I apologise that it has taken me a bit longer than usual to blog about this
Of course I have been busy - busy looking after early years children ; and 4 of those that currently attend are in fact 2 year olds – so I am currently and constantly being reminded about the needs of 2 year olds.
However it would seem that our Government might have forgotten about just what a 2 year old needs in the way of care and education; in the way of personal and often individual attention and support; in the way they need space to move, in the way that most of them are not yet ready to sit still or share or take turns, or wait; in the way that most of them are in nappies or going through the process of toilet training; in the way that what works for 3 year olds or 4 year olds – does not work for 2 year olds.
They also seem to have forgotten the reasons why research has proven over and over again that under 3′s are best supported in a home based setting or indeed at home with their parents – and that if group care is used that dedicated toddler rooms are best with staff that are specifically trained to meet the needs of 2 year olds
In fact, I know they have forgotten all these things because of what is said here in this article in Nursery World Link to Nursery World Article on funding for schools to take 2 year olds into school nurseries
In my opinion it was bad enough to hear the the Government wanted to encourage schools to take 2 year olds – but now we hear that 49 schools are being given £10,000 each to not only implement in their school, but to evaluate and then share with other schools.
What a contrast between this initiative and the one for childminding agencies where the trialing of the idea has no Government funded; however both are equally well intended and equally ill thought out.
The whole idea of childminding agencies is actually doing a lot of damage to childminders own professionalism and leading to some (if not many) leaving the profession - at a time when childminders should be being supported to maintain their status and the high quality care and education that they provide – especially for the youngest children – including 2 year olds.
Let’s hope that those who currently provide care and education to 2 year olds, don’t also decide to leave their profession or to just stop caring for 2 year olds. The potential will be that those highly dedicated professionals, who have such a passion for what they do, and who have years, if not decades of experience and a track record of high quality provision; will decided that they can not continue any more either for financial reasons or because – to be blunt – the Government have finally gone a step too far - and they just don’t have the strength or willingness to carry on.
Of course I am biased BUT at a time when the Government are trying to increase the quality of childcare and early years education, are trying to save money from Government budgets – why on earth are they persisting in ignoring the research about two year olds, and paying out money to set up inappropriate provision for 2 year olds – and why are they tinkering – no destroying – the systems for regulation and inspection of childminders, that may not be perfect and may need reviewing but on the whole works , by creating a two tier system.
Ah but ……. Truss supporters will say – she has evidence – it says so in the article;
‘The evidence shows that starting younger, in high quality teacher-led provision, can have a real and lasting impact on children’s development and life chances, particularly for those from the most disadvantaged families.’
Maybe I am not well read enough, maybe I have not read the right articles and research papers but try as I might I can not recall any specific reference to 2 year olds benefiting from high quality teacher led provision. I certainly have read some documents about 3 and 4 years benefiting from such provision – especially if attend part time and experience either time in a home based setting or with the parents for the rest of time.
The other problem we have is research results that are ‘pre’ this government, generally focussed on the pre school skills and development, such as self skills (dressing and toileting), social skills (making friends, communicating with peers and adults, turn taking, and so on) and the vital development of all the skills and control of ones own body that eventually leads to reading and writing – in other words what the Government quite rightly call the Prime Areas within the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012. Whereas what the Government are basing their expectations more and more now on children being ‘ready for school’, and already well on their way to meeting the targets for 5 year olds (which in themselves are unrealistic for many children).
So as far as I am concerned the research (unless I have missed the relevant document) is about older children and about achievement of the personal skills not academic skills .
Reading further on in the NW article, Truss is quoted as saying
‘We want more schools to offer nursery places and to extend these to two-year-olds. This will provide more choice and flexibility for parents and enable more children to benefit from all that a good school can provide.’
Oh what a shame she is not saying ‘all that a good childminder can provide’ or ‘all that a good preschool can provide’ or ‘all that a good parent can provide’
And there is plenty of choice already available of part time and full time childcare, groups that parents can take their child to and stay with them – and the option of staying at home with your child (although Government pressure for all parents to be in work is intense)
The article goes on to say;
The schools in the ‘demonstration project’ have each received £10,000 for participating and offering peer-to-peer support.
Up to £2,500 of the funding is a capital grant for new buildings and expanding premises to offer the places.
The rest of the money can be used to contribute towards developing resources, and staff training and leadership.
A few things spring to my mind; that is a total of £490.000 in grants; and what a waste that will be if the evaluations say;
We found it difficult to meet the 2 year olds needs
The amount of funding for two years and the current ratio requirements mean that this is not cost effective
Parents have not enrolled their 2 year olds or did, but then removed them because they were too tired or upset or their behaviour deteriorated
Of course I am making a few assumptions – and the main one being that the school nurseries will have to apply the ratio limits under the Early Years Foundation Stage 2012 – as all early years settings have to ………….. but will they? What if they are given permission to apply the 1:13 ratio they can apply to 3 and 4 year olds when they have a qualified teacher ……….. I don’t actually know, but doing the maths and knowing how much a qualified early years teacher earns, how much the funding for a 2 year old is and the ratios under EYFS ….. well it does not add up
Then there are restrictions on what the grant can be used for ;
Just £2,500 for capital projects like buildings – so how are the school nurseries going to provide nappy changing facilities and sleep rooms? (and in case schools and Government are of the opinion that because two years olds might only attend for a morning or an afternoon session, the two year olds will not need to sleep – they need to think again - some don’t, some still have a am and a pm nap, some have one 2 hour nap after lunch, some have no routine and sleep as and when need to, factor in unsettled nights due to teething as not all 2 year olds have a full set of teeth ….. and you have two years olds all with their own unique sleep requirements – and therefore their own unique needs for snack and meal times). And goodness knows what will happen if the schools decide to offer extended care with parents paying the extra to enable their child to stay for a whole school day.
The rest of the grant can be used for resources, staff training and evaluation – so up to £7,500 per school – it may come as a shock to some but two year olds need vastly different resources to 3 or 4 year old; staff need more than a ‘short course’ to understand the development needs of two year olds – and especially the difference between 2 and 3 year year olds; however my guess is most of that £7,500 will be used for meetings within the school and then travel to and meeting with other schools that they will be required to share their experiences with.
So all in all, my gut feeling is that not much will be spent on meeting the needs of the two year olds.
£490,000 may be a small amount in terms of Government expenditure but to childminders like me, that are told that the shortage in the fee we pay Ofsted is a big problem for the Government; and to those like myself and my colleagues in other early years settings, who are told by the Government that we can provide a high quality place for a 2 year old for £5.03 per hour (and for the uninformed that has to cover everything – staff, premises, food, resources, meetings, paperwork – and much more ); to parents who really don’t want to go to work while their child is under 3 or even under 5, but who are told by the Government the should - it is a huge amount of money that I (and I am sure many others) could think of better ways to spent it.
Government (or any of your supporters) maybe you could help with my understanding (and that of the readers of this blog) by providing the link to the specific evidence that says that 2 years do better in a school based setting led by a qualified teacher – and all the other supporting information such as in which country, in which year and how many hours they attended – plus if a long term research project - the long term outcomes.
I would be more than happy to write another blog if this evidence is provided, as this blog is about information sharing as well as my opinion on things.