Ofsted chief: send children to school from the age of two

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…

More at: Ofsted chief: send children to school from the age of two

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…

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Categories: Pre-school.


  1. andylutwyche

    “nikoncarevic: SchoolsImprove perhaps Ofsted should have a desk in maternity units too?” Nice point, well made

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove All SMW is doing doing is creating shortage of EY providers meaning that even if schools did open to 2yo no-one to staff it

  3. andylutwyche

    splozza SchoolsImprove Quite – the Disney All-Years Academy is only around the corner. Julie Andrews as HT

  4. DaisyBooNails

    SchoolsImprove I can’t wait to put all my training to good use changing children’s nappies…said no teacher ever

  5. gilljep

    getcarter66 SchoolsImprove or let them be children and learn through play and experience-theres a novel thought!

  6. MumForAutism

    getcarter66 SchoolsImprove seriously though children should be allowed to learn through play, not placed into school at such a young age.

  7. Aveda

    I cannot believe that SMW has actually visited any primary schools – locally here all infant schools are full to bursting, and there is physically no room on their site to add extra space for 2 & 3 year olds.  Our local primary is even thinking of turning its Victorian brick bike shed into a room, they are so short of space already.

  8. tony dimmer

    Isn’t there are problem when Early Years education and child care are confused like this. There isn’t really an Early Years education “system” but a hotch potch of providers giving different services. Good quality EY ed in schools does not involve force feeding young children but is play based learning with highly qualified staff.

  9. poemspictures

    SchoolsImprove We should be more concerned with social & emotional well being & building awareness of environment with such young children.

  10. neilayates

    SchoolsImprove Disingenuous to blame solely poverty. You don’t need affluence to teach your children about effluence #parentalabdication

  11. neilayates

    SchoolsImprove When we will stop blaming educational establishments for the failings of parents? Oh hang on… we can’t regulate parents

  12. AFA3AS

    SchoolsImprove To achieve high quality education in Early Years support and development is needed for those working in ALL EYs settings

  13. LaCatholicState

    SchoolsImprove This is Emotional Child abuse. Young kids need to be with their mums…..to develop a sense of security and stability.

  14. LaCatholicState

    @neilayates SchoolsImprove  when will we stop blaming parents for the sins of teachers and the educational establishments then?!

  15. LaCatholicState

    SchoolsImprove When will these ‘chiefs’ learn that early schooling doesn’t work. Emotional bonding with mum more effective long term

  16. eQeltd

    SchoolsImprove Shows no understanding of early devel. Need to train/support parents to give better start. Is a step backwards

  17. IdeasCollege

    SchoolsImprove #Age2Targets: GCSE predicted A*-C by 6. A Level A*-B by 8. Suicide by 10. Targets achieved dickyadams DeputyMitchell

  18. RuthBennie

    andylutwyche nikoncarevic SchoolsImprove That might be leaving it too late… what about family planning clinics?

  19. EducateMiss

    RuthBennie andylutwyche nikoncarevic SchoolsImprove out with women playing classical music to unborns in with phonics/timestable recital

  20. tavole

    nikoncarevic sharpeleven Too late! Expert bbc5live said start in the womb if they kick you press them back, teaches them “its your turn”?

  21. GiggleBopperz

    lottewilson1 ParentsVoiceWor SchoolsImprove their are countries that believe in late #formal #schooling and are getting higher pass rates

  22. JMercer

    It is true that many children start school unable to talk properly but the answer isn’t to take them away from their parents. Provide opportunities for the parents to learn with their children.

  23. K18LVN

    AFA3AS SchoolsImprove this needs to include parental support also I think chronogical age is often given too little emphasis also

  24. Lawro77

    SchoolsImprove ridiculous suggestion. What’s wrong with children playing these days. For goodness sake!

  25. SchoolLead2013

    neilayates SchoolsImprove and I thought it was just me when I was ranting at the BBC new item this morning

  26. SchoolLead2013

    neilayates SchoolsImprove Govt blame eduction for the short falls in their social policies, but we take it on the chin and mop up the mess

  27. AFA3AS

    K18LVN SchoolsImprove Agree, parent engagement and support important – is central to the Achievement for All approach

  28. Frandroid

    Communication starts at home –  I don’t see how the education system can support pre-school age children and nor do I see why it should. I think we should be encouraging more parents to spend more time with their kids during their early years not less.  While its not for everyone, I would defend the right of any parent to keep their children at home until 5 tooth and nail – my gut instinct is that they need us most during these years. I don’t see how sending them off to underpaid teenagers is going to help anyone! ( pre-school care seems to be under so much strain from government meddling, that soon properly qualified professional and experienced child carers will cease to exist!)

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