Siew Fung Lee (2019) Governing ‘disadvantage’ through readiness: A Foucauldian policy genealogy of funded nursery places for two-year-olds. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood.
This article critically examines how the policy of funded nursery places for ‘disadvantaged’ two-year-olds in England opens up economic and political spaces in readiness for increased governance. The government introduced funded nursery places in September 2013, which aimed to promote disadvantaged children’s educational outcomes, narrow the attainment gap and encourage parental employment. Using a Foucauldian policy genealogy, the article sets out the ways in which funded nursery places constitute and deploy techniques for governing ‘disadvantage’ – specifically, how ‘disadvantage’ is constructed as a ‘problem of the population’, which, in turn, is productive of particular subjectivities and practices. The article traces how funded nursery places construct a particular ‘disadvantage’ through ‘experts of truth’, evidence-based policy, regimes of quality and neurobiology in preparation for the next phase of nursery at the age of three. These processes establish ‘disadvantaged’ two-year-olds as governable objects and therefore subject to the increased formalization of early experiences. The close links between ‘disadvantage’ and ‘readiness’ discursively provide conditions of possibility for technical and instrumental practice that is driven by a global hegemonic rationale in human capital. Although the analysis is focused in the English context, these developments have wider global implications in relation to school readiness and early education reforms across countries that are reaching into ever younger spaces.