New standards for pre-school teachers
DfE announces that early years teachers will need to have same level of qualifications as those working in primary schools Charlie Taylor says nothing is more important in early education and childcare than the quality of staff who are delivering it. Photograph: Feli Clay for the !uardian Early years teachers will need to have the same level of qualifications as those working in primary schools in the future under plans to reform pre"school education# it has $een announced. Teachers working with young children will $e e pected to meet new standards similar to those that classroom staff are e pected to meet# the Department for Education %DfE& said. They will also $e e pected to pass the same literacy and numeracy tests taken $y trainee teachers. The move is part an overhaul of childcare qualifications that ministers say will help raise standards for young children. 'nder the reforms# pre"school staff will either $e early years teachers or early years educators. From ne t (eptem$er# early years teachers will $e e pected to $e educated to the same level as a primary school teacher# while educators will $e asked to hold a qualification equivalent to an )"level. Charlie Taylor# chief e ecutive of the *ational College of Teaching and +eadership# said: ,There is nothing more important in early education and childcare than the quality of the staff who are delivering it. The workforce supporting our $a$ies# young children and their parents should $e well qualified# well respected and well led., Education minister Eli-a$eth Truss said: ,!ood quality early years education# which is teacher"led# has $een shown to $e $eneficial for children# especially those from low"income $ackgrounds. .t makes a difference to young children/s lives and ena$les them to learn and grow.,
Leading article: Nursery schools cannot be judged only by cost
The key question is not age, but how the early years of learning are structured
Do we send our children to school too early0 There is a deep am$iguity in the report $y the *ational )udit 1ffice into the state of nursery provision. 1n the one hand# it acknowledges that the Department for Education has done well to provide nursery places for at least 23 hours a week for 43 per cent of our three" and four" year"olds. 5ut it also questions whether the initiative 6 introduced $y +a$our in 2447 and continued $y the Coalition 6 is working. Children/s levels of development have improved at the age of five# $ut there is no significant increase in a$ility at age seven. (o are nurseries good value in preparing children for school# considering the scheme costs ta payers some 82.4$n a year0 The *)1# in focusing on money as it always does# asks the wrong question. ) direct correlation $etween cash spent and early academic results is far too narrow a focus. )ll the research internationally suggests the key question is not the age at which children start learning# $ut how the early years of learning are structured. 9ungary# (wit-erland and Flemish"speaking 5elgium are far more successful in teaching literacy and numeracy# even though formal teaching of reading# writing or arithmetic does not start until children are si or seven. .t could $e that starting school too young is damaging. )n a$ility to recite num$ers from one to 2:# and even recognise figures# can disguise a failure to understand that eight is more than three if a child in not cognitively ready. +earning is comple . .t does not occur in a vacuum. ;ather it is determined $y factors such as class# culture and gender 6 all of which shape interests# knowledge and understanding. Far $etter results can come from an early years curriculum that is not structured to include the three ;s $ut focuses instead on skills such as speaking# paying attention# listening# using memory 6 which can $e acquired through structured play 6 and interaction with other children. 1nce they have these skills# more academic learning comes more easily. The o$session of successive governments with testing seven"year"olds reveals an ina$ility to grasp the evidence of o$<ective research. The nursery years are when all that $egins. There are other good reasons for taking the state of 5ritain/s nurseries more seriously. 9elping parents manage their childcare costs and working patterns are not the principal purpose of providing 23 hours/ free nursery provision for =7 weeks of the year# the report notes. 5ut those are important side"effects. 9elping unemployed parents $ack to work# providing additional income for those already in work# and improving their long"term earnings potential are socially significant factors. (o# too# is the impact nurseries may have on reducing child poverty and improving social mo$ility. >here the *ational )udit 1ffice report is useful is in highlighting the patchy nature of provision. 1fsted inspections reveal that the proportion of good or outstanding nurseries rose from ?3 per cent to 72 per cent over the past two years. @et take"up is lowest among the most disadvantaged families who might $e e pected to $enefit most from it 6 which may have something to do with the limited hours nurseries are open. )reas of highest deprivation are also less likely to have high"quality provision. The report suggests# though the data is vague# that those local authorities which spend most do not necessarily offer the highest quality 6 though those prepared to pay for qualified staff# rather than untrained assistants# see a significant rise in quality. @et it also suggests quality alone is not the only reason parents choose a nurseryA convenience and the cost of $uying additional hours are key# too. Bore data# as the *)1 suggests# is needed. 1n such a vital issue# though# a narrow focus on cost does not serve children or parents 6 or the !overnment 6 well.
'Schoolification' of toddlers on the early-years education menu
Early years 9ow many children can one carer cope with0 )nd do childminders need employment agencies0 Bore than 2::#::: people# including parents# signed a petition against rela ing staff"pupil ratios /$ut we were all ignored./ Photograph: David +evene for the !uardian Early years has $een one of the chief $attlegrounds $etween the government and the professionals in the past year. *ot that you would necessarily know it. Eli-a$eth Truss# the early"years minister# announced a clim$down over a proposed rela ation of staff"to"pupil ratios in early years in Cune# $laming a lack of cross" party agreement. 5ut ask any organisation representing the sector and a different story emerges. D:2= $egan $adly for early years with the pu$lication in Canuary of the government/s Bore !reat Childcare report# proposing rela ing the strict adult"to"child ratios# in an attempt to improve availa$ility and choice for families# and to reduce costs. )t the same time# ministers wanted to raise the qualification requirements for the workforce. ,The sector was as one against the proposals to increase ratios#, says *eil +eitch# chief e ecutive of the Pre" (chool +earning )lliance %P(+)&. Bore than 2::#::: people# including parents# signed a petition. ,5ut we were all ignored#, says +eitch. Eventually# Truss attri$uted the '"turn to a failure to agree with the +i$eral Democrats. ,*ick Clegg wrote to me personally thanking us for the way we had presented the case against the proposals#, says +eitch. There was further controversy in the Children and Families $ill# which set out plans for childminding agencies to cut red tape and again increase parents/ choice. 5ut staff representatives said such agencies would lead to lower standards of care. ,Currently# childminders are su$<ect to individual inspections and regulation through 1fsted# and know that parents can take their children away if they are found to $e lacking#, says +i- 5ayram# chief e ecutive of the Professional )ssociation for Childcare and Early @ears %Pacey&. ,'nder the proposed system# it is the agencies that will $e su$<ect to inspection# $ut only on the support they give to childminders and not for the quality of care., The $ill perple ed everyone. ,.t is not at all clear whether a childminder <oining an agency will remain self" employed#, says 5ayram. ,The situation is very confused. >e have a government that is $ig on ideas $ut is not $ig on spending any time finding out if something is going to work., Childminding agencies are $eing piloted around the country# $ut with the $ill a$out to reach report stage and due to $e finalised early in D:2E# many fear they will $e introduced with insufficient trialling and no consultation. )s D:2E rings in# there will $e further $attles. Binisters have suggested children from poor $ackgrounds could start school as young as two# a move $randed as ,schoolification, $y the early years profession# while pupils in reception classes may face $aseline testing si weeks after they start school. .nfant school heads must prepare to offer free hot lunches to all pupils from ne t (eptem$er 6 an aspiration many fear they won/t $e a$le to meet $ecause of logistical pro$lems# such as a lack of kitchens and other practicalities. ,>e have a government that refuses to interact#, says +eitch. ,The sector has never felt as much discontent and lack of faith in those charged with shaping the future of early"years provision as it does at this time.,
Do nurseries harm children or not? Either way it's all the poor's fault
)ll this contradictory advice a$out child development is enough to drive confused parents to drink /!nomes who stay at home in their own gardens with their mothers have fewer emotional pro$lems./ Photograph: Dan FitwoodG!etty .mages 1 ford 'niversity/s department of child and adolescent psychiatry has discovered that children who spend time in nurseries are more likely to develop $ehavioural and emotional pro$lems. This will confuse and depress working parents and encourage them to drink more. Perhaps the department is on a commission from a winery. 9onestly# cavemen academics didn/t keep having these studies a$out parenting. )nd yet their children evolved and invented all the lovely wine. Bmmmm. >hat type of nurseries are the department of child and adolescent psychiatry on a$out anyway0 Canna$is ones0 1r ones that sell those gnomes that wouldn/t look out of place in splatter films# and come alive at night to mis$ehave and move plant pots around# torture cats and urinate everywhere0 That/s what gnomes do if they/re in nurseries. >hereas gnomes who stay at home in their own gardens with their gnome mothers $ehave much $etter and have fewer emotional pro$lems. There/s no place like gnome. 1r so says the study. Though it does cast dou$t on the value of gnome schooling. ./m not reading any more of these contradictory studies. >eren/t we all told $y a different study that it was $etter for our children to mi with other children0 .f children aren/t supposed to $e in nursery# according to this study# and not $e at home $ecause of that other study# is there a third option that/s $eing kept secret $y the super"rich0 )re there some other children in a different place# away from all of ours0 )re they in a chocolate factory0 1r in +oompaland0 1r in a cave $eneath the medieval !erman town of 9amelin0 The report# in the <ournal Child: Care# 9ealth and Development# comes free with a set of 1 ford +anding $randed wine glasses# and found that the strongest influence on children came from within the home itself. Does it0 >hy are they $laming nurseries then0 ./m completely lost now. .t must $e all this wine. .t also found that children from poor families with high levels of parental stress were most at risk of emotional pro$lems $y the time they go to school. ./m certainly at risk of emotional pro$lems $y the time my children go to school. +uckily there/s all this wine. (o# poverty leads to childhood emotional pro$lems. Predicta$ly# it/s the poor/s fault again. Bight it $e possi$le to get through <ust one week without $laming the poor for everything0 .t/s starting to really depress me now. )nd that only makes me drink. ./m $eginning to think this government and the rightwing press have some sort of agenda when it comes to 5ritain/s poorest. Climate change0 .t/s the poor/s fault# warming their outstretched hands on those $ra-iers# and not separating out their household waste properly. There is no waste. )nd no household. @ou/re supposed to recycle that $o 6 not live in itH ) meteorite lands in ;ussia# in<uring 2#::: people. That/ll $e the poor again# up there in space# $eing poor# trying to find themselves alternative renewa$le energy resources to heat up their tinned food. Bichael Douglas and Catherine Ieta"Cones/s marriage crisis0 Cones $lames the pro$lem on Douglas/s historic addiction to staring at people poorer than himself. >hich was everyone. There is no mention in the study of the $ehavioural and emotional pro$lems of the children of the rich# who spend their childhoods $eing cared for $y others until they/re old enough to $e sent off to $oarding schools and whipped. Perhaps this would e plain the ca$inet/s lack of emotion and ina$ility to play well with others# such as women and the general pu$lic0
Childcare providers re<ect these findings. )nand (hukla# of the Family and Childcare Trust# said: ,;esearch shows children who attend nursery are $etter prepared for school and have $etter social skills such as co" operation with peers., Plus# their parents drink less 1 ford +anding $ecause they haven/t got them all day. (o 6 and ./m no 1 ford academic so $ear with me 6 from what . can work out# we shouldn/t put our children into nurseries $ecause they will have emotional and $ehavioural pro$lems# $ut we shouldn/t stay at home with them either. .f we could also try not to $e poor# stressed out or have any mental health pro$lems ourselves# that would $e great. Eli-a$eth Truss# the education and childcare minister# said that large num$ers of children in childcare were ,running around, with ,no sense of purpose,. (hould a child have a sense of purpose0 ./m ED and . haven/t got one. .f . did# . pro$a$ly wouldn/t have had children in the first place. )nd then . wouldn/t need all this wine# hidden in different rooms all around the house. )nd in my $ag. Cohn >ilmot# second Earl of ;ochester# famously said: ,5efore . got married . had si theories a$out raising childrenA now# . have si children and no theories., )nd he wasn/t even poor. By own father# who had nine children# only gave me one piece of parenting advice: ,Don/t read anything., 5ut my father is a Catholic and very suspicious of any $ooks that aren/t in untranslata$le +atin. )ll parents feel guilty all the time a$out every decision they make concerning their children/s lives. >e/re all winging it. The ma<ority of children in nurseries and with childminders are there $ecause their parents have to work and have no other option. These studies make us feel even more confused than we do already. . $lame the poor. >hat are we supposed to do0 >here/s that wine0
Early schooling damaging children's wellbeing say e!perts
(pecialists call for children to $e allowed to learn through play# $ut !ove spokesman dismisses /$adly misguided lo$$y/ Children must $e receiving education $y the age of five. Photograph: Christopher FurlongG!etty .mages Bore than 2:: teachers# writers and academics have said the government/s early years education policies are damaging children/s health and well$eing. The education specialists have written to the secretary of state# Bichael !ove# to demand that children $e allowed to learn through play instead of $eing prepared for formal lessons at such an early age. (igned $y 2D? senior figures including +ord +ayard# director of the well$eing programme at the +ondon (chool of Economics# and (ir )l )ynsley"!reen# the former children/s commissioner for England# the letter in the Telegraph says current research ,does not support an early start to testing and quasi"formal teaching# $ut provides considera$le evidence to challenge it,. .t says: ,Jery few countries have a school starting age as young as four# as we do in England. Children who enter school at si or seven 6 after several years of high"quality nursery education 6 consistently achieve $etter educational results as well as higher levels of well$eing., Children must $e receiving education $y the age of five# and $y age seven they are su$<ect to three ;s assessment. The letter# also signed $y Dr David >hite$read# senior lecturer in the psychology of education at Cam$ridge 'niversity# Catherine Prisk# director of Play England# and the psychoanalyst and writer (usie 1r$ach# says current policy is heading in a direction contrary to glo$al $est practice. ,Though early childhood is recognised worldwide as a crucial stage in its own right# ministers in England persist in viewing it simply as a preparation for school. The term /school readiness/ is now dominating policy pronouncements, it says# adding that the government should not foist ,the tests and targets which dominate primary education, upon four"year"olds. The letter received a sharp re$uke from !ove/s staff who said allowing children to play instead of learn was an ,e cuse for not teaching poor children how to add up,. ,These people represent the powerful and $adly misguided lo$$y who are responsi$le for the devaluation of e ams and the culture of low e pectations in state schools#, a spokesman said. ,>e need a system that aims to prepare pupils to solve hard pro$lems in calculus or $e a poet or engineer 6 a system freed from the grip of those who $leat $ogus pop"psychology a$out /self image/# which is an e cuse for not teaching poor children how to add up., The letter was orchestrated $y the (ave Childhood Bovement# which is launching a campaign called Too Buch# Too (oon. The organisation will push for a series of reforms including a new ,developmentally appropriate,# play"$ased early years framework for nurseries and schools# covering children $etween the age of three and seven. >endy Ellyatt# the founding director of the movement# told the Telegraph: ,Despite the fact that 4:K of countries in the world prioritise social and emotional learning and start formal schooling at si or seven# in
England we seem grimly determined to cling on to the erroneous $elief that starting sooner means $etter results later., (ir Bichael >ilshaw# the head of 1fsted# said the $est nurseries and primary schools had a ,systematic# rigorous and consistent approach to assessment right from the very start,. David Cameron has previously championed well$eing policies and has supported +ayard pu$licly# saying the work of such academics was not ,airy fairy,. L This article was amended on 2M (eptem$er D:2=. )n earlier version said children must $e enrolled in a school $y the age of five. They must $e receiving education# $ut do not have to $e enrolled in a school.
Nursery ratios: "legg bloc#s $ory attempt to rela! childcare standards
*o 2: e presses dismay after deputy PB says there is no evidence that rela ing staff ratios would save parents money *ick Clegg says: /. cannot ask parents to accept such a controversial change with no real guarantee it will save them money/. Photograph: G;euters Coalition relations will reach a new low on Thursday when *ick Clegg announces that he is to kill off plans to rela child"to"staff ratios for childcare in England. Clegg said he had decided to $lock the plans $y the Conservative children/s minister# +i- Truss# $ecause an e tensive consultation had shown that her two key aims would fail. ;ela ing child"to"staff ratios would not necessarily drive down the costs of childcare 6 and might even increase them 6 and would not necessarily improve standards# he said. .n a sign of how coalition policymaking has descended into hand"to"hand com$at $etween the Tories and the +i$eral Democrats# Downing (treet appeared to $e caught off guard $y the Clegg announcement. ) *o 2: source said the government/s planned childcare policy had not yet $een agreed and would $e announced shortly. ,.t is a $it premature to $rief $efore the final package has $een agreed#, one senior Tory source said of the Clegg move. ,.t is not really the way to $ehave., The deputy prime minister# who $riefed childcare providers on >ednesday that he had killed off the Truss $lueprint# remained un$owed and issued a statement saying that her plans failed to stack up. Clegg said: ,. cannot ask parents to accept such a controversial change with no real guarantee it will save them money 6 in fact it could cost them more., The intervention $y Clegg# who spoke to David Cameron on Bonday a$out childcare# was seen in *o 2: as one of his most hostile acts since he killed off Tory plans last summer to shrink the si-e of the Commons after Tory BPs sank his plans to reform the 9ouse of +ords. Truss proposed to allow childminders to increase the num$er of under"ones they can look after from three to four. This would increase from four to si for children over the age of two. The rules for three"year"olds would remain the same 6 eight or 2= children per adult depending on whether a graduate was present. 5ut Clegg said Truss/s calculations were flawed $ecause they were $ased on ,unrealistic occupancy and opening times, 6 that childcare operators would fill 2::K of their places and $e full all year round. 9e also pointed out that most of the savings identified $y Truss were $ased on providers using current freedoms which are mainly unused at the moment. Downing (treet hit $ack at Clegg. ) *o 2: source said: ,The prime minister remains committed to helping families with the cost of living# which includes reducing the cost of childcare. ,The final package of childcare measures# which will seek to reduce childcare costs and make it easier to set up childcare in schools# has not yet $een agreed $ut will $e announced shortly., The latest move $y the deputy prime minister was also $eing seen as revenge after Downing (treet responded to the weekend parliamentary slea-e allegations $y announcing that Clegg/s plans to reform lo$$yists would involve new restrictions on trade union funding..n a $reach of ministerial collective responsi$ility# Clegg
released a $riefing note that endorsed a quote from the Pre"school +earning )lliance which accused the education department of cynicism and of producing a ,work of fiction,. Clegg said: ,The proposals to increase ratios were put out to consultation and were roundly criticised $y parents# providers and e perts alike. Bost importantly# there is no real evidence that increasing ratios will reduce the cost of childcare for families. ,The argument that this will help families with their weekly childcare $ill simply does not stack up. . cannot ask parents to accept such a controversial change with no real guarantee it will save them money 6 in fact it could cost them more., +i$ Dem sources denied that Clegg was em$arking on a tit"for"tat revenge amid worsening coalition relations. They said that the deputy prime minister# who regards child care as one of the coalition/s main priorities# simply $elieves the Truss plan will fail to achieve its stated goals. Truss proposed to allow child minders to increase the num$er of under"ones they can look after from three to four. This would increase from four to si for children over the age of two. The rules for three"year"olds would remain the same 6 eight or 2= children per adult depending on whether a graduate was present. Clegg said Truss/s calculations were flawed $ecause they were $ased on ,unrealistic occupancy and opening times, 6 that child care operators would fill 2::K of their places and $e full all year round. 9e also pointed out that most of the savings identified $y Truss were $ased on providers using current freedoms which are mainly unused at the moment. The deputy prime minister# who was furious with Truss for pu$licising their private disagreement# also sanctioned a rare $riefing on their internal discussions. 9is office pu$lished emails with Truss/s private secretary who agreed that the final policy would $e agreed $y the ca$inet/s home affairs committee# chaired $y Clegg# after the consultation. Truss had accused Clegg of reneging on an agreement to accept her policy. +i$ Dem sources said that when Clegg asked Truss to have a rethink last month she simply wrote a letter to all the relevant ministers reiterating her plans. *eil +eitch# chief e ecutive of the Pre"school +earning )lliance whose criticisms of Truss were cited $y Clegg# said: ,>e are a$solutely delighted that the deputy prime minister has intervened and listened to the concerns and evidence gathered $y the sector# parents and early years e perts which dismantled the arguments for taking forward this ill"advised plan., Custine ;o$erts# chief e ecutive of the Bumsnet we$site who had called for a rethink# said: ,Bumsnet users will $e mightily relieved to hear that the proposed changes to childcare ratios are to $e scrapped. Parents were unconvinced that the suggested changes would lead to lower childcare costs $ut did $elieve that the quality of care would $e adversely affected. Put simply four $a$ies under one or si under twos is a lot for even the most e perienced childcare worker to manage., Coalition tensions will $e worsened on another front today when Tory sources make clear they will ensure that local communities will effectively $e a$le to $lock new onshore windfarms. Ed Davey# the +i$ Dem climate change secretary# will say that a new package of measures will offer incentives to local communities to encourage them to accept wind farms. 5ut the Tories are making clear that new planning rules will give communities greater clout in $locking them.
Early years professionals deser%e more recognition
The early years are crucial to a child/s future and the professionals responsi$le for them deserve to $e recognised for their academic achievement# argues Faren 9anson Early years professionals must $e valued for their knowledge# as well as the responsi$ility entrusted in them $y parents and society in general. Photograph: Cim >ileman +ast month# the num$er of people qualifying with Early @ears Professional (tatus %[email protected]
(& reached the 2:#::: milestone. The 2:#:::th graduate# *afeesah ;afiq# was hailed $y (arah Teather# the Binister for Children and Families# as $eing one of the ,talented and passionate, professionals now working in our nurseries and pre" school facilities who have the potential to ,make a particular impact on those who are among the most disadvantaged,. The Binister is a$solutely right. (uch highly trained and knowledgea$le professionals working in the early years sector are making an enormous contri$ution to the life chances of thousands of young children from all $ackgrounds. 1n the face of it# this vital workforce has come a long way from the days of the /mum/s army/ of women who would work in pre"school settings# often as volunteers# and always unnoticed in challenging conditions. @et the many graduates now working in early years facilities remain unrecognised# despite having completed a multi"disciplinary degree. The Destination of +eavers in 9igher Education (urvey %D+9)& does not classify early years work as a graduate <o$ at all# $ecause it contains no managerial classification to define it as such# though many of those achieving [email protected]
( will $e graduates who end up in leadership roles. .n fact it was the introduction of the [email protected]
( that $rought a$out the move towards a professionalised service. The now defunct Children/s >orkforce Development Council %C>DC& set a goal that $y D:2: every early years private# voluntary and independent facility would have at least one employee with [email protected]
( who would lead good practice among their colleagues# and that they would en<oy parity as professionals with teachers who have achieved Nualified Teacher (tatus %NT(&. >hile a workforce of 2:#::: staff trained to postgraduate"level is a step in the right direction# the aims of the C>DC sadly remains some way off $eing achieved. Binisters may cele$rate this milestone# $ut there are outstanding issues that the government needs to address. Firstly# no"one has $een $rave enough to tackle the pay and conditions of service for staff working in foundation years# and therefore the tens of thousands of staff working there remain relatively poorly paid. 'nlike their counterparts in school classrooms# early years staff are under"represented $y trade unions and associations and have never had the $enefit of a professional $ody to act as their advocate. Furthermore# the [email protected]
( has recently $een undermined $y an independent review into the early years qualifications framework carried out on $ehalf of the government $y Professor Cathy *ut$rown# of the 'niversity of (heffield. 9er interim findings attracted criticism from pre"school staff when she suggested that [email protected]
( should $e phased out and effectively a$sor$ed $y NT(. The implication was that# contrary to previous assurances# there was no parity $etween the two professional qualifications. >hat is now needed is a shift in attitude and understanding on the impact the work of early years professionals has on the development of young children. *umerous reports have concluded that getting the early years right and putting in place the appropriate interventions where needed is crucial to a child/s future academic and social success. @et the very people to whom we give this huge responsi$ility are still not $eing adequately rewarded or recognised for the work that they do in terms of their professional status# pay or conditions of service.
1ne of the $ig questions is who is going to pay the additional wages to employ this level of e pertise on a larger scale0 Putting up childcare fees would defeat the o$<ect and put early years provision out of the reach of many families# and at a time when parents are already struggling to afford the fees. .t needs a strong government to take a lead and to ensure that the remuneration reflects the importance of the <o$. Perhaps the first step should $e recognising the professional status of early years graduates. )t the 'niversity of >orcester 6 one of only eight national providers of the [email protected]
( programme " 4?K of our early childhood graduates gain employment within si months of leaving us. @et this is not reflected in our position in any media"created university /league ta$les/ $ecause of the D+9)/s classifications. There needs now to $e an acknowledgement of the rigour of the [email protected]
( programme that these students undertake# which includes the study of aspects such as the law around children and families# e pertise in the $irth to five age range# safeguarding children# leading delivery of the Early @ears Foundation (tage# child development and psychology# and health and welfare. This level of e pertise must $e viewed more favoura$ly than is currently the case. Early childhood professionals are educators# carers# family support workers# and so much more 6 taking on multi"faceted roles requiring a full understanding of the holistic needs of children and their families. They must $e valued for their knowledge as well as the responsi$ility entrusted in them $y parents and society in general. Karen Hanson is principal lecturer and head of the Centre for Early Childhood in the Institute of Education at the University of Worcester
&fsted introduces tougher nursery inspections regime
1nly a rating of good or outstanding now accepta$le# with satisfactory rating replaced $y /requires improvement/ ;aised hands at a nursery school. Photograph: Christopher FurlongG!etty .mages Tens of thousands of young children attend nurseries and pre"schools that are considered not good enough $y inspectors# figures show. 1fsted is introducing tougher inspections for nurseries and pre"schools# with those rated as failing at risk of closure if they do not rapidly improve. From Bonday only a rating of good or outstanding will $e considered accepta$le# the watchdog said. Those that fail to meet these standards could face having their registration cancelled# effectively closing them down. The old satisfactory rating will $e replaced $y ,requires improvement,# a change that has already $een made to school inspections. *urseries and pre"schools handed this rating will $e monitored and reinspected within a year. They will have two years to raise their game and $e <udged as good or risk $eing declared inadequate. 1fsted said nurseries and pre"schools rated as inadequate would $e reinspected within si months. )s of the end of Cune# almost a fifth %27K& of early years centres were considered less than good# with 2K of these rated as inadequate. That means there were up to 2E=#37= children in nurseries and pre"schools rated as satisfactory# and up to 2E#243 in places that were inadequate 6 23?#??7 in total. .n )pril the 1fsted chief inspector# (ir Bichael >ilshaw# said inspectors would $e tougher on poor nurseries and pre"schools $ecause ,no one thinks they should $e allowed to languish in their inadequacy,. ,. wouldn/t have wanted my child to go to an inadequate nursery and . don/t $elieve that any other parent would either# so we/re going to $e less tolerant#, he said. ,>hen we go $ack to reinspect an inadequate setting and it hasn/t improved# it/s likely that we may take steps to cancel the registration., 1fsted/s director of early years# (ue !regory# said: ,Jery many nurseries and pre"schools provide a good or $etter service# $ut we want to help others to $ecome good through our inspections. 1ur revised framework will give further reassurance to parents# and give the early years sector the opportunity to demonstrate that they are providing a high quality service in which young children can develop in a safe environment., +i- 5ayram# chief e ecutive of the Professional )ssociation for Childcare and Early @ears# said 1fsted regulation and inspections were the $est way to improve quality. ,The new /requires improvement/ grading# so long as it is underpinned $y ro$ust 1fsted inspection processes# will mean parents $etter understand what good quality care looks like for their children and will encourage more providers to improve#, she said. ,This is critical when we know that it is only high quality childcare and early learning that delivers the $est start in life for all children $ut in particular for children living in disadvantage., Davina +udlow# director of daynurseries.co.uk# said: ,>hile we $elieve that every child deserves the very $est education# we are concerned a$out the impact this downgrade could have on nurseries and hard"working staff mem$ers. The change $eing $rought in $y 1fsted risks adversely impacting staff motivation# resulting in more harm than good. >hat nurseries need is more support from local authorities and national government if there is to $e any improvement across the sector.
Schools concerned about child neglect
Teachers are worried a$out an increase in child neglect that they are ill"equipped to deal with (chools are concerned that cuts to services will mean more children will $e vulnera$le. Photograph: Bartin !odwin for the !uardian >e are walking across the $right# airy atrium of a newly refur$ished Jictorian primary in south +ondon. ) little girl reading with a parent volunteer looks up and waves enthusiasticallyA the headteacher# my tour guide# grins and waves $ack. The school/s positive atmosphere $elies the difficulties that some of its pupils face. 9alf of students here are eligi$le for free school meals and =? languages are spoken 6 ,which . think is incredi$ly enriching,# says the head. The headteacher 6 let/s call him Br (mith# as he has asked us not to identify his school 6 is a$out to introduce me to the manager of the school/s child protection and family services unit. (mith started to fund in"school family support <ust over two years ago# he e plains# $ecause he felt there was not enough intervention $y social services. 9e and his staff felt some of the children were showing signs of neglect that needed to $e dealt with here and now# and that the level of need a child had to $e e periencing $efore social services would take action was unaccepta$ly high. .n this school# <udged ,outstanding, $y 1fsted# identifying and dealing with instances of neglect $efore they escalate is a high priority. The team 6 whose mem$ers have e pertise in child protection# family support and early years development 6 focuses on issues many would think the responsi$ility of the local authority. This head $elieves the resource# deployed across his federation of four primaries# is pro$a$ly still not enough to protect all his pupils from neglect and a$use. ,>hat frightens me is . think we/re $arely scratching the surface here# and that/s with our heightened awareness and due diligence#, he says. *eglect is hard to define. The school/s deputy head recalls her dismay when a child arrived midway through the year ,really struggling with eating,. 1n investigation# it turned out his mother had never weaned him# instead crushing $iscuits into milk and ,still $ottle"feeding him at four years old,. Even with the e ceptional on"site e pertise now in place# she is ,always worried that you/ll miss some$ody,. ,.t can $e little things#, says Clare# a reception teacher# ,that they/re hungry every time they come into school# or eating crisps again. Jery often it/s non"ver$al signs 6 appearance# the way they smell sometimes. >e don/t do homework# $ut if the family activities are never completedA if the reading diary is never filled inA if there/s a stream of different people picking them up# even older si$lingsA all this stuff would pick up on my radar., .t/s not <ust physical signs and symptoms that teachers need to watch out for# however# says Coanne# who manages the special unit. ,. spent eight years doing early years $efore . did family work#, she e plains# ,and . think teachers need a very strong understanding of early years development $ecause it/s integral to recognising neglect. .f a child is not meeting milestones# it/s a sign that they may have e perienced neglect in the past., The children/s commissioner for England# Baggie )tkinson# is so concerned a$out how a$use and neglect are addressed in schools that she has commissioned research into how primaries are dealing with child protection concerns. *ew guidelines $ased on the findings will $e pu$lished this autumn. Physical and se ual a$use may have a high profile# $ut ,neglect is not a softer issue,# emphasises (haun Felly# head of safeguarding at )ction for Children %)EC&.
*ews coverage of the worst cases underlines his point 6 children who suffer from acute and sustained neglect can die. 5ut even where it doesn/t have such desperate outcomes# neglect can cause profound damage to children as they grow up. )n *(PCC study pu$lished last year shows that 2:K of 22" to 2?"year"olds had suffered from severe neglect. ;esearch carried out $y the 'niversity of (tirling for )EC shows that although teachers and nursery staff are $ecoming more aware of neglect# they often feel unsure what to do when they suspect it is happening. The study# Child *eglect in D:22# found that four out of five professionals in universal services 6 including primary schoolteachers# pre"school and nursery staff 6 have suspected children of $eing neglected# and 33K of primary and EMK of pre"school and nursery staff said ,the most helpful improvement in tackling child neglect would $e if they were a$le to report less serious suspicions $efore they $ecame worse,. .f a child comes into class $ruised or with a cigarette $urn# it/s easy to see there/s a potential pro$lem. 5ut neglect manifests over time# and often in su$tle ways. Teachers may feel reluctant to report the small things that worry them if they don/t feel confident their concerns will $e taken seriously at senior level. They can also $e an ious a$out getting it wrong. The emotional and practical demands on teachers# even with good support# can $e considera$le. 1rla# a year D teacher at the school# says she spent much of last year in almost daily contact with the specialist team $ecause of one child who had ,lots of issues,. (he points out that eliciting information can $e more comple when a child reaches an age where ,they $ecome aware that if they tell you things# things can happen Oto their familyP,. .n this school# having e pert staff availa$le takes the strain of making a difficult <udgment call away from teachers and means the information is shared with e perienced people who know what to do. (topping neglect from escalating $y $eing ,pre"emptive and active, has $ecome the priority# says Coanne. Every new mem$er of staff gets a 4:"minute session on safeguarding. ,>e also do an inset dedicated to safeguarding every year# and we take people through a case scenario# e plain how it was handled and then we/ll talk a$out what might have $een done differently., ) ro$ust reporting system is also vital for prevention and for $uilding an evidence $ase for referrals. There are pink slips that teachers can fill in and hand to Coanne or her team. (taff feel that it is worth reporting the o$servations that niggle $ut don/t necessarily shout ,neglect,# e plains Clare. ,.f they are getting five or si or 2: of those pink slips for a child# or for si$lings# she can start to $uild up a picture#, she says. >ith deep cuts affecting many services such as $reakfast clu$s and play schemes that might once have picked up on a family struggling to cope# this school"$ased resource is all the more crucial# says Coanne/s colleague# Emma. The team offers intensive coaching to adults who may not have e perienced good parenting themselves. They also put on sessions open to all# such as Parent !ym and the Family and (chools Together programme# to $uild trust $etween staff and parents. Early intervention# which can $e done not <ust $y social workers# $ut potentially in schools# should $e a statutory requirement in cases of neglect# says Felly. 9e points out that its cost"effectiveness has $een proved# and ,with resources reducing rapidly# you/re more likely to resource what your statutory duties are,. 5ecause of the school/s work# its local authority referral rates have dropped# $ut $oth Coanne and Emma are angry that social services are so stretched that the ,thresholds, at which any action is taken are continually# they say# $eing raised. The )EC research shows that a large num$er of social workers are worried a$out how neglect is dealt with 6 more than E:K felt that the point at which they were a$le to intervene in cases was too late# and 7:K thought that cuts to services would make the situation worse. Bore than half said that for children whose cases meet current thresholds# lack of resources was a $arrier to them $eing a$le to act effectively.
,.t/s desperate ... ./m sure the local authority wouldn/t like me to say that# $ut desperate# that/s what it is#, says Coanne. (he points out that making the case to social services that a child is $eing neglected can $e much harder than reporting other types of a$use# $ecause neglect tends to $e a slow"$urn# corrosive narrative rather than a single# e treme incident. 9aving to convince an administrative officer staffing the phones# rather than a qualified social worker# does not# she says# help matters to progress quickly. )t the 'niversity of (tirling# Professor 5rigid Daniel# who supervised the )EC research# says she was struck $y the e tent of the safeguarding role teachers take on. ,People are quite clear that they do have responsi$ility#, she says. ,There was a lot of an iety around neglect ... $ut people also know that underlying it is a $igger concern 6 you/re trying to stem a tide caused $y much $igger issues# such as mental health# su$stance misuse and domestic a$use., ,. think you should take ultimate responsi$ility#, says the south +ondon head. ,(chools are the frontline# and not <ust when things go wrong# $ut all the time# proactively and not <ust responsively., L )ll names of those working in the primary school have $een changed
Should new research on under-fi%es reshape our approach to de%elopment?
) compelling persuasive report highlights the importance of early child development 6 and it demands a radical response *ew research on early child development has led *o$el laureate Cames 9eckman to argue the BD!s should $e amended. Photograph: 9enrik BontgomeryG)P The first rule of any self"respecting target is that it should remain static. .n this# the millennium development goals %BD!s& have performed admira$ly since their inception in D:::. 5ut what happens if our understanding of how to meet a target changes0 (hould we shift the goalposts accordingly0 The pu$lication in Friday/s +ancet of a series on early child development %ECD& raises <ust that question in relation to the BD!s. The two"part series draws on new science and evidence to transform our understanding of the tremendous $enefits of programming for under"fives# and the risks of inaction. The findings are unam$iguous: poor nutrition# maternal and family stress# and poverty affect $rain development from the prenatal period or earlier. .f children are denied relatively simple interventions in their early years# their academic aptitude# cognitive development and a$ility to generate income as adults will suffer. Conversely# the evidence on the $iology# the psychology# the economics# all points to the value of early stimulation and early investment in childhood. )ccording to a *o$el laureate in economics# the new evidence around early childhood development does indeed require the BD!s to $e revised. Programmes must $e integrated. )nd# yes# more money is needed. That/s a tricky trifecta against a $ackdrop of glo$al financial uncertainty# yet the research is forthright 6 governments and donors simply can/t afford not to invest in ECD and in parents across the developing world. The report finds that the economic $enefit of ECD could give a seventeenfold return on investment if a developing country increased pre"school enrolment to 3:K. (o investing in ECD now will quite literally yield $illions of dollars in later years. )ccording to the report# the most successful and cost"efficient time to prevent inequalities is prenatally and in the first years of life. Equity in life chances means starting early# very early. The cru is a home focus# with parenting as the linchpin. E clusive $reastfeeding and early parent"to"child stimulation are key protective factors# along with maternal nutrition and education of mothers. 1utside the home environment# good quality pre"schooling# conditional cash transfer schemes and educational media are also important tools in the $attle for child development. .ntegrating early child development priorities into health programmes can have a dramatic impact too# the research finds. For this critical process to happen# changes are required in the way governments and development agencies go a$out $usiness. Jertical programming " of health# education# nutrition " has to give way to com$ining interventions for children. The answer may well $e to look at the lifecycle of a child# and ECD appears to $e the perfect vehicle to make the change. This is a point accentuated $y *o$el laureate Professor Cames 9eckman. ,The key new concept reported in The +ancet series " that . don/t think was present in the millennium development goals " was a sense of how the outcomes at one age were linked to the outcomes of an earlier age#, he says in a de$ate to $e aired ne t week on unicef"irc.org. ,>e/ve got to get children# all children# on to the right tra<ectory# so that they can take advantage of all the opportunities that they will have as they downstream# and they go into life and they $ecome adults. )nd the
millennium development goals simply didn/t recognise this dynamic. *ow . think we do# and so Othe BD!sP should $e amended., The +ancet series asserts that the payoff from concerted# integrated action around ECD would $e enormous. ,Early childhood is the most effective and cost"effective time to ensure that children are well prepared#, say the authors of paper ... 9owever# many governments appear reluctant to make the initial investment in under"five schooling. The 1rganisation for Co"operation Development %1ECD& estimates a minimum of 2K of !*P needs to $e spent to ensure quality early child development servicesA 1ECD governments spend an average of D.=MK. (ome central and eastern European and (outh )merican countries $udget :.EK for pre"school education# while the figure is as low as :.2K in Fenya# *epal and Ta<ikistan. *icaragua and (enegal spend less than :.:DK. ,'nless governments allocate more resources to quality early child development programmes for the poorest segment of the population# economic disparities will continue to e ist and to widen#, warns the paper. 'nicef# (ave the Children# the )gha Fhan Foundation# (tep $y (tep and the >orld 5ank are among those $acking ECD initiatives# $ut many $ilateral donors show signs of retreat# and the poorest governments are not spending enough. This latest report# however# $rings with it an in<ection of new science to support policies and funding. >e cannot afford to wait until D:2M to act on the evidence in support of early childhood development. • Gordon Alexander is the director of the office of research at Unicef's innocenti research centre
'iddle-class angst o%er technology in the early years
(tudy says nursery staff and /affluent/ parents are spurning new technologies in early years (napdragons nursery in 5ath is one of the first in 5ritain to use iPads to teach children. Photograph: (napdragons nursery >hile most pre"school children are playing with cars or drawing with crayons# a group of three"year"olds at a nursery in 5ath are colouring in on iPads and navigating their way through an interactive story$ook. (napdragons is one of the first nurseries in 5ritain to use iPads to teach children. .t is $uying touchscreen ta$lets for all of its si nurseries. ,Digital technology is part of children/s everyday lives#, says manager iPads. ,. think it would $e negligent for us not to focus on it., The iPads are used for learning the $asics a$out letters# num$ers# shapes and colours# as well as drawing and even composing music. ,(taff are also using it for interactive storytelling. The children can press the characters and see them move. . am not saying it should replace $ooks# and we would never use the iPads to replace valua$le outdoor time#, he says. 5ut a new study suggests many nursery staff 6 and parents too 6 see time spent using screens as a $ad thing# lia$le to make children unsocia$le or# even# o$ese. Dr ;osie Flewitt from the 1pen 'niversity says nurseries and pre"schools that engage with new technologies in constructive and e citing ways are ,the e ception rather than the norm,. Flewitt and her research associate# Dr (ylvia >olfe from Cam$ridge 'niversity# found many early years practitioners lacked confidence in how to use technology# were uncertain a$out its value# ,or feared the potential harm to /childhood/,. Their study# Bultimodal +iteracies in the Early @ears# found some parents and practitioners are afraid ,new technologies might damage children/s well$eing# social interaction and learning,. Concerns have $een raised in the past a$out how many children from poor families miss the opportunity to use computers and iPods# $ut this time it is educated# middle"class families who are in the spotlight# as well as nurseries. ,(ome children from highly educated# affluent families had very little e posure to new technologies#, says Flewitt# ,whereas some children from less affluent families were given e cellent support at home to develop their literacy skills through diverse uses of new technologies., The study found the children who were the most computer savvy ,were also the ones who took part in the greatest range of indoor and outdoor activities# and led e tremely diverse lives,. Flewitt says some parents have $een influenced $y $ooks and the media that have e plored how the modern world damages children. ,Parents are very vulnera$le to scaremongering a$out the dangers often associated with new technologies#, she says. )nd# according to +ydia Plowman# professor of education at (tirling 'niversity# for some parents and practitioners ,technology is seen as responsi$le for children/s lack of social skills and emotional development# the loss of pleasure in $ooks and reading# and attacks on their physical and mental well$eing., Plowman# author of a study called ;ethinking @oung Children and Technology# says parents pick up concerns from media stories a$out couch potato kids who prefer computer games to sport and $ecome antisocial and o$ese. )nd parents often draw on their own e periences of $eing a child to guide them: digital technology is
not part of their childhood memories. ,For parents who like to feel that they have a reasona$le level of control over their young children/s activities# keeping up with all these changes can seem daunting., Flewitt/s study# funded $y the Economic and (ocial ;esearch Council# concludes that parental $eliefs had a huge impact on how children used digital media# with some children developing sophisticated skills# while others lacked $oth skills and confidence. Practitioners in nurseries and pre"schools are in an ideal position to $ridge the growing gap# she says. 5ut they are not given the support they need. ,There is a lack of guidance on how to support literacy with digital technologies#, says Flewitt. The e ception was with children with learning difficulties or physical difficulties# as practitioners had realised new technology could really help. ,.f early years education continues to focus e clusively on traditional forms of literacy# then it will $e failing to provide all children with the skills they will need at school and in their future lives#, she says. Dr ;ichard 9ouse# senior lecturer in psychology at ;oehampton 'niversity and founder of 1pen Eye# which campaigns against the Early @ears Foundation (tage# often called the ,nappy curriculum,# is one of those who $elieves younger children should not $e using digital technologies. 9e points to ,an increasing $ody of research which shows that early e posure to these technologies actually compromises healthy child development in all kinds of negative ways,. 9e $elieves the tendency to not engage with new technologies is a conscious decision ,made $y highly e perienced practitioners with an intuitive feel for what is developmentally appropriate# rather than $eing the fear"driven# reactionary viewpoint that the researchers seem to $e assuming,. +iteracy e pert (ue Palmer# author of the $estseller To ic Childhood# says Flewitt is ,completely misguided,. ,Too much engagement with this quick"fi technology is making it more difficult for some children to learn to read and write#, she says. ,+earning to read and write is not easy. .t is a long# slow process. >e already have pro$lems with children not $eing a$le to hold a pen or pencil. 5ut we are giving our kids instant gratification all the time with .CT and it makes it harder for them to persevere with something that takes a while to learn., )nd in any case# ,)ny digital skills that pre"school children learn will $e out of date $y the time they are teenagers#, she says. Dr Cohn (ira<"5latchford# honorary professor at the 'niversity of (wansea centre for child research# $elieves the iPad and other new mo$ile touchscreen technologies have enormous potential in supporting children/s literacy. ,!enerally speaking# if technologies are suita$le for three" to five"year"olds# adults don/t find them too challenging., 9e agrees that ,there is an articulate $ut relatively small minority of parents who are very concerned a$out children/s screen time,# $ut $elieves the new technologies will change attitudes. ,The new mo$ile technologies often encourage interaction rather than the solitary and sedentary activity encouraged $y arcade games#, says (ira<"5latchford. Began Pacey# chief e ecutive of Early Education# a national organisation for early years practitioners# says: ,Technology in the early years is a very emotive area. There does seem to $e a middle"class attitude that technology is not always good. 5ut it is all a$out moderation and conte t.,
Bore child a$use cases discovered# no solution found Viet a! et "rid#e $ %ore and !ore child a&use cases have &een &rou#ht out into the open recently' Watchdo# a#encies( educators( parents and psycholo#ists have &een analy)in# the cases and discussin# the solutions for years( &ut no i!prove!ent has &een !ade' Jietnamese have $een once again stunned $y the images of the children violently $eaten $y the $a$ysitters of Phuong )nh private nursery school in 9CB City. They cannot understand why the women could $ehave so rudely to the small children. The child a$use had not $een discovered $y the local authorities# parents or neigh$ors until one day a man provided the video clip to the police. The parents of the a$used children only knew a$out what happened after local newspapers showed the images# e tracted from a video clip provided $y a citi-en to the police. The images turned up on a series of we$sites on Decem$er 2? and have $een spread out rapidly. The mother of +e Tuan Fhang# one of the children# said she sometimes saw the $lack and $lue $ody of the $oy after he returned from the school. 9owever# she thought the $oy fell into the ground when playing. (he could not imagine that a small innocent child could $e $eaten so ruthlessly. The mother of the three year old *guyen Tran 9oa $urst into crying when watching the video clip. Q. cannot imagine that my child suffered like this.R The $oySs life has changed a lot since they he $egan going to the school. 9e does not have good sleep at night# $ut sometimes wakes up# cries and vomits. 9e likes to $e put in stocks# strangles his mother and laughs. The two $a$ysitters *guyen +e Thien +y and +e Thi Dong Phuong have $een arrested $y the police. Jietnamese people have asked to punish the $a$ysitters heavily for their Qunpardona$le offences.R 9owever# even if +y and Phuong are heavily punished $y the laws# the worries a$out the $ad pre"school education quality still e ist. .t is highly possi$le that more child a$use cases and more wicked $a$ysitters like +y and Phuong would $e found in the future. The child a$use cases have $een $lamed on the local authorities who did not know what happened in their localities and did not take actions quickly to prevent the offences. Especially# people $elieve that half the responsi$ility needs to $e $lamed on the parents# who did not take care for the children well enough to discover the pro$lems soon. 9owever# e perts have pointed out that the core pro$lem is in the fact that Jietnam is seriously lacking nursery schools. 1nly few new schools are set up every year# while the num$er of children has $een increasing so rapidly. )s a result# parents have to send their children to household run nursery classes# the ma<ority of which are $adly equipped and unlicensed. )ccording to +e 9ong (on# Director of the 9CB City Education and Training Department# 2D non"state owned schools# 2=: licensed household run classes and 7E unlicensed classes# which were inspected recently# could not meet the requirements in terms of the material facilities and teaching staff. The department then asked the local authorities to stop the operation of the classes if the owners cannot upgrade the classes. 9owever# no one $elieves that the classes would shut down. 1nce the demand is still high# the classes would still $e running despite their $ad conditions.