MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Thu 14-Nov-13 15:57:35

Ofsted chair: Children should begin early education at two to be 'school-ready' at five

Last week, Ofsted chief Sally Morgan sparked controversy when she suggested that children should begin their education at two years of age. In this guest blog, she expands on her suggestion – and explains why she thinks that a ‘wraparound’ educational model could help counteract educational disadvantage.

Lead photo
Sally Morgan

Chair of Ofsted

Posted on

Thu 14-Nov-13 15:57:35


Early education: should children start sooner?

The importance of the quality of the provision small children have in early years settings is well documented, but as I found last week in the reactions to a speech I made, the whole topic is quite contentious! "Early years" provision includes nurseries, childminders, nannies, play groups and, of course, these are often part-time and mixed with time at home with parents or grandparents.

Despite the impression given by some of the media headlines, I do not believe children should start formal schooling at the age of two. Around the country, however, I have seen inspiring examples where infant and primary schools are also delivering high quality nursery provision for their local children. Indeed the 3-18 model is working successfully in many academies up and down the UK. I have had the good fortune to see some of these first-hand, and to talk to headteachers who know it has an impact.

In short, I would like to see more of this type of provision. We must ensure children dealt the toughest hand in life have access to highest quality pre-school education. Of course this should be led by play and discovery, but it also helps to prepare them for school. We should not be scared of that. The debate that has been played out in recent days sometimes seems to miss that point. Good nurseries are both caring and stimulating - places where young children develop social skills in readiness for schools. This includes things many of us take for granted, but not experienced by all young children: sitting and listening to an adult reading a book and looking together at the pictures, colouring and painting, sitting round a table having a meal, building with bricks. There is a false division between playing in a sandpit and emptying sand from a big pot into two smaller ones and seeing what happens; when does play become early education?

Nurseries attached to schools are uniquely placed to help young children master the skills and learning habits that will lead to success in primary school and beyond.

Here is where I get annoyed with the arguments from those who call for us to copy the Scandinavian style of children not starting school until they are seven. In the strictest sense of formal education, that might be true - but in these countries younger children will go to kindergarten. It seems to me that we are often fighting over terminology and semantics.

The beauty of the 3-18 model - and my argument is that this could easily extend to two year olds - is that it offers children the best chance of being "school ready" by the age of five. Nurseries attached to schools are uniquely placed to help young children master the skills and learning habits that will hopefully lead to success in primary school and beyond.

I know from the teachers I meet and the visits I make to schools, that a depressingly high number of children start reception class with the bare minimum of social and communication skills. This can be for a whole host of reasons. Clearly we have a duty to tackle the inequalities and disadvantage that some families face. But regardless of the root causes and how they can be addressed, we must surely take any steps we can to improve the life chances of these children. And this is not about absolving parents of responsibility, or somehow saying they should not play a part in their childs development, it is simply about offering more support where it is needed and can make the most difference.

It is good to see that politicians of all parties are talking about the importance of good early years provision for the most disadvantaged children. While I am not advocating that funding should be restricted to only one model it is surely sensible to encourage good schools to embrace nursery provision as part of their basic offer to parents and children.

Finally, lets not forget the importance of what is at stake here. The figures are stark; at present, by the age of five, there is a 19 month gap in attainment levels between the poorest children and their affluent peers. This is a disgrace and we need bold, brave measures to bring it to an end.

By Sally Morgan

Twitter: @Ofstednews

DeepThought Thu 14-Nov-13 16:07:39

Oh yes agree but please don't imply that you can only get the very best care education and experiences at school nurseries. A proficient childminder can offer all this.

DeepThought Thu 14-Nov-13 16:08:28

Oh yes agree but please don't imply that you can only get the very best care, education and experiences at school nurseries. A proficient childminder can offer all this.

nannynick Thu 14-Nov-13 17:02:35

Learning Through Play (was that the Preschool Playgroups Association byline many years ago?) is what young children do. They do it at home, in group care, and even out and about at the playground, park, on a train ride.

""Early years" provision includes nurseries, childminders, nannies, play groups and, of course, these are often part-time and mixed with time at home with parents or grandparents." Yet it still seems to come across that it's better to send a child to a nursery attached to a school.... why? Education can take place in various places, some nurseries have introduced Forest School where education takes place outdoors.

As a nanny children I care for have often attended a pre-school/nursery for a couple of sessions a week. The combination of different early years settings I feel enables children to experience different things - they socialise with peer group at pre-school, they go out and about with me experiencing the world around them.

Not all children are lucky enough to have parents who can afford to have a nanny plus pay for pre-school/nursery, many children may not go to pre-school at all. So expanding free provision of education to 2 year olds sounds good in principle but nothing is ever free, it comes at a cost and I hope that cost isn't the demise of community pre-schools by making parents feel they should be using the nursery at their local school.

NorthernShores Thu 14-Nov-13 17:02:51

Really? We qualified for the 2 year funding as my husband was made redundant. However we have a rich family life and I'm really not sure starting her early would benefit her, so we are going to wait until next Sept when she is 2 yr 9 months... that seems early enough. And even then she will just do 3 mornings until the following year.

We will continue to do playgroups. I can't really see the benefit to a pre-very verbal child from a "good" supportive family.

I thought most of the benefits only showed up in those whose home lives were difficult?

NorthernShores Thu 14-Nov-13 17:04:13

And gosh yes - I love our local community run pre-school. I really wouldn't want to send my child into the institution of school even earlier.

MrsDeVere Thu 14-Nov-13 17:10:03

As an Early Years Professional I can only think of one response to putting children into formal settings at two years old.


How about this? Instead of getting children 'school ready' we make schools 'child ready' and stop trying to shove tiny children into a model that does not work?

Free play, free flow nurseries...fine.
Early years settings being used to get toddlers ready for way.
I visit many nursery settings in my work and the ones attached to school are always run more along the school model. The ideology cannot help but seep in.
I understand that your idea is not for children to start formal education but I think you are being naive if you think this will not happen.
This is one of the reasons my children didn't attend school nurseries.

If our children started formal schooling two years later we wouldn't have half the issues we do now.

We are expecting children who are barely four to sit at desks, listen to adults talking for prolonged periods, go without adequate rests, be inside far too long and THEN we complain that they are not 'school ready'.

I also think the advantages for disadvantaged children is overstated. How much difference do you really think it will make to a 14 year old kid in a tower block that he in school at 2 instead of 4?

There is a huge push to get kids into two year funded places at the moment. Its seen as a panacea for all social ills. It can disadvantage children who are discharged from over stretched community services because they are now in education.

And don't get me started on the problems it is throwing up for parents of children with disabilities.

gruffalosmile Thu 14-Nov-13 17:30:09

I completely agree with posters above, I am the playleader at a small community run preschool, and I think we may have many advantages in being NOT like school. Young children need to learn more than just how to behave at school. They need time to be free, to dig up worms, to splash in puddles, to run about outside, to sit and play with playdoh for hours on end, to cuddle their caregivers, to mess about with cooking and sit with an adult to read books and talk about what is on their minds. The children who have the biggest problems with "school readiness" are those whose parents don't have the skills or the interest to do these things with them at home - OR the ones whose parents are over keen and pushing them to read and write before their little hands can even hold a pencil properly. In neither of these cases would going to a school-like setting earlier help with that! A part time, independent preschool (or nursery, or childminder, or playgroup, or time with Grandma or whatever) can provide the time and space these children need just to BE CHILDREN. We see the reception children at the primary school next door sitting at desks, counting, writing on whiteboards - they get hardly any time to play outside. I think it's terribly sad! They have a lovely sandpit and are supposed to have forest school but more often than not they are inside, doing structured activities. I don't think making our setting part of a school would do anything other than make us more like school. Early years is a distinct and valuable stage, let's value it and keep it special.

BlackberrySeason Thu 14-Nov-13 17:30:29

I strongly disagree with this. My son has had hearing problems and is speech delayed. His highly qualified and early years experienced SALT has advised that we keep him at home until 3. This is because in her view for him to be at home having one on one time with me is far better for his language development than being in groups at preschool.

Children learn through play and iirc there is no research to confirm that children under 3 get any benefit from group Childcare other than those who are from homes where they may not be getting the quality interactions they need for optimum development.

KatherinaMinola Thu 14-Nov-13 18:49:15

How about this? Instead of getting children 'school ready' we make schools 'child ready' and stop trying to shove tiny children into a model that does not work?


merrymouse Thu 14-Nov-13 19:03:18

I think the problem with this blog is the phrase 'school ready'. The school is there to educate children, the children aren't there for the benefit of the school. Early education should support children, and schools should adapt to the child, not vice versa.

Many schools are chaotic and noisy with too little space for lunch and play and some 4 year olds just can't cope with this no matter how much they are told to stand in line. What they need is calm predictability and the chance to enjoy learning (see any major early years educational philosophy of the last 100 years).

I don't disagree with children being in group settings and agree that Scandinavian countries often have children in group settings from a young age.

gorionine Thu 14-Nov-13 19:08:54


How about this? Instead of getting children 'school ready' we make schools 'child ready' and stop trying to shove tiny children into a model that does not work?


MaryPoppinsBag Thu 14-Nov-13 19:10:25

Sending children to school nurseries younger than 3 is a crazy idea. They need smaller settings with staff who have time for cuddles. Like pre school and childminders. Staff who don't have their eye on the year 1 phonics test!
And they only need a couple of sessions and even then they don't really need to go.

I'm a CM and the 2 year old I look after just wouldn't cope with a school based setting. She is staying with me until she is due to start school nursery in September. I cannot imagine her going to school now she is not emotionally or physically ready.

I provide a lot of things schools do anyway, maybe not on such a grand scale - I don't have the money for resources that school have. But my 'setting' (hate that word) provides learning opportunities in a more natural home environment. Schools are massive places and quite scary.

How do you tackle the toilet training / sleep requirements of two year olds?

We need to stop putting so much pressure on our children, as a mother of an 8 year old and 4 year old I am sick of it! My 4 year old has an Individual Action Plan first term in FS2 because he didn't want to sit at a desk and write his name. 2 weeks later he can do. They are also worried about his social skills, I think he struggles with the large class size and is just quiet/ shy. He is an articulate, clever and rather funny boy, but school obviously don't get this out of him.

Why not tackle the issue of class size instead? Give children and staff a chance.

Mine and my son's birthdays are days apart. Yet when I was his age I hadn't even started school, I started in January. By January he will have been in school for 16 months. That's why he is not ready! (I'm 34).

Leave children to be children!

Tackle the issues behind the problem. The answer is not to take them off the parents and send them to school.

SatinSandals Thu 14-Nov-13 19:13:10

One size doesn't fit all. If the child comes from a very disadvantaged background it is great to pick them up at 2 years to supply what the parent isn't supplying BUT it isn't necessary for all children.

BlackberrySeason Thu 14-Nov-13 19:23:08

Interesting and largely unanimous opinions so far on this thread!

I just can't understand why anyone who has ever seen a 2 year old would think this would work.

MrsDeVere Thu 14-Nov-13 19:25:39

I am sure that I am not the only person who is irked by the continuous references to 'the disadvantaged' (I don't mean your's Satin).

I am sure to those of us who are confident that our children would never be placed in that category, it all seems reasonable.

But to those of us who know damn well our kids would tick most of the boxes on the list, its beginning to really piss us off.

I know full well that poverty is a disadvantage in many ways but poverty does NOT = uninterested parent.

Equally affluence does NOT equal = happy, engaged parents.

For those children truly at risk due to consistent and prolonged stimulation, this is only a sticking plaster and I can pretty much guarantee it will lead to a false sense of security and an excuse of statutory agencies to step back.

A blanket policy of 2 year old schooling to pick up the very small minority of children who are genuinely damaged by the lack of parental engagement is madness.

It seems to me that this whole policy is based on the fact that many four year olds are behaving like FOUR YEAR OLDS when they get to school.

Is it really seeking to change the natural development of young children? confused

MrsDeVere Thu 14-Nov-13 19:27:25

consistent and prolonged LACK of stimulation blush

merrymouse Thu 14-Nov-13 19:30:44

Dd attended a nursery attached to a school when she was 3. She was only there for a term before we moved house. However, she was very shy, spent all her time with one of the volunteers and the best you could have said was the experience was neither here nor there. It didn't prepare her for anything.

DS (who has some SEN) attended a very structured montessori nursery (ie they were all trained to put things away and follow certain routines) and floundered badly in reception, partly because of SEN to be fair, but also because he found it too chaotic.

What is nursery supposed to be? If it is a day centre for children from families who need support that is one thing (and what has happened to sure start funding?) If its funded childcare that is another. However preparing children to be 'school ready' should not be an issue.

SatinSandals Thu 14-Nov-13 19:32:43

By disadvantaged I don't mean by money-I mean by attitude. Those without money can still talk to their child, visit the library regularly etc etc. I mean those who offer no stimulation. In those cases it is better to get them early, teach them to share, converse, dress themselves etc-the type of thing that most of us take for granted.

BlackberrySeason Thu 14-Nov-13 19:36:11

I understand what you mean Mrsdevere. My DF was from a very cash-strapped background but his dm and DF were amazing. He did not lack input at all. That's why I spoke of lack of quality interactions as I think this is not directly correlated with income/social background.

gorionine Thu 14-Nov-13 19:36:57

A blanket policy of 2 year old schooling to pick up the very small minority of children who are genuinely damaged by the lack of parental engagement is madness.
Totally agree, it equates to take children that are perfectly happy and cared for in a loving home because some might not be. Money has never, as far as I know, bought neither happiness nor love and is not per se a sufficient enough reason to decide to uproot a 2yo from their familiy for 6 hours a day!

merrymouse Thu 14-Nov-13 19:37:34

And honestly, at dd's nursery there were 24 children 1 teacher and perhaps 3 untrained volunteers. How on earth they were supposed to improve delayed social and communication skills in a couple of hours a day is anyone's guess.

BlackberrySeason Thu 14-Nov-13 19:38:49

Also, 'early education'??!! 2 year olds don't need education!! angry

SatinSandals Thu 14-Nov-13 19:54:06

You just need early intervention for those who don't get stimulus at home.

Catchhimatwhat Thu 14-Nov-13 20:15:52

Personally, I just think it is amazing how they will get all these well qualified young people, with degrees in child development and education, bags of patience and kindness, all happy to work for minimum wage, in a room full of snotty tantrumming toddlers, with pooey nappies.

BlackberrySeason Thu 14-Nov-13 20:20:37

Yes Catch and in small enough groups to offer anything to a 2 year old!

I think this shows a real like of ambition from the OFSTED chair. Personally I think they should be ready to be school educated from birth and that an early phonics programme adapted to the foetus in the womb should be devised. Early bird catch the worm and all that. Also play is sooo overrated let alone being allowed to grow at one's own pace

How bizarre whatever happened to my post?

Jax123 Thu 14-Nov-13 20:29:45

I think several childminders and nannies are being overly defensive here. I have put all 3 of my children in the nursery attached to their school from the age of 2, starting from a couple of mornings a week. They all loved it and got used to being in a "school environment" so the transition to Reception was really easy. The carers were happy to change nappies and help with potty training. Contrary to the beliefs of previous posters, the children are not expected to sit behind desks for 6 hours a day; they DO play outside, in sand pits, with playdoh, Lego, dressing up etc. Some of the activities focus on letters and numbers, but it is all learning through play. What's wrong with all that?

ooh it is doing the same to Jaxx's, Might be a glitch on the thread.

MrsDeVere Thu 14-Nov-13 20:55:38

I am neither a childminder nor a nanny jax and all of my five children have attended nurseries. The two youngest have had 2 year funded placements.

There is a huge difference between children going to a early years play based environment through parental choice and sending all two year olds to school based nurseries.

Working in the community I do NOT have any confidence the state would be capable of setting up kindergarten type settings that would give children age appropriate day care.
This country is floundering when it comes to accommodating non-average 7 year olds ffs.

Just think what we would do to a generation of two year olds.

MissMiniTheMinx Thu 14-Nov-13 21:00:54

I think its a great idea. I have two dc who are turning out quite differently. One went to a pre-school (which was quite formal) attached to a pre-prep and he is the most calm, centred and academic 12 yr old you could meet. The other went to a private/for profit nursery that was neither attached to a school or particularly formal with virtually no structure and little learning, he is some way behind and is rather less interested in learning. Just from my own exp I would if anything go further and say pre-school should start to incorporate more teacher led learning as well as child led play. It is, after all only for a few hrs a week.

My daughter has benefited enormously from attending an excellent nursery. It isn't attached to a primary school. I don't think that the quality of provision is in any way related to whether a nursery is attached to a primary school.

The things that truly allows her nursery to excel are:
- the high staffing ratio right the way through to 5 - much higher than required by legislation.
- high quality staff - the majority are level 3 qualified with years of experience.
- being a small enough nursery for her to know all of the staff and be recognised as an individual.
All of these factors contribute to a nursery which can genuinely be child led.

However high quality provision is expensive. Many nurseries are staffed by young, inexperienced staff, need to work to the minimum staffing ratios to maintain any profit margin and squeeze in as many children as possible. Moving provision to schools won't change that.

My daughter's nursery does offer the free hours for 2 year olds who are eligible. It makes much more sense to use the funding available to target those 2 year olds with truly high quality education than to provide a blanket offering of lesser quality care to those whose parents are able to afford it anyway or provide a rich and educative environment at home.

I know that my daughter's nursery will provide her with opportunities to learn the skills that will make her "school ready" but they have made it very clear that this does not mean training her to sit at a desk all day or drilling things into her. They intend to prepare her for reception - so a continuation of what they themselves do. Most of the staff have school age children, so have a good idea of what is needed for a child starting reception. The emphasis seems to be on practical things like getting dressed, eating a packed lunch independently and being able to sit, listen and engage for short periods of time.

When is the UK going to pull its head out of its arse regarding children and education (and childcare) and look around at the rest of the world. We already pack children into each stage 2 years earlier than anywhere else. I started school at 6/7, went into secondary at 13 and left high school at 18. As do most countries globally, for good reason!

Children here are expected to grow up far too early.

Instead of trying to "educate" them so early, let the poor little bugger be children! Set up good quality state nurseries (like the kindergartens the rest of the world has) where children are expected to learn only through play until they're 6 or 7, and then stuff them into uniforms and classrooms.

I can understand that under-privileged children need help and better preparation for school. But to force them into formal education earlier and earlier is not the way to do it, longer state-sponsored informal education (childcare) is the way. And it will help people (esp women) who can't afford private childcare back into work, bring in more income tax - everyone's a winner.

Look around you, UK. Please!!!!

MaryPoppinsBag Thu 14-Nov-13 21:23:52

Jax I am not defensive I am passionate about children's early years.

wrenno Thu 14-Nov-13 21:52:43

Rather amusing take from Miles Jupp on Lady Morgan's comments on Radio 4's News Quiz -

How early should we start preparing babies to ensure that they are ready to start early education at 2yo?

SoftSheen Thu 14-Nov-13 22:15:47

Terrible, terrible idea.

Parents should not be thinking about preparing their very tiny children for school, but about preparing them for life. School is only one part of their overall education.

What a two year old needs is a secure, reliable relationship with their caregiver, be that a parent or a substitute such as a grandparent or childminder. They do not need to be shoved in a classroom with 20 other kids for 6 hours a day.

I do think that many disadvantaged families could do with more help, but a better idea would be to provide more funding for children's centres so that they can organise more groups and activities for parents and children to attend together.

magnumicelolly Thu 14-Nov-13 22:49:26

I don't believe that many, if any schools are prepared/could easily be prepared for 2 year olds. Primary schools are far, far behind good early years providers. This kind of statement just shows how out of touch Ofsted are with the sector, and with how children need to learn and develop.

The disgrace is that the funding for 'free' places for 3 and 4 year olds is so woefully inadequate. The truly excellent settings lose money offering these 'free places' because the pittance they are given per child per hour by the government does not in any way cover the cost of providing the place. So now the 'free' places have been extended to 2 year olds- hmmm! The only settings that can offer these funded hours without making losses on them are the places that cut corners and have cheap, poorly qualified staff and not very good ratios. What a way to 'drive up standards'!

It is interesting that in the last year or so far more early years settings have been downgraded by Ofsted, especially after complaint driven inspections. The number of settings driven to closing by the things going on with Ofsted (with these events/problems also resulting in the recent Ofsted 'Big Conversation) is worrying in the context of Sally Morgan's idea that the 2 year olds should be in schools- is this the agenda behind how Ofsted are currently operating?

It has already been asked, but no answers have been forthcoming- who, exactly, inspects Ofsted? As there is certainly a lot of discontent in the early years sector at the moment- apparently driven by the attitudes and statements coming from high up at Ofsted. A sad state of affairs, which will not be improved by Sally's assertions here.

I am appalled at this idea. I think young children need to be with parents or people who care for them individually, not teachers who are educators first and not carers, IMHO so they do not need to be in school.

As MrsDeVere s elloquantly puts it w about this? Instead of getting children 'school ready' we make schools 'child ready' and stop trying to shove tiny children into a model that does not work?

Children are not little workers in the making to be churned out into the workplace, they are individuals and so although some might thrive in this type of situation, others will not! They will spend a lot of time missing their parents and struggling to cope with what is expected of them. How will that make them better prepared for school.

I can see that children who are either 'disadvantaged' in having less material things at home (like pens and paper and a garden to play in and books etc) or by having parents who can't read to them or don't want to read to them etc etc could benefit from being in this different environment (I mean to cause no offence at all, there are some parents who struggle more with things that would be helpful in early years). So how about a place where parents and children can be together, explore ways of learning about the world in general and their small words in particular with support available for parents who want it?

Why not provide more support for Toddlers groups and other voluntary organisations that provide these positive experiences for kids and support for parents?

Just my opinion. My DD went to nursery at 8 months part-time and loved it to bits. I had to work so there was no choice but there was a choice where to take her and she went to a private nursery at DH's work which was very well run. However, this would not suit all children and I am very suspicious of the wider desire to get kids school-ready. Don't we want them to grow up to be wonderful people, school is only a part of that. I agree that most of the world starts formal education later and I have a feeling our countries own study into this (the Rose report?) concluded this was better! And most other couteries in the western world have lower rates of bullying etc. I am sure there is a connection.

fossil971 Thu 14-Nov-13 23:15:07

I was irritated by the "early education for 3 year olds" that seemed designed to undermine ordinary, caring parenting and daily activities as part of a young child's life. Extending it to 2 year olds, who will hardly be ready to separate from their mums and who need a lot of looking after and interaction, is unspeakable. At this age secure relationships with the main carer or few carers are crucial and far more important than "education".

For struggling families the govt would be better to work with the parents to improve their confidence, parenting and relationship with their children, in fact to continue to invest in the many good projects that already do this, Sure Start and similar.

A person's development and success are down to a lot of things: security, self worth and family support - supporting these will set up a child for its whole educational life far more than a fat folder of 75 "early learning goals" that will surely accompany this ill conceived scheme.

NorthernShores Thu 14-Nov-13 23:18:18

Yes - didn't they cut back on all the funding for all the childrens centres sad It doesnt seem to really address the issues.

And yes to your list. I'm Oxbridge educated but lacking in security, self worth and family support STILL, with a huge effect on my (non)career, following a chaotic upbringing. I'm hoping to do better for my child.

Magnumicelolly - it isn't entirely true that only settings which cut corners and have cheap, poorly qualified staff and not very good ratios can offer the free/funded hours.

My DD's nursery offers those hours and is quite the opposite of your description (though I am obviously not privy to the salaries paid). It is also fairly expensive for the unfunded hours.

BlackberrySeason Thu 14-Nov-13 23:30:30

Fossil, I couldn't agree more.

fossil971 Thu 14-Nov-13 23:40:58

I'm not saying nobody should use childcare - plenty of us need to, and choose to. And lots of children develop really good relationships with their key workers and childminders. But not to be confused with "education", or held up as some kind of necessity <fumes>

littlemissbrum Fri 15-Nov-13 06:37:49

This is absolute madness. If there is a gap, why not help parents from deprived background parent rather than taking away the times with a book/blocks etc and getting someone in an institutionalised setting to do it instead? Kids need love at this age. Why doesn't she name it? There's a gap because of bad parenting. It's not the parents' fault per se, but why not try to fix it rather than removing the children for huge chunks of the day?

RevelsRoulette Fri 15-Nov-13 07:17:52

It feels to me like it's saying any environment is better than the child being with the parent and parents are so useless that the child should be in other settings as early as possible. Doesn't matter where they are - nursery, childminder, whatever. As long as they aren't at home with the parent.

I'm not saying childcare is crap or damaging, that's not the issue. There are very many fab providers out there. It's not about childcare, it is about the idea that parents can't be trusted with their children's care and development and that it needs to be outsourced.

I wonder if she realises how truly offensive that is.

Booboostoo Fri 15-Nov-13 07:42:33

I find it very odd that the only evidence appealed to for this recommendation are the author's own conclusion from her random school visits. Surely decades of educational studies provide us with some information on this topic (overwhelmingly that early schooling is not effective and may be counter productive, but, you know OP, academic search engines are available to anyone to look up so why not give them a go for yourself?).

NorthernShores Fri 15-Nov-13 08:04:47

Gosh revels -thats exactly how it felt when we told not only were we eligible for 2 year funding -but then rung to ask why we hadn't chosen a provider and that pie needed to be in in Jan. We were only planning to use it if I managed to find work. I may currently be broke but I can provide a good start for my child. I didn't like the thought that a private, for profit, run by teenagers nursery would be somehow better just because my husband was made redundant.

Riasaakshi Fri 15-Nov-13 09:59:04

Evidence suggests that later school starts are better for children all round ... anyone engaged with Educational and Psychological research can tell you that early literacy and numeracy, or 'formal instruction' does not help children.

Developmental Psychology studies that are long established tell us that children are not ready to learn in a formal school manner until they are much older, why does Ofsted and this Government ignore biology?

Little ones have yet to develop notions of Theory of Mind, so they are not suited to a formal environment where you need to understand what other people are thinking and expecting of you and WHY they are doing that... nor have they fully developed categorization in their mind which allows them to make groups and associations. Plenty of research shows that formal academic instruction really does not take hold till a child's vocabulary has expanded enough to allow them to deal with more abstract concepts properly... even at 5 years old children are not fully ready to deal with a classroom environment.

Basically what is suggested is pointless. Toddlers are not ready developmentally for school, and that is biological not social - exposing them to more school like environments won't do anything at best, at worse it could distress them and teach them that school is a confusing place where they cannot do anything they are being asked to do.

oodyboodyboocs Fri 15-Nov-13 10:30:21

Children in those earliest years of life need to be developing a strong bond with their families. I think as a society we should be providing support to those families where children are not getting the experiences they need to enable them to provide for their children's needs in the home not taking them away from their families into education settings at such a young age.

TwerkingNineToFive Fri 15-Nov-13 10:37:07

The problem with the current system is it treats everyone the same and asumes a equal level of parenting skills across the board. This results in some parents feeling patronised and dictated too and others being left without the support they need.

Many parents would ensure their children started school with all the skills nessiary and would identify and deal with any deficit while providing a nurturing loving home environment.

Some parents do not/can not identify and encourage these skills and their children would probably be better off in a preschool play based setting to acquire them.

How we provide a differentiated system is the hard bit.

Husbandplus3 Fri 15-Nov-13 10:46:40

This is a very interesting thread. Thanks for all the comments. They also are interesting.
When our eldest was around 12 months old we started thinking about the education thingy. Then when she was 2 and a bit we started looking at education options in earnest, knowing that if we didn't enrol her early we may not get the school close to where we lived.
We looked at home schooling, private schooling, public schooling and so on. Whilst looking at home schooling curriculum we came across Starfall. Our daughter was just about 2.5 at this time. About the age you all are discussing here. She was sitting on my lap whilst I looked at this on the computer. She was absolutely fascinated. We decided to see how far if we could teach her the alphabet using Starfall. Our aim was one letter per week. Well, she loved it. Six weeks later she knew the entire letter. She could recognise any letter, anywhere.
She did 3 year preschool in a formal setting and at 5 waltzed into school like she was made for it.
Our second child was the same almost. She also has breezed through school. Loves it. Enjoys it.
Timothy we have done slightly different. We walk our girls to school each day. On the way to school there are signs with big letters and numbers. We used those signs to teach him his alphabet.
Should a child start education at 2? Maybe. It worked for us. But for some of our friends it didn't work at all.

Booboostoo Fri 15-Nov-13 11:03:59

God forbid anyone should rely of facts and studies when a good old emotive argument about how we are failing our precious little ones will get the job done (provided the job you are interested in is self-promotion of course).

magnumicelolly Fri 15-Nov-13 12:07:31

Breathe slowly- yes, they may well offer the funded hours at your nursery. But if it is a good one, they probably make a loss on the hours- i.e. they are funding it themselves, the government aren't!!

magnumicelolly Fri 15-Nov-13 12:09:33

Just noticed your comment that it is also expensive for the unfunded hours- yes, this will be one of the ways they recoup their loss on the funded hours- the money has to come from somewhere.

craftykids1 Fri 15-Nov-13 12:11:49

Totally agree with the idea that some children would be better off if they spent some time away from the home at an earlier age. Everyone moans that these poor children neglected, hurt or even killed slip through social services net. This would be a perfect way to monitor this. However school at this young age is not the answer and I doubt the state could accommodate it resources wise i.e. financially or resource wise. Nursery would be an option but at this young age I think a child minder would be best. Children are learning to communicate at this young age amongst 100 other things and need more support and individual care than any nursery can claim to offer. On one occasion my son was sent home in some elses trousers aged 2 1/2 no one could tell me why or where his other trousers are? My friend sent her son to another nursery with cough mix they gave it him twice and overdosed him but only phoned her to complain that she should not have asked for it to be given and they only given prescribed medicine! At this age children need to socialize more gradually they need to learn about themselves and others slowly at the same time as learning so yes insist on extra care a few hours a week but don't insist on nursery.

magnumicelolly Fri 15-Nov-13 12:14:43

Crafty kids, I think that depends on the individual nursery and childminder. You get some great childminders and some ropey ones. You also get some great nurseries and some less good ones.

UriGeller Fri 15-Nov-13 12:51:25

I'd like to know what "prepared for school" actually means.

I can see that for certain children from certain families might benefit from an environment outside the home where they can get some basic learning (to speak coherently, to use cutlery, to toilet themselves, to take turns, control their tempers and be pleasant to others), this is "prepared for society" but for the most part very small children need a start where they are able to develop a sense of security and attachment to their family, while having their boundaries and horizons gently widened before being thrust into a conformist setting like mainstream school.

Early years schooling just seems to me like a different way of saying "round up the kids and stick em in a holding pen so the parents can work"

Mythoughtis Fri 15-Nov-13 15:35:16

I understand Sally's thoughts, but I work in mental health services and have seen an increase in stress and anxiety across the board from young children through to adulthood, which can develop into long term and prolonged illness. I am greatly concerned by our growing culture of insisting young people, and their parents (in this instance as young as two) to feel pressure to be formally educated, achieve and make high expectations, which will have repercussions for the future of our young children's health. I am in no way saying that we must not encourage our children to learn and be educated I just feel that we need to, generally as a society, put more emphasis on play and encourage more fun for everyone, and therefore building self esteem and confidence and a more robust future for us all.

PACEYchildcare Fri 15-Nov-13 16:23:28

PACEY has read this debate with interest. Like many Mumsnet users, we believe that childcare has an important role to play in helping children to become ready not only for school, but life in general. We know that a play-based approach to learning is the most effective way to support a child's holistic development, and providing them with the social and communication skills they need to thrive. We've just explored this very subject in our recent School Ready research report, which you can read here:

We also know that parents are concerned about 'schoolification' of the early years. We strongly oppose current moves towards increased formalisation of early years settings, such as the introduction to introduce base-line testing at aged five.

It's also crucial that parents have a real choice about childcare. Whilst nurseries attached to schools can provide excellent care, so too can other forms of early education delivered by nannies and childminders. We want to see national Government and Local Authorities encouraging a diverse childcare sector, supporting high quality childcare professionals in both domestic and non domestic settings, providing the whole range of care that parents want for their children.

MrsDeVere Fri 15-Nov-13 16:32:21

I understand the argument re children at risk being at nursery and how that can help to ensure they don't fall through the net


Unless you make 2 year nursery school compulsory you cannot force even the most at risk families to send their child in.

And you can only make it compulsory across the board, you cannot create a criteria for compulsory 2 year education.

The most at risk, chaotic, hard to reach families would just not bother. Their children would still fall through the net.

Those that want to engage (even if it takes a lot of work to get them to that point) already qualify for 2 year nursery funding.

As others have wisely said, families need support, not just removal of children into settings for the day. Any therapeutic nursery placement has to be done in conjunction with a family support package.
Or it is at best a bit of respite for the child and at worst instead of proper safeguarding.

Swanhilda Fri 15-Nov-13 18:30:41

In an ideal world children would benefit from perfect nurseries with loads of staff and excellent facilities. But those nurseries already are in short supply for 3 year olds. Even Reception classes have their limitations in terms of staff ratios and what is physically possible to achieve with 30 children in a small space. Why is that going to be any different earlier? Where is all this money going to come from.

It might start well, but very quickly people will get used to the idea of mediocre state nurseries for 2 year olds. Just like we accept that our 4-5 year olds might not entirely enjoy being in Reception - yet we put up with it because it becomes the norm.

Institutions stop working for the individual quite quickly and take on a life of their own - bureaucracy takes over, targets, health and safety, form filling, just getting through the day etc. Parents are in a unique position of actually being interested in their own children most of the time, why not give them more support to engage with them. Childcare is a different issue to child enrichment.

I remember visiting my child's nursery and the minute I entered the room, I was surrounded by children, longing for adult interaction. It was wonderful Montessori nursery with highly trained committed staff, and the children loved it and only for a few hours a day, but essentially children long for 1:1. They are programmed to need a lot of adult input, not just to socialise with their peers. How are nurseries going to come up with all these highly trained, interested 1:1 or 1:3 even? Who is going to have time to read stories, sit and play with the children on a regular basis. The children will be trained to work in large groups, which suits school environments, not necessarily to suit their development.

ladyliberty Sat 16-Nov-13 09:57:23

2 years old is very little - it seems a shame if they can't be allowed to develop at their own pace by pottering and playing with plenty of 1 on 1 attention.

RobinaPhillips Sat 16-Nov-13 12:21:57

How about remembering the Sure Start mantra "every child matters" and making funding available for all 2 year olds to get specifically tailored 'education'.

This might be time with Grandma, in a preschool, school nursery, SENCO, e.t.c.

Then concentrate on a play based policy to support all providers to, as so elequently put above, make them child ready.

KatherinaMinola Sat 16-Nov-13 23:10:30

So how about a place where parents and children can be together, explore ways of learning about the world in general and their small words in particular with support available for parents who want it?

It's called Sure Start, Italian - you know, the infrastructure that the current government's dismantling.

juule Mon 18-Nov-13 12:53:10

An article in the New Scientist:Too much, too young: Should schooling start at age 7?

"A long-running debate on this question has been reignited by a letter, signed by about 130 early childhood education experts."

juule Mon 18-Nov-13 12:55:03

What does "school ready" mean?

confusedabouted Tue 19-Nov-13 17:23:20

I can see how it would benefit kids from deprived areas/families but otherwise i think its better for them at home.

BlackberrySeason Wed 20-Nov-13 06:17:43

Pretty resounding 'no' to your idea, then Ofsted!

Lovemykid Mon 02-Dec-13 10:31:01

I agree with Swanhilda. I feel that if the nursery is good then that is a viable option, but it is hard to find one that is suitable for your kid's needs and is affordable. If the situation enables a parent to take care of the kid and do the learning through playing with them, then it is a good alternative. To be honest, every child and home situation is unique, so there is no definite answer for this.

For me, I stay at home with my kid and try to let him have a childhood while also teaching him myself. I use websites like that have good educational videos. I tried youtube for a while but it is so hard to find appropriate videos. Miniteve is free too and is developed by educational experts. I also try to teach my kid by doing outdoor activities to mix things up.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now