Reflecting on MACYS almost three years on…

By Sevasti-Melissa Nolas

At the end of this year we are celebrating our MA Childhood & Youth Studies (MACYS) programme third birthday. A milestone in many ways for a small but dynamic programme like ours, and one we would like to take a moment to reflect on as we move into a new phase of our development.

To this effect, and over the next few weeks, we will be running a series of posts about the programme, what is unique about it and why a postgrad programme in this area is important. As well as providing a reflective space for those of us who have been involved in running and teaching on the programme, the posts are also aimed at anyone thinking about embarking on postgraduate study in childhood and youth studies at Sussex.

As the programme’s incoming convenor, I have just taken up the role from my colleague Rachel Thomson and will have some big shoes to fill indeed, one of the most exciting things about MACYS is the advance training it provides for working with children and young people.

Our programme attracts both seasoned practitioners and those at the beginning of their careers in this field who hold, or who will go on to hold, a range of professional and inter-professional, vocational and activist roles in working directly or supporting work with children and young people. What is most fascinating to me is the diversity of knowledge, experience and practice that comes into what we call ‘working with children and young people’ and which requires, I believe, an interdisciplinary approach to fully appreciate.

Interdisciplinarity is one of the hallmarks of childhood and youth studies, and something we do especially well at Sussex, an institution that was set up on the principles of interdisciplinary scholarship. Experiences of childhood and youth, and our interventions into children and young people’s lives, vary considerably across the globe shaped as they are by local historical and cultural contexts.

By involving colleagues from anthropology, education, law, psychology, and social work in our teaching, and by putting these disciplines into conversation with one another, our students have the opportunity to develop a rich understanding of children and young people’s lived experiences and the situated practices of childhood and youth. Policy and practice, as our students learn early on, are messy affairs requiring the sort of creative theoretical, methodological and practical tools that interdisciplinarity can provide.

In this spirit, I have thoroughly enjoyed developing one of our two core modules, Current Developments in Childhood and Youth Policy and Practice. Working with international and home students this module has explored some of the most pressing issues faced by children and young people today as well as debating policy and practice responses. Over the last three years we’ve had some great discussions about the London riots, about the meaning of ‘good sex’ for young people, the ways in which we often fail to listen to children and ways in which we might better communicate with them, about children and young people’s exclusion from education and creative practices for their inclusion.

As part of the programme, as a way of bring practice alive, we’ve also made visits to the National Theatre and Kids Company to hear from practitioners working with children and young people (you can read about these visits in previous entries). We will continue to broaden our enrichment programme moving forward as the feedback we get from students is very positive and these visits often form lasting impressions.

The other very exciting aspect of MACYS for me is how our teaching is underpinned by cutting-edge research. The MACYS programme draws on the expertise of colleagues members of the university wide Centre for Research and Innovation in Childhood and Youth (CIRCY) directed by Rachel Thomson and Janet Boddy. Over the last two years, since CIRCY was set up, we have been busy with a number of studies and evaluations which speak to policy and practice, and research methodologies and theory development for understanding childhood and youth and supporting children and young people.

Our MACYS post series will give you an opportunity to find out more about our latest research projects, and how those feed into teaching, as well as what current and former MACYS students are involved with now.

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