical strategies to recruit and retain more men into the sector. ItemChildLinks Issue 1: Environmental Sustainability in Early Childhood Education and Care(Barnardos, 2023) BarnardosGlobal concerns about pollution, overpopulation, waste disposal, climate change, global warming, and the greenhouse effect are central to current discourse about healthy futures for children. It is widely acknowledged that adults need to make more proactive efforts to sustainably restore and regenerate the planet on which we live for future generations. It is also increasingly evident that a proactive stance with children in urgently addressing global environmental issues, highlighting an ethical responsibility to sustainability, is needed. Children have a right to an education that supports the development of respect for the natural environment, and early childhood education and care (ECEC) is crucial to education for environmentalism and sustainability. A respect for and a drive to protect and preserve nature can be instilled in even the youngest children. While the influence of formative nature experiences in supporting children to develop an affinity with and appreciation of nature, and subsequently pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours, has been widely discussed, it is clear that early environmental education needs to go further to develop children’s understanding and awareness of issues relating to environmentalism and sustainability. In the first article in this issue on environmental sustainability in ECEC, Dr Sue Elliott and Dr Fran Hughes from the University of New England in Australia argue for deeper educator understandings about sustainability and stronger transformative pedagogical engagement for collectively shifting towards worldviews aligned with a global sustainability trajectory. This is followed by a consideration of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by Dr Diane Boyd from Liverpool John Moores University, who highlights how one early years educator in Australia incorporated sustainability into her early childhood setting in an inspiring way. Muireann Ranta, SETU, then considers a child rights-based participatory education for sustainable development approach in ECEC, acknowledging that, for children to enjoy their education and participatory rights, they need regular access to nature, time, space and flexibility with listening adults who know them, and buy in from leaders, both within settings and at government level. Also in this issue, Magdalene Hayden, Education Programme Executive at SEAI, highlights the need for education programmes that focus on the importance of saving energy and protecting the environment in a safe and age-appropriate way. Clodagh Burke from Ballymacarbry Montessori School then details her setting’s experiences of taking part in a pilot scheme to bring Preschools into the An Taisce Green Schools Programme. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) then considers the relationship between Ireland’s early childhood curriculum framework Aistear and the Sustainable Development Goals, and highlights calls to renew and strengthen the focus on sustainability as Aistear is updated. Finally, Dr Jennifer Pope and Dr Mary Moloney from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick look at how inquiry-based learning nurtures positive dispositions towards learning about the environment in the early years.