Peter Elfer

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Personal profile


Peter Elfer is Principal Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies and Programme Convenor for the MA Early Childhood Studies. He is a member of the Early Childhood Research Centre. His primary research interest is the emotional well-being of babies and young children in nursery contexts. 


B.Sc; B.Phil; DMS; PhD

Research interests

For the last 20 years, I have been involved in research on children under three in nursery provision. My doctoral research was a case study of six different kinds of nursery to investigate differing patterns of managing nursery provision for very young children. The aim was to see whether particular patterns of management are associated with particular outcomes for children.

I am particular interested in the use of psychoanalytic concepts and methods in this work. The study used a psychoanalytic approach to analysing organisations and an adapted form of the Tavistock (Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust) method of infant observation.

Research projects

'5000 hours: Organising for intimacy in the care of babies and children under three attending full time nursery'.

This study now completed, explores what babies and young children in nursery might have to communicate about their experience and how this experience is related to different organisational cultures and systems of management. (e-copies of chapters are available directly from me);

In 2010, the Froebel Reseach Committee funded a year long study of the contribution of Work Discussion to supporting nursery heads. This is written up in the Early Years Journal (2012) - see references below).

Professional affiliations

UK Association of Infant Mental Health

Consultancy work

1997-1998 Bristol City Council Early Years and Child Care Development Partnership; Grant awards to early years organisations;

1995-2003 LB of Newham LEA on development of curriculum materials for children under three in the private and statutory sectors (Modules 1 and 2);

2000-2001 Effective Early Learning Project, University College Worcester. Developing a 'Baby EEL'

2001-2002 Association of Infant Mental Health and Council for Awards in Child Care and Education - developing curriculum / training for tutors teaching early years practitioners.

2003-2004 LB of Newham LEA on development of curriculum materials for children under three in the private and statutory sectors (Module 3);

2002-2004 Jersey Early Childhood Service

2005-2006 Working jointly with Katy Dearnley of Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust facilitating a new model of continuing professional development with Heads of Nurseries in Bristol. The focus of this work was personal, social and emotional development;

2006-2007 See above but now working with Heads and Managers of nurseries in LB of Hammersmith and Fulham

2010 Work Discussion with nursery managers and leaders

2012 - 2013 Training with nursery staff on the new supervision requirement in the revised Early Years Foundation Stage.


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