Changes in Nursery Education

2dASVKZThe headline read, “Playtime is over in Britain’s nurseries,” my heart sank.

As a retired primary teacher of many years standing I always despair when I read of yet another education initiative. Ask any career teacher and they will tell you that they have lost count of the number of curriculum changes, initiatives, fads and fashions they have experienced during their working lives. Most of these ‘new ideas’ come to nought and do not further the cause of improving the education outcomes of our young people. Indeed, if you think about all the money which has been lavished on schools and colleges it is amazing that we are still turning out pupils with such poor skills.

The new thinking from the government education minister Liz Truss states that nursery children should be taught reading and maths at a younger age. I’m sure I’ve heard that before. Ask any level headed teacher living in the real world whether children of nursery age are ready for formal reading and maths and they will tell you that the majority of 3 and 4 year olds are not. Far from introducing formal education they should be spending those early years playing, exploring their environment, socialising, having fun and generally getting themselves ready to learn formally. We are constantly being told that children entering nursery education have poor verbal and social skills. Why do we feel the need to add more stress to the lives of very young children, society is already depriving them of their childhood. We seem to think that to improve education out comes at secondary level all we have to do is start the education process earlier and earlier but we have tried this before and it doesn’t work.

 It is difficult to know where these new ideas come from I can only assume they come from academics and government ministers out of touch with how children present in nursery classes and have no idea what is really needed to get them ready to take full advantage of their education prospects. Why do we feel that education is a vehicle ripe for constant change, these are small children we are experimenting on, they only have a few years in nursery and we owe it to them to get it right.

 The same Liz Truss also wants nursery workers to have much higher qualifications in order to introduce this more formal education. This seems to be paralleling the recent career path for nurses which saw all nurses having to have a degree. Most people now think we have lost those nurses able to provide care and compassion but not necessarily able to cope with a degree. We need nursery workers who enjoy working with small children who can provide a stimulating environment with care and love. Surely if we demand these higher qualifications we will lose many excellent people from the sector who feel the demands are beyond them. If we expect these workers to be more highly qualified won’t they rightly expect more money thus putting up nursery fees even more and many parents already find the fees prohibitive. More and more qualifications often give us the results we don’t.

I await with interest the results of this latest initiative let’s hope it’s not an army of unhappy children.



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