Making Children’s Participation and Perceptions Matter

Research practitioner:

Senior practitioner:

Project summary:

This research project looks at practitioners’ perceptions surrounding how well children’s participation is valued and documented.



The research is the beginning of our journey that will look to strengthen confidence within practitioners at documenting the many forms children’s views. The purpose of the study is to look at current knowledge on children’s participation and perceptions by gathering data on how confident practitioners are to document it and to assess what is required to take this forward.

This matters as ‘Froebelian educators respect children for who they are and value them for their efforts. Helping children to reflect is a key feature of a Froebelian education.’ (Froebel Trust | Froebelian principles) this project will ensure that children’s views are included and valued enabling children and adults to live alongside each other.



During the pandemic working remotely temporarily changed how the staff team captured opinions.  Once we returned to the setting, 100% of staff reflected that re-settling and re-building relationships was paramount.  As we progressed through to the recovery period of the pandemic the need to revisit the way we used our floorbook to effectively capture children’s participation and perceptions was identified during regular monitoring of our planning process.

We want to use the data to support practitioners to increase their confidence and knowledge when observing children’s play and capturing children’s voice in its many forms. As a result, we want to make sure that our training is relevant to our needs for improvement so that we have skilled staff that have a shared vision and approach to children being co-constructers of their learning.


To explore, gather and gauge practitioners’ views and feelings honestly on how we currently record children’s participation and indeed their own level of confidence in doing this, the most effective way to gather this information was to use a mixed method of qualitative and quantitative research this included professional discussion. During an in-service day the question asked was ‘What is children’s voice?’. By doing this it allowed different perspectives to be heard.  This was supported by looking at The Leuven Scale which is a form of assessment developed by ‘Ferre Leavers’ and his team.  Another tool used was ‘The ladder of participation’, ‘the right to play and children’s participation’, Roger Hart (published by Play – Train, 1995).  This provided a visual to support discussion on degrees of participation and how we can interpret it.

While this was effective for some it was also recognised that not all may have the confidence to contribute therefore it was important to counterbalance this with a questionnaire that allowed anonymity. This produced a more balanced reflection of our current knowledge and confidence.


Article 12 of UNCRC states that “state parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight by the age and maturity of the child.


The findings show that this was very informative and demonstrated that practitioners do indeed have a depth of knowledge on what is meant by ‘children’s voice’, and it is clearly understood that this is not just what we hear. That is also gathered by observing children’s play and participation within not just their play but also how the children use their environment.

The online questionnaire was sent out to 7 Early Years Officers, the questions were a mix of ratings and questions that allowed participants to also answer in more detail.  The responses reflected a shared view that all practitioners were confident in describing the different ways that children’s participation can be documented, one comment was ‘we explore and consult using our floorbooks as well as through our observations including how children are participating’. This mirrored the professional discussions that had previously taken place.  100% agreed that it is important that the children’s perceptions matter and that this supports the settings ethos of the child being at the centre of our practice. Again, all practitioners understand where this should be recorded, however, only 67% felt that there was a clear policy and understanding that these observations are used to inform our intentional planning.  Again, this was reflective of our earlier discussions.

The professional discussion and the online questionnaire did not really give any unexpected result.  However, it did confirm what the original monitoring audit had suggested – that the planning process was missing the unity required to underpin the Froebelian principle of unity and connectiveness.


In conclusion the professional discussions and online questionnaire showed that we have good systems in place for recording the children’s perspectives. It did raise the question of how we can boost practitioners’ confidence and knowledge of how to use and analysis the children’s participation and perspective in more meaningful ways within our planning process to allow all aspects to be connected.

As we move forward, we will collectively with children, practitioners and our families develop a clear procedure and policy for ensuring that the child’s participation and perceptions matter ensuring a more consistent approach.

Research implications

To be completed

Practitioner enquiry

To be completed

Leadership learning

To be completed

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

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