In this stimulating and provocative book Michael Reed and Rosie Walker have drawn together a diverse and international range of respected authors, each of whom has taken a critical approach to the contentious question of how you define and achieve quality early childhood services. It is a book designed to provoke and promote critical dialogue and discourse amongst practitioners and students through critical engagement with the position of the authors within the text, followed up with a set of Critical Learning Activities and carefully crafted  follow-up materials (supported with a very practical and extremely developmental website).

 Individually each chapter provides an insight into reflective and dialogic practice, but collectively they stand as a model of critical thinking and professional praxis. As such this book should be required reading for all students engaged in early childhood studies, and all practitioner teams aiming to develop a learning community to support the development of excellence in their professional practice. I believe anyone who reads this book will be inspired and motivated to challenge and extend their thinking and professional practice, adopting the critical stance which lies at the heart of quality services for children and families.

Professor Chris Pascal

Director of Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC). President of the European Early Education Research Association.


This book provides an interesting approach to a range of areas important to early years encouraging the reader to reflect on the issues with a critical awareness and consider different points of view. It provides a good grounding for those interested in early years. The book is strongly focused on quality in early years and what constitutes quality provision in terms of initiatives and policies and the role of the practitioner. As such, it touches on key areas for students and practitioners alike, encouraging critical thinking and an awareness of the historical journey and some of the debates about early years provision.

Rita Winstone

Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader, Early Childhood Studies, Teesside University


This book is aptly titled as it addresses the needs of those in the early stages of their professional journey in early childhood education and care. The group of respected contributors span the fields of education, health and social care introducing the reader to key themes, terms and issues through 25 accessible and wide ranging chapters. Vignettes, case studies and learning activities bring theory to life and encourage a critical approach to study and practice.

Linda Miller

Professor Emeritus of Early Years, The Open University


An invaluable aid to students of early years education and care, this book offers comprehensive, contemporary examination of critical issues surrounding working with young children, families and other professionals. The clear, user-friendly format and plentiful links to additional resources and learning activities, lead the reader to further explore and develop their own knowledge, making this a truly essential read!

Katrina Ivey (Student)

Sector Endorsed Foundation Degree in Early Years


Within the current Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) climate, understanding, promoting and improving quality for children is a fundamental role of the practitioner. Using contributions from renowned sector experts, this book supports students to critically develop their personal, professional and ethical philosophy within the challenging ECEC environment.

Gaynor Corrick, who is an Early Years Teacher. Graduated with a Foundation Degree in Early Years and studying for a BA Hons in Integrated Working with Children and Families


Here is a treasure trove for the curious reader, inspiring a critical learning journey to challenge individuals and their early years practice. Each concise, relevant chapter, with Critical Learning Activities and Reflection Points, stimulates further exploration, guided conveniently by immediate further reading and references.

This unique privilege is due to the range of interprofessional expertise honestly shared by the range of national and international authors, including from Australia, United States and Wales. All are actively engaged in practice, research or lecturing, with a refreshing variety of expression. Current experiences in Early Education and Childcare are compared and contrasted through different ‘lenses’, including transparent autobiographies, exemplars of child/student voice and active research. Case studies link theory to practice, modelling the expectation of engagement with babies, young children, families, colleagues and other professionals. The Editors have ensured connections can be made between topics, helpful for ongoing study.

This ‘Critical Companion’ will support full-time undergraduates, experienced early years practitioners undertaking a Foundation Degree and BA ‘top-up’, plus all the ‘reflective activists’ that continually strive to improve care and learning opportunities with babies, young children and their families.

Jessica Johnson

Senior Lecturer Early Years, Kingston University