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Liz Truss and aimless toddlers

(227 Posts)
BoffinMum Sun 21-Apr-13 23:22:27

So, Liz Truss reckons toddlers are running around pointlessly in too many nurseries. She says it's due to lack of structure in miseries.

Anyone spotted this happening?

piprabbit Mon 22-Apr-13 10:33:43

My DCs used to run around with a huge sense of purpose when they were toddlers. Just because an adult briefly observing them might not immediately be able to spot what the purpose was, doesn't mean that my DCs didn't have a purpose, nor that they were not working hard to fulfill that purpose.
There is a difference between a small child working purposefully on something that interests them and a small child having a purpose imposed on them by adults. And I know which sort led to the most interesting questions and learning opportunities.

I find the most recent 'ideas' from Gove and Truss to have no foundation in how children learn, quite repulsive when you consider these people have responsibility for shaping childcare and education.

kelda Mon 22-Apr-13 10:38:37

Oh my children have plenty of time to run around aimlessly. Long and regular breaktimes at school, and long school holidays. Not to mention all the other times they are at home.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 22-Apr-13 10:40:46

Well, it's actually nothing impressive that you could get 3 year olds sit at a desk and do school work. I grew up in an east asian country (the ones which Gove admires supposedly) and I started school at 3. I don't know what it is like now. But in the 70s, it was three years of kindegarten which was basically prep school for a year 1 primary entrance exam. I remembered clearly we had to sit at a desk, in a pair, facing a blackboard with a teacher. I remembered standing and queueing to get into our classrooms. I also remembered sitting my primary entrance exam. My mum always reminded how smart we were that we could tell a simple story in two languages and also add numbers to above 10 for the entrance exam. (My mum is a teacher so we were well trained). Last year I went to visit my mum with my DD. I noticed there are many classes science, maths, music and language classes etc for toddlers from about 18mo.

Then I moved to NZ when I was in secondary. Honestly, I don't think my kiwi peers are academically disadvantaged at all. We could do their maths maybe 2-3 years ahead just because we had been drilled on it. But we aren't any smarter. By the time we are in the NZ system for a few years, many of my east asian friends are overtaken by native kiwis in exams.

I'm biased, and I'd rather my DD be out in the garden climbing a frame and pushing a wheelbarrow then sitting down and learn her numbers.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 22-Apr-13 10:43:09

I went to a different kindergarten than my primary. I have school reports from my kindy. I have seen pictures of me in the kindy uniforms and I even have vague memories of the kindy when I googled its web page. That's why I'm fairly certain they aren't memories of my primary years.

kelda Mon 22-Apr-13 10:44:24

Is she advocating school work for three year olds?

As with many continental countries, my children won't start learning to read and write and do maths until they are age 6. We are actively encouraged NOT to teach them to read and write before they start reading and writing in school.

I am regularly open mouthed when I read on mumsnet about parents worrying that their four year olds are struggling to learn to read.

MajaBiene Mon 22-Apr-13 10:48:50

I think there is a cultural difference between what we expect in early years in the UK compared to France/Belgium. Here we like nursery children to have a great deal of freedom to follow their particular interests, make choices, have constant access to the outside, we want the staff to know them well as individuals and plan activities and experiences around them. The idea of 20+ children with one teacher, being controlled and disciplined and producing artwork is at odds with our philosophy I think.

kelda Mon 22-Apr-13 10:51:57

MajaBiene if it is at odds with the UK philosophy, then why are UK children expected to learn to read and write at a far younger age?

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 22-Apr-13 10:52:20

kelda I don't think she said it in this interview. But she did advocate teaching reading and writing in nursery.

A quick google found

which links to

It makes sense when you think that's why she wants nursery teachers to have english and maths qualifications.

MajaBiene Mon 22-Apr-13 10:54:53

kelda at the moment they aren't expected to read and write in nursery (unless they are interested in doing so).

kelda Mon 22-Apr-13 10:58:33

That leads to the question, until what age is nursery school? Nursery/kleuter school in Belgium is until the year that the child is six.

What age do children start reading and writing in the UK? In Belgium it is the year that they are six.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 22-Apr-13 10:59:42

kelda I remembered visiting DD's current nursery and they told me one of the achievements they have is most of their kids can recognise their names when they leave for reception. (ie 4-5). I don't think they teach the pre-schoolers to read other than at this level. This doesn't stop pushy parents doing phonics with their preschoolers though. One of the mums in my NCT group is talking about phonics already and my DD has just turned 2.

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 22-Apr-13 11:00:47

kelda in my county, they start primary school in the year they turn 4. It's much earlier than Belgium. It should put more what Liz Truss is saying into context.

DorisIsWaiting Mon 22-Apr-13 11:03:13

Kelda my dd3 (3.10) has been learning phonics sounds at preschool. she can just about blend together 3 letter cvc words. This has all come from changes to teachjing at pre-school as the older 2 dd's learnt when they got to school at 4.5 and 4. 2 yo.

MajaBiene Mon 22-Apr-13 11:17:26

Children start primary school the September after their 4th birthday, and that is the year they begin to learn reading and writing.

Doris - there hasn't been changes to make it necessary to teach phonics in nursery, it is up to the individual setting/staff to decide if a child is interested or ready.

nannynick Mon 22-Apr-13 11:22:01

Even in the 70's we had structured pre-school. More adult guided back then. These days they want children to guide themselves, free access to resources. LT now saying no more access to resources and going back to adult led?

MajaBiene Mon 22-Apr-13 11:27:55

The problem is, high quality, child-led, small groups, graduate staff (all stuff we want and know is good for children) requires high adult to child ratios and is expensive.

To get cheap childcare we need more kids and fewer adults. Truss is trying to persuade us that actually everything we thought was important isn't. Instead of adults knowing their key children really well and planning individually, 1 adult and 20 children is fine (cheap) and we just need more control, more structure, less free play, less personal attention,

OneLittleToddleTerror Mon 22-Apr-13 11:33:21

Maja you basically summed up very well what I think Truss is trying to say. And what I'm very against. The idea of having teachers leading a large group of toddlers doing very controlled, structured 'school' type nursery. I just don't believe it's right for babies and toddlers.

MajaBiene Mon 22-Apr-13 11:40:25

It just feels a bit like storing children to me. I don't just want DS to be safe, contained and occupied while I am at work, I want him to really enjoy his time at nursery. He's a child who has no interest at all (at the moment) in sitting down and producing art work - he likes riding bikes, digging in the sandpit, building train tracks and counting things. He goes to an excellent nursery and I am so glad that they are building on his interests and letting him explore the things he loves rather than trying to make him sit down and make a Mother's Day card to bring home or whatever (although they have had some success in letting him paint with trains grin).

They just have so much time for sitting still, going to the toilet when told, following instructions, doing what everyone else is doing through the rest of their school (and work) life. It would be nice if at the age of 2 or 3 they could be individuals for a while.

codswallopandchips Mon 22-Apr-13 11:49:10

I just get the impression that she thinks toddlers are just so untidy. You know, running around, doing stuff all the time. They're probably not even quiet! They might not have proper table manners! What in heaven are these nurseries doing... shock

Bah. I fucking hate when politicians make unfounded and ill-informed announcements without any real grounding other than "that's the way I think things should be, so there". It's not based on research. It's just trying to get kids to conform and stifle their individualism and open-heartedness earlier and earlier. What next? Longer hours in school and shorter holidays? Oh, wait...

BoffinMum Mon 22-Apr-13 11:53:31

I think you can structure a bit of the time, for example you can make sure the kids all have a go at that day's art/baking/music project or whatever, and obviously you need to structure meal and nap times, as well as toilet times, or it would be complete mayhem. Then you can structure on the basis of whether they are learning inside or outside, whether they are in mixed age groups or in separate rooms, and so on. In addition you need to make sure at some point that they all have the basic skills for school, which are very simple IMO and include:

How to hold a book and navigate pictures and a few letters/simple words (quite different from 'reading' of 'phonics').

How to turn on a computer/iPad and use very basic software.

How to deal with being thwarted by other children without completely losing it.

How to take turns and line up patiently.

How to address teacher type people.

How to get coats and shoes on and off.

How to sort, count and order things (pre-maths).

How to hold a crayon or fat pencil so you get a good result.

How to paint without flinging paint everywhere.

How to help clear up.

How to ask for help if you wet your pants.

How to eat your lunch without making a fuss.

How to get out if there is a fire alarm without panicking.

How to concentrate on one thing for about 10-15 minutes without running off.

How to recognise your name on a peg or drawer (bonus points for being able to sign it in a card).

Now if every child in the land managed all this, I am sure Reception teachers would feel they were well served. I am of the mindset that this is just about all you can usefully teach them, as the rest is very dependent on whether they are ready to learn it. You can offer instruction in other things to kids who are bored or asking to do things, but it is completely immaterial whether they 'succeed' as nearly all the time they will crack it by age 6 or 7 anyway.

Weighing babies does not make them grow. ;.)

oldtoys Mon 22-Apr-13 11:56:57

i think she meant that nurseries should be training kids in the 'basics' of manners/good sharing/waiting your turn/learning to sit still etc while still allowing sessions of free play exploration etc

so that when they get to school, the schoolteacher doesnt spend her time on behavioural issues, and can spend more time teaching

I think that's what she meant. Who knows though.

MajaBiene Mon 22-Apr-13 12:01:06

I have never been in a nursery that doesn't put lots of emphasis on saying please and thankyou, turn taking and sharing, getting coats and shoes on and off (especially where there is free flow indoor/outdoor play), sitting still during snacks/meals/circle time (for the older children).

Squarepebbles Mon 22-Apr-13 12:31:01

Problem is 2 year olds should be running around exploring,to limit that is to not facilitate their needs however high numbers of toddlers running around isn't beneficial.

Soooo they need to cut ratios(they're doing the opposite), encourage the use of a nanny (like she has)or childminder(they're not) or support parents to be able to care for their own children for longer(again they're doing the opposite).

The stupidity of the woman is scary.

Squarepebbles Mon 22-Apr-13 12:32:34

Expecting a 2 year old to wait it's turn in a family environment is a whole different scenario to a 2 year old in a large group of 2 year olds.

They are babies.

AmberSocks Mon 22-Apr-13 12:37:05

imo kids need more time spent running around aimlessly,i some of the nurseries i visited when looking for a place(was looking for 1 day a week for my 2 boys to give me a break after the birth of my daughter,just gave up on the idea eventually as none of them seemed any good) there seemed to be too much structure to me,but then some people seem to like that.

Personally i dont think its good for children(anyone really but esp kids)to have every moment of their lives structured,its boring and it makes thing too predictable and stops them learning spontaneously.

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