‘You can’t totally avoid accidents. So how hard should you try?’



The question of ‘how hard should you try?’ to control accidents introduces a quixotic question which is grappled with daily by early childhood teachers. In the context of contemporary early childhood settings in Aotearoa New Zealand, young children are expected to be kept ‘safe’ and yet also to take risks through active play. When considered historically, ‘safety’ becomes evident as a socially constructed concept that holds paradoxes and ethical dilemmas. Both ‘play’ and ‘safety’ are difficult to closely define and their meanings shift with context. Drawing on oral history interviews with historic leaders of the early childhood sector in Aotearoa New Zealand, this paper explores how, with the presence of very young children increasingly in institutional settings, ideas about ‘safety’ have shifted. This is evident in how those settings are regulated, and in what is understood as ‘normal’ activities for children, and for adults – parents and teachers. Three overlapping discourses of ‘safety’ are suggested which reflect the sociocultural context, the professional status of early childhood teachers, and existential concerns.


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Author Biography

Sue Stover, Auckland University of Technology

A journalist by training, Sue Stover came into early childhood education through a decade’s involvement with her own children (and other people’s) at Playcentre. Sue is a senior lecturer and programme co-ordinator for the early childhood teacher education programme at Auckland University of Technology. She is the editor of ‘Early Education’. As a grandmother of three, she is now again attending Playcentre and relishing this privilege of rejoining young children and their families in a play environment.

How to Cite
STOVER, Sue. ‘You can’t totally avoid accidents. So how hard should you try?’. The New Zealand Annual Review of Education, [S.l.], v. 23, p. 79-95, dec. 2018. ISSN 1178-3311. Available at: <https://ojs.victoria.ac.nz/nzaroe/article/view/5285>. Date accessed: 12 aug. 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.26686/nzaroe.v23i0.5285.