Education for Sustainable Citizenship

The OMEP-UK Education for Sustainable Citizenship Award was launched on May 1st 2019.  SchemaPlay originally created the ESC Award in partnership with preschool settings, children their families in Kent, and with the Kent County Council Early Years and Child Care Service who launched their own parallel project across the Kent local authority from January 2018.  The OMEP ESC Award provides the foundations for learning sustainable citizenship in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The Award has been developed to support the English Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), the English Key Stage 1 National Curriculum requirements and Guidance for Citizenship Education in schools (DfE, 2015).  The resources include a package to support early childhood settings that includes:

  • An ESC audit tool to support settings identify curriculum development objectives.
  • 18 x ESC Activity Guides for use in the classroom.
  • ‘Passports’ that record each child’s progress in their ESC and provides them with discounted entry to out of school ESC related centres such as wildlife parks.
  • 15 x ‘i-Can’ booklets that provide suggested activities for parents and carers to support the child at home.

SchemaPlay offers training for trainers in support of the award and has developed associated training materials for curriculum support mentors to apply in local settings. There is a SchemaPlay book Early Childhood Education for Sustainable Citizenship providing support for the training with background explanations and many illustrations of excellent practice.  SchemaPlay also provide Early Years Foundations Stage (EYFS) Guidance styled on the British Association for Early Childhood Education (BAECE) ‘Development Matters’ publication.  For more information please contact

Further information related to the ESD award provided for settings in the Kent LEA are available from:


ZPDF The Zone of Proximal Developmental Flow  The ZPDF diagram provides a representation of both the child’s and the adult’s cognitive process and of their interaction.  We have learnt that these interactions should be limited in early childhood, they should be well prepared, highly focused and informed by observations of the individual child’s play.  The evidence suggests that the relationship between play and instruction in early childhood should not be considered in terms of any form of  ‘balance’, they should be understood as being in ‘synergy’.

The child’s free-flow play is represented in the central cycle, as an interaction between the child’s cognitive schemes and schema.  This is what van Oers (1999) described as a process that Vygotsky understood as ‘progressive continuous re-contextualisation’.  Piaget called it ‘assimilation’.  The activity space contained by the cycle is referred to as the Zone of Proximal Developmental Flow (ZPDF) because it is analogous to that provided through adult scaffolding in Vygotsky’s (1962) zone of proximal development (ZPD), except that in this case it is the child’s own recall of previously observed (or formally introduced) cognitive schemes and schema that are being applied in scaffolding their play (there is no immediate adult involved in providing the scaffolding).  ‘Flow’ was first identified as a quality of play associated with enhanced periods of learning and creativity by Csikszentmihalyi’s (1979).  Bruce (1991) and Laevers’ (1993) applied the phrase ‘Free Flow Play’, and defined it in terms of the complete immersion, involvement and the sense of fulfilment that children gained from it.

Free flow play may be considered ‘seeded’ by the child’s prior learning of a scheme or schema.  This may have occurred through the child’s observation and imitation of others or through direct instruction, but it is important to recognise that the child’s learning will remain incomplete if they are not provided with the opportunity to play with the new ideas, to identify the strengths and limitations of the schemes and schemas, and to own them for themselves.  This is what we mean when we say that learning in SchemaPlay is essentially a creative and child centred process. ‘Free Flow Play’ is an integrating mechanism, which brings together what the child has previously learn, knows, feels and understands (Tina Bruce, 1997).  More about all of this can be found in the SchemaPlay booklet:  Putting the Schema back into Schema Theory and Practice: An Introduction to SchemaPlay


SchemaPlay (STEM)L²

SchemaPlay (STEM)L² is an initiative concerned with supporting integrated approaches to Language and Literacy (L²) in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in early childhood education.

Sixty-four percent of engineering employers recently reported that the shortage of engineers in the UK is a threat to their business, and it has been estimated that enabling women to meet their full potential in such work could add many millions or even trillions to annual GDP.  SchemaPlay resaerch shows that one of the reasons that so many STEM gender initiatives have failed in the past is because they have not been  implemented anything like early enough, and they haven’t included enough communication and language content to convince girls that they have anything to offer them.

Girls outperform boys in Communication, Langauge and Literacy from the early years to GCSE and this achievement gap has remained stable over the last ten years.  The underachievement of boys growing up in relative poverty is even more acute.  Boys do do much better at, and they enjoy STEM activities.

Early Childhood STEM education does not work for girls because there is not enough Communication, Language and Literacy in it to interest them.  Early childhood Communication, Language and Literacy education doesn’t work for boys because there is not enough STEM to give it credibility.

The Solution is to integrate Communication, Language and Literacy provisions with STEM. 

Schemaplay is currently working on the development of resources and training to address these issues with (STEM)L, an initiative aimed at early childhood (age 3-6).  STEM  “i-Can” cards are being produced to support early childhood educators in providing instruction (Sample). It is intended that these illustrated cards, y providing instructions on how to investigate, make, fix, join or decorate constructions, will be accessible to both the teachers and the children, and empower both in terms of STEM, Communications and Language skills.  A wider range of relevant socio-dramatic play resources are also being sourced for promotion in preschools.