Toddlers ‘cry for a month in French nurseries’

A nursery workers’ leader has unleashed a stinging attack on France’s more formal early years education system which has been praised by a minister. This is from the BBC…

Pre-School Learning Alliance chief Neil Leitch described how chairs had been fitted with tennis balls to stop fidgeting toddlers sandwiched into desks from making a noise.

He also said many children “cry for a month” after joining such nurseries.

Childcare minister Liz Truss has praised the teacher-led French model.

And she suggested that more nursery sessions, where two and three-year-olds experience a more formalised approach with teachers leading the learning, could be adopted in England.

She also criticised what she described as “chaotic settings” where children were allowed to run wild.

Mrs Truss told early years managers that they need not feel obliged to run their nurseries in such a way that children can go in and out of doors, choosing the activities that they want to engage in, as is the case in the vast majority of settings.

But Mr Leitch told his organisation’s conference in Birmingham:

“Well I went to France, and I saw 25 children sit around tables, fidgeting so much that staff had fitted tennis balls to the legs of the chairs to stop any noise. I switched off from observing the teacher and watched the effects of the constant teacher-led activity on the children.

“I watched them sit in their chairs and twiddle their fingers and then they would start playing with their clothes. As the time went on the little boys began prodding each other as their attention waned.

“Three-year-olds that had times allocated in the day to use the toilet and three-year-olds that could be in the class from 08.00 to 12.30 with a 15-minute play break, and when they did go outside, no bikes, no balls, no sandpit – nothing.

“But then I guess they were simply relieved to breathe fresh air.”

He added that the government had not passed on French nursery staff’s concerns about “countless children that cry for a month when they join the class in September”.

Mr Leitch said he felt uncomfortable criticising another country’s childcare system, but he “could not stand by and be lectured on how awful we are in England compared to our French neighbours”.

He added: “Because given what’s best for the child, for me there is no comparison.”

More at:  Toddlers ‘cry for a month in French nurseries’

Interesting observations. Do you have first hand experience of nursery education in france or in any other country? What did you most like or most dislike about it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below, on Twitter or by using this form 

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  1. Jenniflowers_CT

    SchoolsImprove I’ve worked in South Africa and England, it doesn’t happen this long in either. Usual settling in tears, yes, but short!

  2. Mike Bell

    Research suggests that formal education should start at around 6 yrs.  Although some children will be ready before then (and you should not stop them!), starting before the brain is ready will simply create barriers to learning as the child will link feelings of failure with the classroom right from the start.
    All new learning has to be built on existing knowledge so, for instance, if we introduce math symbols before the concept is grasped in concrete terms, the links cannot be made and the math process can only be learned as rote learning.

  3. MissTF

    I can’t understand the persistent belief that giving children the opportunity to become independent leaerners in a  well-organised, highly structured play environment must lead to chaos!  Have you been in any of our early years settings, Liz?

  4. susanreed24

    SchoolsImprove But children do not *have* to start formal education in France until they are six – later than in the UK.

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