MNHQ here: seeking your views on 'school readiness' and early education for a debate in Westminster Hall

(118 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 08-Jul-16 16:53:37

Hello

We've been contacted by Parliament's Public Information and Resources Group; they're interested in hearing your thoughts on children's early years development and school readiness, to inform a debate that will be held at Westminster Hall this coming Tuesday (July 12).

The debate has been called by James Berry, Conservative MP for Kingston and Surbiton, and here's what he has to say about it:

"We sometimes think of education as starting only at primary school or once children have reached their fourth or fifth birthdays, but this is far from the case. Even the very youngest children are learning all the time and a growing body of research shows that this early learning is vitally important; early education and childcare play important roles in children’s life chances."

"The doubling of the early years free childcare commitment to 30 hours is an opportunity to look at what actually goes into this provision. How can we get our children ready to have the best possible start at school?"

"I have called a debate in Westminster Hall, together with a cross-party group of MPs, to examine this issue from all sides and to inform future government strategies on the topic."

James would particularly like your input on the following questions; your responses may be referred to during the debate (which you can watch at 9.30am on Tuesday July 12 here - or indeed attend in person.)

Questions
*What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

*What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?

*What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?

*Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?

Thanks
MNHQ

meditrina Fri 08-Jul-16 17:05:00

Before they get to the questions, can I pick up on

The doubling of the early years free childcare commitment to 30 hours is an opportunity to look at what actually goes into this provision...

What free childcare ?

The Early Years Grant (currently at 15 hours) is explicitly for early education, not childcare. So what is this current childcare of which he speaks?

Are they trying to conflate early education and childcare in a way that it has not been lumped together before? If so, why?

ghostyslovesheep Fri 08-Jul-16 17:07:30

*What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years? - Books and the time to read with them

*What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home? - Mine are no longer young but I found having access to a library and book focused activities, Sure Start Centres and their different groups and classes and my HV where all useful

*What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications? I think the current standards are enough

*Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment? - good LORD - NO!

Acopyofacopy Fri 08-Jul-16 17:14:24

*What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

The fact that we could afford for me to be a SAHM.

*What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?

Extend maternity leave / protection for mothers. In other countries maternity leave can be up to one year.

*Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?

Absolutely not!!! I would be very much against testing.

loosechange Fri 08-Jul-16 17:18:24

*What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

Difficult to answer as a non teacher, but I suspect talking and listening to them, giving them a voice, and instilling a love for reading has made a major difference.

*What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?

Reverse the library closures. This has been a disaster. My local library has remained open volunteer led, but I would attend infrequently if I had to drive the children to the main library that stayed open.

*What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?

They have adequate qualifications. They don't need any more training and targets.

*Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?

I would absolutely oppose testing to gauge attainment for pre school children. And any development on top of the existing syllabus. My pre school had a folder full of milestones the children were assessed against. Any expansion of this and pre school too will turn into a world of tickets boxes and targets.

My six year old already talks about conjunctions, and my just five year old told me what symmetrical meant, whilst struggling to pronounce the word, due to the new curriculum. What's next - Latin in reception year.

I agree the focus should be on early learning, and supporting this, but no more syllables or tests.

loosechange Fri 08-Jul-16 17:20:58

Sorry - tickets boxes and targets should be tick boxes and targets.

TheCrowFromBelow Fri 08-Jul-16 17:27:57

Play based learning and raging at home made the biggest difference to my two.

Absolutely not target based or syllabus driven.
Carers for very young children need specific skills and they do not need to write reams of reports, or additional training over and above current standards. What's needed is more access to community facilities that celebrate and encourage learning, so more SureStart centres, more library funding, better outreach.

Let's stop weighing the pig and actually feed it for once.

TheCrowFromBelow Fri 08-Jul-16 17:29:25

Reading at home. blush

unlimiteddilutingjuice Fri 08-Jul-16 17:40:45

OK, I'll bite:

"What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?"

Nursery School (Just the free 16 hours at age 3) has been fantastic for DS now aged nearly 4. I saw an immidiate improvement in his language. Then a steady improvement in his social skills. Although he may always be shy- he can now introduce himself to other children and join in with their play. They also did a lot of work with him on "Now and next" to improve his planning and concentration skills. He is also starting to recognise a few letters of the alphabet- which is lovely. I think they use some kind of special early years teaching method from the bronx. Whatever it is- its working really well for him!

"What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?"

We're in a "deprived area." As a result I was innundated with "interventions" when both kids were born and at occassional points since. Mostly this has taken the form of piles and piles of leaflets.
Its as if professionals feel like they have this tiny opportunity of time when we might listen and then rush to tell us everything at once.
Its actually the worst time to take in new information and really overwelming. The key message for the early days should surely be- "Here's how to feed, heres how to put them down to sleep, heres what to do if you can't cope."
Anything more is just anxiety provoking at a point when you've not had the time to build confidence in your ability as a parent.

The other thing I've noticed- its rare to be approached by a proffesional from a position of respect and equality. Too often there is a subtext of: "You and your parenting are a problem to be solved" as if we are a barrier to our childrens success rather than an asset to it.

DS's nursery (which as I mentioned is excellent for him) is terrible at this. There are notices up in reception literally saying "This service is aimed at hard to reach families." Try translating it out of social worker speech and see if we're still "hard to reach"!

More widely I would, to some extent, question the focus on "improving learning and development at home." While its true that outcomes do start diverging in early years- this is for much wider social reasons than what parents are doing in their own homes. I think rather than look at social inequality more broadly- theres a tendancy to put pressure on parents as individuals. Often in the form of trying to amend the behaviour of working class parents to more closely resemble what the middle class regard as their own virtues. Its unhelpful.

"What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?"

I have mixed feelings on this. I think the main thing for a childminder is to provide a caring home like environment (especially where littlies are concerned). I'm not necessarily looking for education.
Where nurseries are concerned- I do think its useful for the practicioners to have a grounding in peadegogy. I would prefer to see tertiary study encouraged for progression within the workplace rather than as an initial condition of employment however.

"Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?"

Syllabus maybe. Testing definately not!

ilongforlustre Fri 08-Jul-16 17:50:17

*What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

My children both attended early education sessions at our local children's centre through universal services. Genuinely caring, experienced and knowledgeable staff who built positive relationships with them and me were invaluable. Learning through play, spending quality time and making them feel loved, valued and accepted were what both I and these staff put our energies into. I wouldn't change a thing.

What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?

As a Mother I felt expected to work full time, parent full time, educate full time, provide unbroken attention to my children, keep a clean and well run home, provide nutritious home cooked meal all the time, take the children to endless activities, engage with the school/childcare etc etc. Their Father feels much the same. Perhaps the government could make it easier for parents to actually be at home during their children's early years in order to improve their learning and development without killing themselves.

*What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?

I now work in the children's centre my children once attended. I would like to see the government increase staff to child ratios. You want quality provision, well qualified staff, creative, well resourced and well planned activities... but you also want it on a shoe string.

I work in a pre-school room. 24 children with 3 staff, some of those children are vulnerable, some have SN. The workforce want exactly the same things for Early Education as the government does. In reality I can barely get out of the room for a glass of water much less plan or resource activities. Heaven forbid that a child should fall over or have a toileting accident. What happens when overworked and stressed staff start dropping like flies? (It's chaos by the way).

You seem to want Early Years Settings to run like schools. I should plan like a teacher, assess and test like a teacher, run the room like a teacher and engage in personal development like a teacher. But I'm not paid like a teacher... no...I get minimum wage. If you want a decent workforce pay a decent wage.

*Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?

I was under the impression that we had the EYFS, syllabus and targets no? We already assess, three times a year, and tailor support and activities etc. accordingly. We don't need to 'test' 2, 3 and 4 years olds for heavens sake.

You need to be aware that some (although by no means all) of the children who come to us as two year olds don't know how to sit at a table, or drink from an open cup. Many have speech and communication difficulties, some don't even know how to play. Some of these children have a long, long road to travel to catch up with their peers.

It's not about gauging attainment its about children making progress. That looks different for every one of them. You don't pass or fail at being a person you know.

BertPuttocks Fri 08-Jul-16 17:51:15

I agree with Meditrina about the way that the 15 hours of Early Years Education appears to have suddenly changed into 15hrs of childcare. What is the reasoning behind this mis-labelling?

What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

Having time to play and actually be a child.

What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?

Increase the funding for libraries so that we can re-open them again and actually use them.

What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?

I would like nursery staff and childminders to be free to engage with the children in their care without having to first ensure that it meets the latest version of whatever targets the government has set. I would like them to be able to spend more time with the children instead of filling in endless amounts of paperwork.

A relevant qualification in child development would be useful. I also think that if they are to be expected to have even more qualifications then they should be paid more to reflect that. Treat them as professionals and not as glorified bottom-wipers who only deserve a pittance.

Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?

No we don't need a syllabus or targets. No I would not support testing of any kind.

somersetsinger Fri 08-Jul-16 18:03:04

What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

My child is still very young, but so far, my local Children's Centre has been great. They have good, supportive classes that have given me confidence in my parenting and helped me to avoid becoming an isolated mum.

What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?

Pretty happy with the support from my health visitor. She seems well informed and enthusiastic. There are fair sized gaps between visits, though. I'd be happy with a few more meetings.

What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?

Not qualified to judge yet. But given the pay, I can't see how childminders and nursery staff could afford further training. Unless the government were paying?

Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?
No and no. Children (babies, really) need the freedom to learn at their own pace, in an unstructured way, so they can have fun!

PenguinsAreAce Fri 08-Jul-16 18:10:28

What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

Being looked after 1-2-1 24/7 by parent/nanny up to the age of 2-3yrs. This involved one or both of us staying at home/reducing hours (various solutions for different children). Decent maternity leave entitlement was crucial. Support from children's centres was the best state support.

*What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?

Fund children's centres.

*What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?

Breastfeeding support training for those working with families with 0-2s. Healthy eating training (see First Steps Nutrition charity). More physical activity, and less focus on mark making and pre-reading. Less sexism in nursery rhymes, stories, themes and play. The pink/blue, pretty/strong, fights and saves/pisses about in princess dresses stuff is ubiquitous in nursery schools. Also training in attachment. And less focus on encouraging parents to dump young children and run despite screaming.

*Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?

No. Let teachers assess. Focus on relationships over attainment.

MindfulBear Fri 08-Jul-16 18:31:45

Before we start let's be clear childcare and education - are we now saying these are the same thing? This sounds like dangerous territory

MindfulBear Fri 08-Jul-16 18:41:10

Questions
What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

^Different things contributed at different times:
1) Almost a year at home with me, his mum, fully focused on him. ^
2) Then fabulous childcare from a childminder when I returned to work. She only had 1 or 2 other kids so he had lots of attention and they attended playgroups every day and spent lots of time outdoors
3) moving overseas when he was 2yo and spending almost 2 years outdoors without the health & safety overkill seen in the uk - climbing trees, riding bikes, physical play with his friends, exploring the outdoors, learning to swim & be independent in the water. Now at age 4yo he seems so much more physically able than other kids older than him! In turn this has helped his emotional development and his interest in the world around him.

What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?
Longer paid maternity and paternity leave in the first 6 years of life. More parks and outdoor spaces with kid friendly areas - incl trees they can climb.

What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?
They need to be loving and caring and not be surrounded in red tape. And there needs to be more of them. I am not interested in their educational attainments for a child under the age of 4yo. It's more important that the child is treated with respect, is loved, talked to and played with and helped to develop as a child. I don't think a qualification is of any use in this assessment.

Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?
^No no no no no.
No syllabus. No targets. And definitely no testing. This is unnecessary before secondary school. I am vehemently against any of this for early years.^

londonmummy1966 Fri 08-Jul-16 19:49:23

Health visitors that visit would make a big difference.

The thing that was most useful was being able to take the little ones to the local library to have a story read to them and then choose books to take home and read. Now the Council is trying to close the local libraries down.

Convenientflush Fri 08-Jul-16 20:11:51

As a parent of 2 children with special educational needs, I think there needs to be more funding for children's health services.

In my area you have to wait about a year for a hearing test.

The speech and language therapy service is currently COMPLETELY CLOSED to new referrals.

My daughter has been waiting for an occupational therapy appointment for nearly a year.

The wait for an ASD assessment is years and years.

Children with hearing difficulties, speech delay, social/communication difficulties, problems with fine/gross motor skills are going to find it more difficult to be "school ready".

A year is a long time in a small child's life to wait for support and therapy they may need.

Purpleprickles Fri 08-Jul-16 20:27:42

What has been the greatest contribution?
Play based curriculum for EYFS which covers all areas, not just maths and English. Children being encouraged to be creative, to investigate, to try things out without the fear of making mistakes. Also the importance placed on outdoor learning and allowing young children to have the space to play and learn outside of a classroom and away from a desk.

Testing- no no way. All settings will already use their own way of monitoring children meeting their developmental milestones. Young children do not need tests. Some of the dfe approved providers for the Reception baseline this year were appalling- finding out what a child can do and knows via a test on an iPad! EYFS practitioners and parents know what their children can do through playing with them and making observations.

nennyrainbow Fri 08-Jul-16 20:38:28

I think the changing of the word education to childcare boils down to the fact that the 15 extra free hours is only being offered to families where both parents ( or the single parent) works at least 16 hours a week. Therefore, if it were to be billed as 30 hours free education, then the SAHPs would be up in arms, because the children of working parents are benefiting from twice as much free 'education'. Maybe they should re-word it as "the continued provision 15 free hours of education for everyone and an additional 15 hours of childcare for children of working parents" with the additional 15 hours being used for free play rather than any structured teaching, much like the children would have if they were at home.

Mumoftwinsandanother Fri 08-Jul-16 20:41:32

What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

THE FACT THAT I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO STAY AT HOME WITH THEM FOR THE EARLY YEARS. I COULD READ TO THEM, TALK TO THEM, PLAY WITH THEM ETC. VARIATION WAS PROVIDED THROUGH OUR LOCAL SURE START CENTRE AND LIBRARY. MORE FUNDING FOR THESE TYPES OF FACILITIES AND MORE RESPECT FOR THE CHOICE OF SOME FAMILIES THAT ONE PARENT WILL STAY AT HOME. WHILST I THINK 30 HOURS FREE CHILDCARE IS GOOD IN LOTS OF WAYS ITS CLEARLY PREFERRING ONE CHOICE OVER ANOTHER AND ANY TAX BREAKS ETC TO ALLOW FAMILIES TO CARE FOR THEIR OWN CHILDREN WOULD ALSO BE GREAT.

*What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?
AS ABOVE, FINANCIAL BREAKS TO SUPPORT FAMILIES THAT HAVE CHOSEN THAT ONE PARTNER WILL STAY AT HOME FOR EARLY YEARS (IN THE SAME WAY THAT TWO PARENT WORKING FAMILIES WILL BENEFIT FROM FREE CHILDCARE). ALSO MORE FUNDING IN SERVICES SUCH AS LIBRARIES AND SURESTART.

*What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications? NO GREATER TRAINING/SPECIFIC QUALIFICATIONS ALTHOUGH HIGHER STAFF TO CHILD RATIOS WOULD BE GOOD. ALSO LESS FORM FILLING AND MORE OF A CHANCE TO CARE FOR THE CHILDREN WOULD BE GREAT.

*Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?
NO SYLLABUS OR TARGETS AND ABSOLUTELY NO TESTING

cheapandcheerful Fri 08-Jul-16 20:50:53

I speak as a parent of two dds (5yo and 3yo) and as a teacher with 10 years experience in EYFS and KS1.

What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?
LIFE! Ordinary day-to-day experiences and a dedicated adult who has helped them to start to make sense of it all through play and discussion. That adult has been me and I truly believe that a parent is the best person to fulfill this role in a child's early years.

What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?
Provide further financial assistance so that I can stay at home full-time until my children start school. At the moment I have to work part-time for financial reasons and I wish that wasn't the case.

What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications? These are good ideas, but I think it would be better to financially incentivise and train parents to be the providers of their own children's early years education.

Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment? No I would not support testing. What a ridiculous idea. I do however think that it is a good idea to have some framework within which education providers can work.

There are some interesting questions here and I appreciate the sentiment behind them. However I do slightly object to the whole notion of school-readiness, as it gives the impression that 'schoolness' is more superior than 'pre-schoolness'. Rather than training pre-schoolers to be more school-like, I think that schools can learn a lot from the early-years and that pre-school education should inform more of what happens in the classroom.

nennyrainbow Fri 08-Jul-16 20:51:33

Agree with everything mumoftwins said above.

What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

I wouldn't say any one thing but would include:

The fact that we could afford to have one parent not working and spending 1:1 time with the baby/ child in the daytime.
Library baby singalong groups, toddler play groups, other Surestart-funded groups, which encourage socialisation with children of a similar age.
The free 15 hours free preschool hours from age 3 onwards to encourage independence and more socialisation.

Firecarrier Fri 08-Jul-16 20:55:18

*What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

One of us (me) being a SAHP - and we did without an enormous amount to enable this but believe it was worth it, for all three of them. It doesn't hurt that I love books and encouraged it from a young age with all of them.

*What support could the government give you as a parent to improve their learning and development at home?

Less of the 'free' childcare and more support for families of young children to enable those who want to, to be there in the formative years.

*What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?

I have some experience of nurseries and believe that it is a job that some people go into because they don't know what else to do, its more about your temperament and personality, not everyone is cut out to really work with young children, for those that are, a higher value should be placed on the profession as they are doing one of the most important jobs.

*Do we need a syllabus or targets in early years education? Would you support testing or any other measures to gauge attainment?

Absolutely not, I have primary school teacher friends who say that although reception is meant to be play based it is sometimes difficult to promote this fully.

I believe we start children far too early with formal learning, every study ever done says it shouldn't happen but for some reason education in Britain never seems to be based on what actually 'works' for children

I have deferred entry this year for my August born boy and am so glad as having an older teen who struggled with school readiness despite being bright in many ways I was determined not to make the same mistake twice.
I believe the whole system needs a dramatic over hall but I wont hold my breath.

VoldemortsNipple Fri 08-Jul-16 20:58:27

What would you like to see in the government’s workforce strategy for early years education – do childminders and nursery staff need greater training to deliver healthy development? Do they need specific qualifications?

As an early years practitioner I believe there should be a higher qualified person leading each room, somebody who has really good understanding of how children learn and develop. This person should have good knowledge of child development theory and models of learning and be confident in using such knowledge to deliver an exciting curriculum. They should be able to detect when a child may need additional support and work with other professionals as equals in delivering such support.

There needs to be a career pathway for practitioners to follow if desired. Also practitioners need to be respected in their role and treated to a fair salary. That's not to say there isn't a career pathway now, only that it is not desirable to many practitioners due to the lack of structure and conditions in most settings.

slightlyglitterbrained Fri 08-Jul-16 21:00:31

What has made the greatest contribution to your child’s development in their early years?

Play. Affection. Attention. He's attended nursery since 9 months. Spending time with other children under the care of his keyworkers has really helped him to develop socially, pay attention to others moods, and feel loved and safe enough to explore.

What support for parents?
As others have said, stop closing libraries and childrens centres.

Early years education
More funding, less paperwork, more time to play with children, higher wages.

Tests?
Fuck no.

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