Posts Tagged ‘dfe’

Do we really want our 2 year olds in school?

April 15th, 2014 by Sarah Steel



Following on from last week’s announcement by Sir Micheal Wilshaw that school was the best place for 2 year olds, there has been some really interesting comment in the press.

Here is just one article that suggests that the Head of Office and our Childcare Minister are not universally supported by the experts!






I have just returned from a few days away with my family, to a plethora of articles and comment on last week’s OFSTED report on Early Years provision. I had a taste of what was to come as I read the Sunday Times last week, which warned that parents were to hear how nurseries and childminders were failing their children. Then I caught a comment on line mid-week, with an exasperated nursery manager objecting to Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comment that nurseries were full of ‘the least able caring for the most vulnerable’.

Suffice it to say, I have been simmering gently ever since then.  My humour has hardly improved having read the report in more detail; how can OFSTED make a complete **** up of the nursery inspection regime over the last year, resulting in a significant number of inspection downgrades, most of which are currently being appealed by outraged operators? Not surprisingly, this has lead to an increase in the number of nurseries graded ‘inadequate’ – many of which have dropped from ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ due to highly questionable judgments by ill-informed inspectors. Sir Michael Wilshaw then further compounded the inevitable statistics by deciding that ‘satisfactory’ was actually no longer satisfactory, so everyone who previous sat on the right side of the ‘quality line’ has now become not good enough, with the grading being changed to ‘requires improvement’.  Next year, will he decide that ‘good’ is no longer ‘good’, thereby moving the statistics yet again?

However, one thing has come out of this week’s report. The Government, via our esteemed minister Ms Truss, has pinned its colours firmly to the mast; the best place for 2 year olds is in school. Our smallest children, whom many would see as little more than babies, some of whom are only just walking unaided and all of whom are in nappies, should be in class rooms. The Academies agenda has just been extended yet further, to encompass all bar our under-2s. Wilshaw refers to the large and varied group of experts as ‘the chattering classes’ for daring to suggest that we already push our children in to school to early.

I feel a mixture of real sadness and utter frustration that Wilshaw and Truss between them can dismiss such a large expert body with such a lack of respect.  I for one would like to call for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the pair of them. I am proud to be part of a dedicated and professional Early Years sector and hope that I am sufficiently open-minded to weigh up the research and experience of the real experts, who believe that pre-school children should be in specialist ‘pre-school’ environments. For our political leaders – the clue is in the name, ‘pre-school’.

Hooray!  An article in the Independent today reports the finding of Professor Joshi at the University of London’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies, who says that  Studies of previous decades showed children’s literacy and numeracy levels were around 2 per cent lower when mothers worked. Read the rest of this entry »






I was a bit surprised at the flurry of comments on Twitter this morning, following an article in C&YPN magazine

which stated that the National Day Nurseries Association would be trialling maximum current ratios allowed under the EYFS. Many people interpreted this as a project to trial the lower ratios proposed in Liz Truss’s ‘More Great Childcare’ report from earlier this year, which has met with near universal condemnation. I have been outspoke
n about my concern around the proposals, so was relieved to read a more detailed response from Claire Schofield at NDNA, which explained that a small part of the funding which has just been announced was going to be used on a trial of maximum current ratios. At present in the EYFS there is allowance for ‘rising 3s’ to be included in a lower ratio group if the children’s needs are being met. There is also the allowance for 1 member of staff to 13 pre-schoolers, if that person has EYP status. We have not used this allowance in any of our settings to date, but I do know some nurseries use the higher allowance with an EYP. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the debate, there is no harm in carrying out a properly structured research project, which may highlight problems or potential benefits, but at least it will have been studied carefully.

Whilst many folk are off to check out the latest fashionable childcare model in Europe, we keep telling ministers and officials that they aren’t comparing apples with apples. At least a project in the UK, looking at UK nurseries, might provide some evidence which we know will be truly relevant to our settings. Surely this must be a good thing?


Unruly 2 year olds in nursery?

April 23rd, 2013 by Sarah Steel

Last Friday saw Sir Michael Wilshaw explaining how OFSTED were going to change the current ‘Satisfactory’ grading for nurseries to ‘Requires Improvement’, in line with schools. Sadly, unlike schools, he is not going to make it a truly level playing field by giving us a few days notice of the inspection, so that we can ensure that the Manager of the setting is available to show the inspector around and give the best possible impression on the day. On its own, this change to words doesn’t unduly bother me, but recent experiences of inspections against the revised EYFS framework have shown the system to be pretty inflexible and inspectors are tied to a very rigid marking schedule, which leaves them little room for professional judgement. For example, if an ‘action’ is given in any area of the nursery, the final grading will automatically be only ‘Satisfactory’. In a large nursery there is always the chance that one member of staff will not perform well in front of an inspector, or there may be one room which has areas for development, yet the whole nursery will get the lower grade.

What did concern me as part of Friday’s announcement was the statement that to raise quality OFSTED would inspect more often and those setting that didn’t move from ‘Satisfactory’ to ‘Good’ would be de-registered much more quickly. Inspection alone only highlights areas for development, it doesn’t help settings to get better. At the same time, Local Authorities are going to lose their advice and support role for nurseries and there is yet to be any information about how, indeed if, this will be provided by anyone.

However, yesterday’s article in The Daily Mail really took the biscuit! Ms Truss seems to have fallen in love with all things French and the latest assertion is that French children have lovely manners – determined solely by their nursery – whilst our 2 year olds are an unruly bunch. Her article makes interesting reading;

As I spend most of my time in our nurseries, watching our very hard working staff teams plan meaningful activities which stretch and challenge the children, from babies up to pre-schoolers, I find this so disappointing. The political point scoring which has invaded what we do is tiresome and unfair on the staff who deliver high quality care and work so hard to help children to develop their own interests. I do not know how many toddler rooms Ms Truss has been in, but would be happy to show her some purposeful, engaged children in our nurseries, who can all say hello to visitors and behave exactly as 2 year olds should – including wanting to play with passion and not sit quietly at a desk. Come on Ms Truss, you can do better than this for Early Years.




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