Getting an early start to aspirations: Understanding how to promote educational futures in early childhood.

For families without experience of higher education it can be difficult to know how to encourage young children's aspiration for educational futures. This project seeks to improve knowledge about higher education in low socio economic status early childhood settings. It will use a social marketing intervention to assist parents, families and caregivers to become better informed about how to support their young children. The project will develop knowledge about how early childhood educators understand and interpret the educational aspirations of children and families.

In consultation with key stakeholders (parents, family, community and early childhood centres) a social marketing intervention will be developed that will target parents, children and early childhood educators to produce a unique 'education promotion' strategy for early childhood.

More details

The overarching aim of the project is to understand how LSES children and their families imagine and aspire to educational futures and to develop and assess a social marketing intervention targeting promotion of educational futures in early childhood settingsChildren from low socio-economic status (LSES) backgrounds are, for a range of reasons, far less likely to attend university. Many of these children are ‘smart enough’ to attend university, but there are barriers to attending, including knowledge about education or believing it is possible. These young children need opportunities to build on their aspirations for education. The problem is not simply one of raising aspirations; children and families from LSES backgrounds have aspirations. The problem is that university can be an alien environment for those with no history of higher education and is simply not a part of their families’ worlds.

Developing a program when children are young could mean that they and their parents/ caregivers/families and early childhood educators start to assume educational futures are possible and that there are opportunities for them (and their families) for further education such as university.

The project will assess how social marketing – a strategy effectively used in health and in poverty reduction - can be adapted to promote educational futures. Social marketing is a process that works with the target audience to understand the problem and the barriers and that, in consultation, develops appropriate ways to encourage change. This technique is most often used in the health sector. Examples include social marketing campaigns to be sun-safe, stop smoking, or to wear seatbelts.

The project will investigate social marketing strategies for promoting educational futures. There are currently no specific materials designed to promote education futures to LSES children and families in the early childhood context and no available material for the professional development of childcare staff. This project will investigate the application of social marketing, so successfully used in other disciplinary fields (such as health) to promote education and educational futures in early childhood LSES settings.



Centre for Health and Social Research

Australian Catholic University. Australia.

  • Promoting Educational Futures in Early Childhood: Everyday Activities are Opportunities to Share and Encourage Learning.
  • Presentation Flyer


Te Puna Wananga, StarPath and the Marie Clay Research Centre

The University of Auckland. New Zealand.

  • Lead My Learning and the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME).
  • Presentation Flyer


NOLA Matters - The Public Health Radio

New Orleans, Louisiana. USA.


Teachers College - The Department of Curriculum and Teaching

Columbia University. NY, NY. USA.


School of Education

Syracuse University. New Zealand.

  • Lead My Learning: Critically adapting social marketing to promote educational futures in places marked by educational disadvantages.


Harvard Graduate School of Education Project Zero

Harvard University. Boston, MA, USA.

  • Lead My Learning: Understanding how to promote educational futures in places marked by educational disadvantage.


Department of Early Childhood, Elementary and Literacy Education

Montclair University, NJ, USA.

  • Action Research, Inclusive Education and Promoting Educational Futures.


School of Education

University of Roehampton, England.

  • Educational Inclusion includes promoting educational futures: Engaging with the elephant in the room.


Moray House School of Education

University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

  • Discourses of educational futures and the subjugated disqualified knowledges of learning.


CRLI Research Centre

The University of Sydney, Australia.


24th Annual International Reconceptualising Early Childhood Education Conference

Wairakei Resort, Taupo, New Zealand.

AIATSIS National Indigenous Research Conference 2017

Canberra, New South Wales, Australia.

World Social Marketing Conference 2017

Washington DC, USA

3rd National Aborignial Wellbeing Conference 2018

Coolangatta, Queensland. Australia.

The International Social Marketing Conference 2018

Singapore. Mayalasia.

  • Promoting Educational Futures with Social Marketing: The importance of culture and critique
  • Conference Programme


International Journal of Inclusive Education 

Harwood, V., Murray, N. (2019). Strategic discourse production and parent involvement: including parent knowledge and practices in the Lead My Learning campaign. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 23(4), 353-368.


Limited free eprints are available here:



National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education

Curtain University, Perth. Western Australia.



Oxford, UK.