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Undergraduate courses

Dr Peter Elfer

Principal Lecturer Early Childhood Studies, PC MA (ECS)

School of Education



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 undertaken

'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).



Membership of professional bodies

UK Association of Infant Mental Health

Consultancy experience

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.




Elfer, P (2006) Exploring children’s expressions of attachment in nursery. 14(2) , European Early Childhood Education Journal , 14, 81-96.

Elfer, P (2007) Babies and Young Children in Nurseries: Using Psychoanalytic Ideas to Explore Tasks and Interactions, Children and Society, 21, 111-122.

Elfer P and Dearnley K (2007) Nurseries and emotional well being: Evaluating an emotionally containing model of continuing professional development, Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development, 27 (3).

ELFER, P (2007) What are nurseries for? The concept of primary task and its application in differentiating roles and tasks in nurseries, Journal of Early Childhood Research, Vol 5 No 2, 169-188.

ELFER, P (2008) 5000 hours: Organising for Intimacy in the care of babies and children under three attending full time nursery. PhD Doctoral Thesis. University of East London. Please e mail for e-copies. 

ELFER, P (2010) The power of psychoanalytic conceptions in understanding nurseries, International Journal of Infant Observation and its Applications, 13, pp59-63.

 ELFER, P. (2011) Psychoanalytic methods of observation as a research tool for exploring young children’s nursery experience. International Journal of Social Research Methodology. 15 (3) 225-238.

ELFER, P (2012) Emotion in Nursery Work: Work Discussion as a model of critical professional reflection. Early Years: An International Journal of Research and Development. 32, 2, July 2012. pp129-141.  

PAGE, J and ELFER, P (2013) The emotional complexity of attachment interactions in nursery. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal has been published and is now available Online at:

Elfer, P (2013) Emotional aspects of nursery policy and practice – progress and prospect. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal. published online. :

ELFER, P and PAGE, J (2013) Briefing Paper Reponse to Coalition Proposals on improving quality of child care 'More Great Childcare' - please e mail me for copies.   


Elfer, P, Goldschmied, E and Selleck, D (2011) (2nd Edition) Key persons in the Nursery and Reception Classes: Building relationships for quality provision, London: David Fulton. 

Elinor Goldschmied and Dorothy Selleck (2010) Persone Chiave al nido - Costruire rapporti di qualita, ediizionjunior.

Elfer, Peter (2007) Attachment and the key person role, Early Years Foundation Stage

Elfer, P. (2002) Parental choice and staff experience in early day care, Association of Infant Mental Health, Amsterdam.

Elfer, P. (2002) Holding the baby: the emotional demands on early years practitioners working with babies and toddlers, Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust.

Elfer, P. (2002) Research children: methodology with children under three, Centre for Research in Early Childhood, University of Leeds

Elfer, P., Goldschmied, E. and Selleck, D. (2003) Key persons in the Nursery: Building relationships for quality provision, London: David Fulton, 1-82.

Elfer, P (2004) Observation Matters, in L. Abbott and A. Langston (eds) Birth to Three Matters; Supporting the Framework of Effective Practice, 116-129.


ELFER, P AND GRENIER, J (2010) Personal, Social and Emotional Development, in Bruce, T (2010) Early Childhood: A guide for students, pp141-153.


ELFER, P; GRENIER, J; MANNING MORTON, J; DEARNLEY, K; WILSON, D (2008) The Key Person in Reception classes and small nursery settings, Social and Emotional Aspects of Development: Guidance for Practitioners working in the Early Years Foundation Stage.


Elfer, P (2014) Young Children's Relationships with Staff and Peers in Nursery: Observations of two girls aged 29months and 25 months. in Adamo, SM and Rustin, M (2014) Young Child Observation: A Development in the Theory and Method of Infant Observation. London: Karnac.

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Computing lecturer wins BETT award for teaching resource

Principal lecturer in computing education at the University of Roehampton, Miles Berry, has won the 2015 primary digital content, BETT Award for his work on the ‘Switched on Computing’ project.

Knowledge transfer to help vulnerable children

University of Roehampton has signed a partnership with Universidad del Norte, Colombia to expand on existing collaborative research into early childhood support and developmental care.


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