Stout Research Centre seminar (Wellington): Dr Helen May, ‘The power of the ‘pen’ – personal journeys – political stories: Documenting the politics of early childhood in Aotearoa-New Zealand’

When: 5.30pm to 6.30pm Wednesday 12 April 2017
Where: Hunter Council Chamber, Level 2, Hunter Building, Kelburn Parade, Wellington

No RSVP required.


This presentation charts the early childhood policy story from the 1980s until current times, framed around writings of key scholars and activists across distinctive eras of political interest. The story is in part personal and illustrative too of the ‘pen’ as a political tool in charting the policy landscape, but the ‘pen’ was never separate from engagement in the politics itself and the ‘storytellers’ cited, with others, have challenged successive governments in print and press, but also worked with government and sometimes within government, to craft and implement new policy blueprints for early childhood. Recently the political mood has changed to one of caution and cut backs, so different from 30 years ago when this story begins, with its brief era of risk and optimism. The presentation concludes with an unfolding story where the only recourse is again for furious ‘pens’ to hit our digital media keyboards. This concerns the NZ Ministry of Education’s interest, against the advice of ECE researchers, in participating in OECD’s secretive ‘preschool PISA’ assessment project. The lack of consultation internationally and nationally has caused a worried flurry of keyboard activity. By the time of this presentation the story might be clearer.


Dr Helen May is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Otago, and a former Dean of the College of Education. She is the author of a number of books and publications on the history, politics and pedagogy of early years education and been involved in advocacy and advisory roles covering a range of early childhood policy initiatives. Helen is a past Education Panel Chair, and currently Deputy Moderator for the Tertiary Education Commission’s PBRF round underway. She is a past user and co-ordinating supervisor of the Victoria University Crèche (1975-1983) and was appointed to New Zealand’s first early childhood professorial chair established by Victoria in 1995, a position held until 2005. After relocating to Wellington in 2017 Helen has been appointed an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Education at Victoria University.

This seminar is brought to you by The Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies and the Faculty of Education