Nursery World Awards: 16 Individuals - Lifetime Achievement

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Janet Moyles, professor emeritus, Anglia Ruskin University, and play and early years consultant


By professor of education (early years) at The Open University, Jane Payler

Janet Moyles’ contribution to the international early years sector, spanning 42 years, is most closely associated with two things: play and professional development. With more than 75 publications to her name, perhaps the most iconic of all is her bookJust Playing? The role and status of play in early childhood education. Published in 1989, this pivotal book was one of the first of its era to fully examine the central role of play in young children’s learning and development and has been translated into several languages, including Chinese and Hebrew.

With the current formalised pressures on young children’s time, the book continues to be as important today as it was when it was first published. Janet started the research for it while she was still a head teacher. In fact, she had really started her research based on observations of her own children several years earlier. The research set Janet on a mission to ensure that play was valued. The follow-up book, The Excellence of Play, is now in its fourth edition and has been translated around the world. Janet has given countless keynote presentations on play internationally.

Janet’s agenda for many years has been to ensure that early years professionals and teachers see learning and development from the child’s point of view. As a head teacher, she was concerned that staff seemed to focus more on delivering a curriculum than on supporting young children’s learning. Her invaluable contribution to early years pedagogy since has included numerous nationally funded research projects, such as SPEEL: Study of Pedagogical Effectiveness in Early Learning, and many more publications including one of the first Primary Education self-evaluation guides for teachers in 1988. Based on her work, Janet was invited to a fellowship in Australia, during which she trained staff in playful and child-initiated pedagogies.

Other people’s professional development is Janet’s other enduring concern. She has been both a director of research (staff) and a director of a very large Doctorate in Education Programme at the University of Leicester, helping others to achieve. She has also generously given her time and expertise voluntarily over many years and continues to do so. From being chair of TACTYC (Association for Professional Development in Early Years) for seven years from 1996 to 2003, to still running its website and co-leading its new book series with me, to spotting and fostering potential in new colleagues, Janet does it all with warmth, wisdom and humour.

I feel very honoured to have Janet as a friend, mentor and colleague.

A few things you may not know about Janet: she sings in a community choir; she is a governor of her local primary school; she grows all of her own vegetables; and she is known in her family as Peter Pan because she never seems to age. Janet tells me she wishes she had started in academia earlier so she could have made more of a difference. But the amount Janet stillachieves leaves most of us breathless. It is my very great pleasure to see professor emeritus Janet Moyles chosen for this year’s Nursery World Lifetime Achievement award.


Janet Moyles is professor emeritus at Anglia Ruskin University and is a play and early years consultant.

Janet first became involved in early years as a playgroup leader and parent helper. Her fascination in children’s play and its impact on learning and development originated from observing her own children. She subsequently trained to be a teacher and taught in both nurseries and primary schools.

After progressing to deputy head teacher, she was seconded by her local authority to work on an early years research project with Cambridge University Institute of Education.

In 1995, she joined Leicester University as a lecturer, progressing to senior lecturer and then director of research in 1998, when she completed her PhD in children’s play and practitioners’ roles.

Janet has participated in working parties and has given keynote presentations on play in countries including Taiwan, Sweden, Norway and Australia. From 1996 to 2003 she was chair of TACTYC and is currently its website editor.

Recent books

Effective Leadership and Management in the Early Years, Open University Press/McGraw Hill (2006)

Thinking About Play: Developing a Reflective Approach, Open University Press (2010)

The A to Z of Play in Early Childhood Education, Open University Press/McGraw Hill (2012)

Early Years Foundations: Critical Issues (with J Georgeson), Open University Press/McGraw Hill (2014)

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