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Russian Child Science, 1881-1936

Engagement in the UK

All those who in their daily work enact, interact with, refer and defer to different forms of expertise in children (psychological, educational, medical, legal etc.) are likely to find insights emerging from this research of potential interest. These include organisations, such as government agencies, NGOs, charities, and professional bodies, as well as individual practitioners working with the wide range of children's issues.

While the Russian Child Science project deals with a specific historical case, it raises a number of important questions of broader contemporary significance concerning the social role of professional engagement with child development and socialisation. In particular, this project addresses the question of what happens when experts in different disciplines and professions lay claim to children as the objects of their research. Indeed, how well do different experts collaborate in such cases? What are the main conflicts and obstacles that arise in the process? How do experts in different aspects of childhood interact with the wider public, for instance with parents? How can history inform our understanding the professional, multi-agency management of ‘problem children’?

These are among the key issues currently faced by professionals and policy-makers in the UK and are of huge significance to parents and children using children's services. For the UK government's Department of Education interest in this issue click here. Some experiences in Manchester are available here and in Scotland here.

Discussions of contemporary challenges in this area can be found in the following publications:

Angela Anning et al., Developing Multiprofessional Teamwork for Integrated Children's Services: Research, Policy and Practice (Open University Press, 2010)

Gary Walker, Working Together for Children: A Critical Introduction to Multi-Agency Working (Continuum, 2008)

Damien Fitzgerald & Janet Kay, Working Together in Children’s Services (Routledge, 2008)


Children's and Young People's Conference, 22 November 2012

Dr Byford attended the Government Knowledge Conference on Children and Young People at the Arlington Conference Center in London. The conference addressed issues of child potential, standards of learning, mental and physical wellbeing, the role of local authorities, children’s services, child protection, poverty and the justice system. For further details on the day’s events, please see here. Youtube videos of the conference can be found here.

Of particular interest to the project were presentations given by Jan Tallis, Chief Executive of School Home Support on problems of interaction between parents and school services; Amanda Allard, Principal Officer of the Council for Disabled Children and the National Children's Bureau, who discussed problems of multi-professional management of health and wellbeing of disabled children; Elena Rosa Brown, Researcher at the Centre for Mental Health, who presented a summary of the Centre's report on the professionals' systematic management of 'effective parenting' in cases where young children are assessed with severe behavioural problems; Liz Elsom, Ofsted Divisional Manager for Early Years, who highlighted the importance of enhanced professional training for child carers employed in early years services; Naomi Eisenstadt, Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University, author of the publication Think Family on 'families at risk' in socioeconomic and health and wellbeing terms. These presentations discussed issues that were high on agenda of child scientists in the early Soviet Union as well and it was fascinating to note many parallels in the challenges faced and approaches adopted by professionals and researchers then and now.

Dr Byford also established contact with representatives of the National Foundation for Educational Research and their resarch, evaluation and analysis support network Reason, whose task is to assist educational organisations in demonstrating public benefit and wider impact. He also spoke to other conference participants, such as Ann Pidd, Head of Division of Child Studies at York College, on the topic of collaborative multi-agency frameworks in contemporary child services.