The role of early childhood education and care (ECEC) is to support the learning and development of children in collaboration with families. The notion of inclusion in ECEC provides children with a sense of agency in becoming a learner able to participate fully and actively in their community. This paper illustrates how ECEC assessment approaches risk labelling young children in ‘deficit’ terms. The paper through a case study critically reflects on the implementation of a new assessment tool in kindergartens in the south-eastern region of Melbourne, Australia (low–middle income). Interviews were conducted with managers about the new tool, and documents (checklists and observations) were collected from the teachers. Findings show that the children were positioned as vulnerable with the introduction of the new assessment tool, leading to a diagnosis of ‘at risk’ for many children and a subsequent referral to education consultants, and health professionals. We explore the tensions of labelling young children, ‘at risk’ against the notion of ‘becoming’ that frames the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (Department of Education and Training 2019) and professional understandings of ‘inclusion’. The work of Nancy Fraser on ‘social justice’ augments the examination of this tension.
- early childhood education and care
- social justice