University of Leicester
2022NicholsonPPhD.pdf (15.02 MB)

Pedagogy, culture and transition: a qualitative, collective case study exploring pedagogies of the transition from Reception to Year One in England

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posted on 2022-07-19, 10:59 authored by Philip M. Nicholson

Over the last two decades, the English state has sought to establish increasing levels of control over pedagogy in Reception and Year One. As a result, the transition between these year groups is dominated by a readying for school discourse. This discourse is established and enforced through policy technologies – relating to curriculum, assessment and accountability measures – that work to steer teachers towards the outcomes desired by the state. Understanding how policy technologies operated and influenced pedagogies of the transition from Reception to Year One was a central focus of this thesis which explored and compared two different settings; one where policy technologies were enforced and another where they were not. These settings were in the state- and independent-sector respectively.

Taking a broad view of pedagogy – as both performance and discourse – a conceptual framework, based on activity theory, was developed. The framework was able to identify how the socio-cultural-political factors unique to each setting mediated micro-level classroom processes which, in turn, shaped how pedagogies of the transition from Reception to Year One were experienced by children and parents. Using a qualitative, collective case study, the research followed seven children in each setting over a period of ten months as they transitioned from Reception to Year One. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with children, parents, teachers and headteachers in each case and were triangulated against observations, documentation and online interviews.

The findings indicate how socio-cultural-political factors exert significant influence on pedagogy. In the state-sector case, the pedagogies enacted in Reception and Year One were heavily conditioned by government policy whereas in the independent-sector case, they reflected teacher beliefs, the children’s needs and parental expectations. The contrasting approaches in each case had important implications for how children and parents were able to navigate the transition between Reception and Year One.



Phil Wood; Caroline Horton,

Date of award


Author affiliation

Bishop Grosseteste University

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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