module specification

SS6032 - Rethinking Childhood and Children's Lives in Education and Schooling (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Rethinking Childhood and Children's Lives in Education and Schooling
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Professions
Total study hours 300
219 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 15%   Chapter summary 1 (500-750 words)
Coursework 15%   Chapter summary 2 (500-750 words)
Coursework 70%   Essay (3,000 words)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Thursday Morning

Module summary

This module examines constructions of childhood that shape children’s experience of education and schooling.  It proceeds from a commitment to social constructionism as an approach to understanding children’s lives in an increasingly diverse society and globalising world.  This also facilitates a critical appraisal of the historical provenance of dominant discourses of childhood and ‘the child’ as an ideal type that commonly shape, direct and justify the normal practices of schooling, education, care and other institutions of childhood.  The module complements historical and social examination of children’s lives with an explicit emphasis on the role played by space and place in the construction of childhood institutions.  Cross-cultural and anthropological accounts of childhood and children’s lives are explored as part of the module’s intention to expand the imagination beyond dominant minority-world accounts and begin a process of rethinking predicated on difference, emergent globalisation and the agency of children.

Module aims

The module aims:

  • To establish a firm platform for students’ thinking about children and the responsibilities of those who work with them;
  • To explore Childhood as a cultural and historical value setting for the education, care and accommodation of children;
  • To explore the provenance and meaning of the rights agenda for children and young people;
  • To identify the terms for debates surrounding rights and difference and begin to think about how philosophical and ethical ideas find application in the design, practices and values of institutional settings;
  • To embrace global and cross-cultural diversity and difference both in London as minority-world metropolis and majority world.


The module proceeds from an examination of a range of topical concerns surrounding the condition of childhood and the lives of children.  It explores and develops a critical appraisal of: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and discussions of rights, values and difference; “new” socio-cultural approaches to understanding childhood; the social construction of childhood drawing on historical and cross-cultural examples; the Enlightenment project, Nature and authenticity in childhood; and, the spatial and institutional production of childhood. 

The module goes on to allow students to consider and discuss themes, such as: children’s health and well-being; forms of abuse, protection and prevention; child poverty and its political context; trafficking and abduction; diversity, language, identity and education; work and labour; home, school and society in relation to educational institutions, policies and practices.

Topical concerns about the quality of childhood are discussed in relation to strategic attempts to rethink childhood and the institutions that increasingly enframe children’s lives.

Possible visits, including: Museum of Childhood; Sainsbury Wing of National Gallery to examine the representation of children in Mediaeval painting; Museum of London; Ragged School Museum – during Enhancement Weeks

Learning and teaching

Lectures and seminars to support the exploration of key themes and contexts.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Identify the incidence of rights, values and core discourses of childhood in professional practice as well as some of the challenges and contradictions arising from them;
  • Recognise some of the challenges in asserting general rights and defending specific differences;
  • Identify and narrate the provenance of many of the ideas that shape our thinking about children and interpret them with respect to contemporary debates about the quality and future of childhood;
  • Critically discuss a range of pressing concerns concerning the condition of children’s lives in the UK and beyond, based on selected key themes and policy responses;
  • Exercise interpretive capabilities when confronted with new issues, stories and incidents concerning children and young people that appear in popular media and exercise judgment over what might be an appropriate professional response to them.

Assessment strategy

The module requires students to present précis of key Chapters and the theoretical contribution they make to the module in preparation for the final essay.  The theoretical concepts developed and presented in Courseworks 1 and 2 contribute directly to the topic area developed in Coursework 3.


Alexander, R. (Ed.)(2010) Children, their World, their Education: final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review, London: Routledge
Ansell, N., (2005), Children, Youth and Development, London: Routledge
Blundell, D., (2012), Education and Constructions of Childhood, London: Continuum
Blundell D., “Childhood and education”, Chapter 5 in Isaacs, S., Blundell, D., Foley, A., Ginsburg, N., McDonough, B., Silverstone, D. and Young, T., (2014), Social Problems in the UK: an introduction, London: Routledge
Blundell, D., (2015 in preparation), Rethinking Children’s Spaces and Places: attitudes in contemporary society, London: Bloomsbury
Buckingham, D. (2000) After the death of childhood: growing up in the age of electronic media; Cambridge: Polity Press
Compass (2008),  The Commercialisation of Childhood, London: Compass
Children’s Society, (2009), A Good Childhood, London: Penguin
Cunningham, H., (2006) The Invention of Childhood, London: BBC Books
Diptee, A.A., (2007), “Imperial ideas, colonial realities : enslaved children in Jamaica, 1775-1834”  in Marten, J. (Ed.)(2007), Children in Colonial America, New York: Now York University Press
Holland, P., (2004) Picturing Childhood: the myth of the child in popular imagery,  London: I.B.Tauris
Holloway, S.L. and Valentine, G., (2000), Children’s Geographies: playing, living, learning, London: Routledge
Honwara, A. and De Boeck, F. (2005), Makers and Breakers: children and Youth in Post-colonial Africa, Oxford: James Currey
James, A. and James, A.L., (2004), Constructing Childhood: theory, policy and social practice, Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan
James, A. and James, A.L., (2012 2nd edition), Key Concepts in Childhood Studies, London: Sage
James, A. and Prout, A, (eds.)(1997) Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: contemporary issues in the sociological study of childhood, London: Routledge
James, A., Jenks, C. and Prout, A. (1998) Theorizing Childhood; Cambridge: Polity Press
Jenks, C. (2005 2nd edition)), Childhood, London: Routledge
Jones, P. et al, (eds.)(2008), Childhood: services and provision for children, Harlow: Pearson
Jones, P., (2009), Rethinking Childhood: attitudes in contemporary society, London: Continuum
Jones, P. and Welch, S., (2010), Rethinking Children’s Rights: attitudes in contemporary society, London: Continuum
Lewis, A. and Lindsay, G., (eds.)(2000), Researching Children’s Perspectives, Buckingham: OU
Kehily, M.J., (2009), An Introduction to Childhood Studies, Maidenhead: Open University Press
Kellett, M., (2010), Rethinking Children and Research: attitudes in contemporary society, London: Continuum
Richards, C., (2011), Young People, Popular Culture and Education, London: Continuum
Rose, N., (1999), Governing the Soul: the shaping of the private self, London: Free Association Books
Wells, K., (2009), Childhood in a Global Perspective, London: Polity Press

Children’s Geographies