Sir Michael Wilshaw says that more primary schools should open nursery provision to prevent tens of thousands of children being given a poor start to their education. This is from the Telegraph…
…Launching a major report, he will say that radical changes are needed to address concerns that the early years system is “letting down” large numbers of children who start formal education lacking the most basic literacy and numeracy skills.
Many mothers and fathers choose to delay enrolling children in formal childcare in favour of raising them at home.
But Sir Michael says children – particularly those from poor families – “do better in school-based provision”.
Last night, the comments threatened to provoke a major row when a group of 235 authors, academics and nursery leaders wrote to the Telegraph warning that the approach was “catastrophic” for children’s mental health and risks “setting up many for failure at a very young age”.
They claim that children should be able to develop naturally at a young age and not forced into structured education too soon.
But Sir Michael will warn today that many pupils are “not ready for school” at the age of five because of existing substandard levels of childcare.
Ofsted claim that two-thirds of children from poor homes currently start school unable to communicate properly, write basic words or count.
The gap between the social classes has reached such a level that deprived children now start school two or three years behind their peers from more prosperous homes, he says.
In a speech to coincide with the publication of Ofsted’s first annual early years report, Sir Michael will call for schools to take the lead in providing early education, particularly for children from the poorest families.
The Government should also cut red tape to allow more schools to provide early years learning, he says.
Currently, just over a third of primaries – 6,700 out of 16,800 – have early years provision on site, figures show.
Ofsted’s reforms could result in thousands more children aged two, three or four being enrolled in school-based nurseries – with teachers having more input into their education at an early stage.
The move comes on top of a toughening up of the inspection system for childminders, nurseries, pre-schools and crèches, with care providers being told to place a greater emphasis on ensuring children are “adequately prepared for the start of their statutory schooling”…
Today’s letter to the Telegraph – signed by figures such as Philip Pullman, the author, Dr Penelope Leach, the early years expert, and Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance – said Ofsted’s approach “betrays an abject (and even wilful) misunderstanding of the nature of early childhood experience”.
“The determination to dragoon England’s young children into unconscionably early quasi-formal learning is catastrophic for their well-being, and is setting up many for failure at a very young age,” it said…
Update – Here’s a link to the letter in the Telegraph: Ofsted early years overhaul will have ‘catastrophic’ impact
So how do you view this? Is Sir Michael right to be concerned that inadequate childcare is exacerbating the gap between children from the poorest families and those from more affluent backgrounds? Is the proposal to get more into school-based nurseries the right way to improve the situation? Or do you agree with the Telegraph’s letter writers who suggest otherwise? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…