International Journal of Early Years Education Call for Proposals: Special Issue

School Readiness and Play

International Journal of Early Years Education

Many people are concerned that space for play in early childhood is being eroded by formal learning. ‘How are children prepared for school?’ has become a keenly debated political question that has seen early child development increasingly perceived as a preparation for primary school. However, other related questions have not been debated so prominently. How do parents get ready for school? Are schools ready for children? Are play and school readiness mutually exclusive? Which models of school and which models of early childhood provision optimise learning? These are all important questions concerning school readiness and play.

Over the last 25 years around the globe, access to early childhood education and care (ECEC) has continued to expand both geographically and demographically to include younger children. Many countries and their politicians, encouraged by research, have committed to the idea that children who attend ECEC provision are more likely to be successful when they start school than those who do not (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2017; United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2005). Indeed, children’s readiness for school is frequently cited among governments’ motives for investment in the early years sector. Those motives are often linked to the belief that young children starting in education earlier will give nations a competitive edge in the global market place (OECD, 2017). With greater investment have come increased scrutiny and control alongside revised and contested expectations of quality. School readiness can also be used as a platform to highlight children’s social, emotional and communication development particularly in terms of supporting equality for children in ‘disadvantaged’ circumstances.  Yet, as some nations move closer towards demanding practitioners prioritise attention on literacy and numeracy learning requirements of young children, rather than play based learning (Wood and Hedges 2016), China is introducing more play to early years provision to promote creativity and independence (Hu, Li, De Marco, & Chen, 2015). Parents seek the ‘best possible start in life’ for their children (United Nations Children’s Fund, 2002: 15), but is starting ‘school’ earlier necessarily better? Should ECEC approaches be extended into school provision? How might play and learning be defined and are they mutually exclusive? Is school readiness about ready children, ready schools, ready families, a combination of all three (United Nations Children’s Fund, 2012), or none of these?

This Special Issue provides a forum for international researchers and practitioners to report on research in ways that make a critical contribution to the school readiness debate. We envisage that contributing authors will deliberate the differing pressures children may experience before starting school in the context of contrasting visions of early childhood within and across different nations. We welcome an exploration of the nature and place of play in different cultures and consideration of the relationship of play to the school readiness debate. If play can promote positive attitudinal dispositions such as self-efficacy, independence, creativity and resilience, are there appropriate opportunities in childhoods for play? Can opportunities to play in school enhance children’s learning? Do pre-school and ECEC environments channel children into patterns of learning that engage with play? Can adults engage with children’s play and playfulness and if so, should they do so? Is children’s play learning? Do tensions frame early childhood experiences by distinguishing between play and learning? If so, what are those tensions and how do they present through diverse lenses of cultures, values and philosophies that emerge in international, national and local discourses concerning play, learning and school readiness?

The International Journal of Early Years Education has been an advocate of play as an effective and highly appropriate medium of learning and development for young children.  This special issue seeks articles that will contribute to a collection that maps and debates the meaning of school readiness for caregivers and educationalists in diverse cultural contexts and the relevance of children’s play for school readiness and lifelong learning. It is anticipated that the Special Issue will provide a rich resource for policymakers, practitioners and researchers concerned about changing expectations regarding school readiness and play in their own contexts.  Articles in the Special Issue will illustrate the journal’s commitment to a broad and holistic view of early education as well as the value of comparative perspectives.

Submission Guidelines

If you would like to submit to this special issue, please forward a 300-word abstract, outlining the area under investigation, the research questions, the research approach, participant group and ethical considerations, as well as findings and implications for policy, research or practice.

Key Dates:

Call for Papers issued: 1.10.18
Submission of abstracts to  /  by 1.12.18
Response (+/-) to all authors from editors by 1.2.19
First full paper drafts due for review via ScholarOne: 1.5.19
Final papers due at T+F: 26.6.19
Online publication date: 23.7.19
Print copy publication date: September 2019

All papers will be double blind peer reviewed. Please contact at or for further information and do share this call for papers with others in the field.


Hu, B., K. Li, A. De Marco, & Y. Chen. 2015. “Examining the quality of outdoor play in Chinese kindergartens.” International Journal of Early Childhood. 47 (1): 53-77.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 2017. Starting Strong 2017. Accessed 30 September 2018. 

United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. 2005. Implementing Child Rights in Early Childhood, General Comment No. 7. Geneva: United Nations. Accessed 30 September 2018. 

United Nations Children’s Fund. 2002. A World Fit for Children. New York: UNICEF.

United Nations Children’s Fund. 2012. School Readiness: A conceptual framework. New York: UNICEF.

Wood, E., & Hedges, H. 2016. “Curriculum in early childhood education: Critical questions about content, coherence, and control.” The Curriculum Journal. 27 (3): 387-405.

Editorial information