Here we go again – Truss in the papers expressing personal opinion   5 comments

So yesterday Ms. Truss added to the personal opinions that she is expressing about pre school age children. I have to say it is her personal opinion because she is once again cherry picking bits of information, once again comparing to what she thinks is the situation in other countries, and more importantly not bothering to say which piece of research, which expert in early years is informing her opinion.

If you have not read it yet Truss views on unruly toddlers and their lack of manners

I find it rather annoying – no, very annoying that the early years minister can go on and on and on about early years practitioners needing higher qualifications, needing to do x,y and z to improve outcomes for children – when she herself does not have any formal qualification in early years childcare and education.

How can someone who does not have any qualifications in early years, does not listen to the expert knowledge that is available to her from those the government commissions to provide research, does not listen to the leaders of the national early years organisations, does not listen to the thousands and thousands of practitioners who work with pre school age children, does not bother to listen to views of parents – be ‘allowed’ to base government policy on her personal views and to propose such major changes to a system that has worked so well for many years – and that has shown improvement in outcomes for children year on year?

In my last blog I challenged Ms.Truss to provide the research that backs up her views and her proposals – and although I know full well that she does not take any notice of what I write or even reads it – I still stand by my pledge that if Ms.Truss can provide the research and the evidence, that I will personally apologise via a full page advert in Nursery World and Early Years Educator. So if anyone reading this does happen to meet with Ms.Truss in the near future – please pass on the information about my challenge to her.

So let’s unpick the article and express my personal opinion – that is opinion of someone who has studied to level 5 in early years and childcare, someone who has worked directly with children for over 30 years, someone who, dare I suggest, knows not everything but a fair bit more than our early years minister.

Ms. Truss says ‘Nurseries are breeding a generation of toddlers with no manners, who run around all day doing what they want to do’

In my experience children in nurseries, in pre schools and at childminder settings do not run around doing what they want to do in the inside environment – most settings do not let the children run inside due to safety reasons – but the children do walk between activities, when engaging in role play, and when fetching resources to support their free play.

Maybe Ms.Truss;

  • Finds a group of children moving around with a purpose unbearable and she thinks they are running or out of control – as has been said elsewhere – a skilled observer (that is someone who understands child development and play) – see’s purposeful play – a unskilled observer (as I suggest Ms.Truss is ) see chaos.
  • Or she does not understand the difference between free play in the inside environment  and the outside environment – where there is a huge difference and children do run, and climb and hop and jump and crawl and so on, in the outside environment – and for very good reason (maybe someone should explain to Ms.Truss about child development  and how children develop the necessary skills, muscle control and strength and so on to be able to progress towards being able to write)

Then there is the manners side of things – all the children in my setting have lovely manners- and so do the children I meet from other settings – in my opinion children are taught manners through good modelling by staff of manners and social skills such as listening and responding to others in turn,  and by staff having high expectations. Unfortunately not all children have the same experiences at home  (and usually because the parents  do not have support, have been failed by our education system (not our early years system) and are under so much stress and worry that they are unable to do anything more than survive as best they can).

Also –  again being bold children learn from the lack of modelling from  TV interviews – for example the ones in which the early years minster does say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ but does not model the other important social skills – namely listening to others, considering their views and not interrupting or talking over those that want to ask questions.

Ms Truss goes on to say ‘This isn’t about two-year-olds doing academic work – it’s structured play which teaches children to be polite and considerate through activities which the teacher is clearly leading,’

Oh goody – I am not expected to get the two year and three year olds in my care to take their GCSE’s – but Ms.Truss clearly has NO IDEA about play – and clearly has not taken on board the ‘Characteristics of effective teaching and learning’ as in the EYFS 2012 (By the way I do recommend that Ms. Truss bothers to read this document and to ask questions about the bits she does not understand – and maybe even to attend a training course – I can recommend Helen Moylett and Nancy Stewart  – through personal experience – as good trainers in this area, as they  actually  do know what they are talking based on theory, research and lots of observations of children, and years of experience).

Social media is full of comments from outraged practitioners, trainers and parents – things like

‘ I may as well give up now and de- register’

‘ I will not be able to train others, out of principal and what I know to be science / child development’

‘This woman needs to spend time in early years settings – not fleeting visits – hands on doing the job’

‘Maybe she should go and live and work in France – they clearly are better than us’

‘ This goes against everything that I have learnt on my training’

‘The children in my setting have very good age appropriate manners’

‘My children learn through free play every day’ (by lots of people)

‘This woman is dangerous – these are children we are talking about’

And many more comments – I think it is worth noting that I have not read a single comment in support of Ms.Truss – only that people agree children should be taught manners – but not just in the pre school settings.

Ms.Truss is once again going on about graduates and structured teacher led sessions …..

‘At the moment fewer than one-third of nurseries employ graduate-level teachers and have structured, teacher-led sessions. We know that’s very beneficial.’

……. what she has not said is who says it is beneficial

Ms.Truss is once again singing the praises of French nurseries ……

‘What you notice in French nurseries is just how calm they are. All of their classes are structured and led by teachers. It’s a requirement. 

‘They learn to socialise with each other, pay attention to the teacher and develop good manners, which is not the case in too many nurseries in Britain.’ 

……..what she is not saying is practitioners in France don’t like this – they think it prevents children from doing what children should do – ie learning through play. The French practitioners are not happy – they only have this sort of practice to keep children safe – because there are not enough practitioners due to high ratios to enable safe free play.

Ms Truss may be interested in this quote – made yesterday by the staff at Pizza Hut – one of the children I care for had her birthday party there – her friends from the setting all attended.

The children are some of the best behaved children that I have ever seen, they are very polite, play well together and a credit to their parents’

The mother of the party girl pointed out that they are a credit to their childminder.

I would go further and say they are a credit to their childminder and their parents – and the very good partnership working between parents and childminder.

I do have some further questions – They are for Ms.Truss – so I don’t suppose I will ever get an answer.

‘Ms.Truss what are your memories from your early years – those from birth to seven?

Do you remember playing with your toys – did you have a favourite?

Do you remember playing outside running, building dens, getting dirty?

Did you make mud pies and rose petal perfume?

Did you pretend your bike was a car, a train, an areoplane?

Did you enjoy having siblings or friends to play with – without an adult telling you want to do and how to do it?

‘What are your memories of primary school?

Did you prefer lessons to playtime or to going home time?

Where did you make your friends – during lessons or during playtime?

Can you remember a favourite teacher? – and why? – was it because you sat at a desk and were expected to learn things by rote? or maybe because it was hands on ‘experimentation’ moving around the class finding out solutions to the task set?

I ask these questions because most adults have the same responses –  mainly outdoor play, free play and knowing where adults were – but not having adult direction for every single thing.

And finally Ms. Truss – if you enjoyed the same things in your early years – would you say you ‘turned out ok?’

‘ Would you say people like me – and most of the people who work with pre school children have turned out ok?’

Or are you suggesting that the middle aged population are all ‘failures’ of our childhood and our education system?

And when you look at the younger generation – those without employment, those who come out of school without the necessary  skills to think for themselves, without morals, without hope – do you really think it is their pre school years that have created this situation?

Or maybe – just maybe  – Can I suggest it is;

a result of lowering the school starting age to 4 instead of 5?

a result of increased class sizes?

a result of teaching to take tests?

a result of more a more structured curriculum for younger and younger children?

a result of government demands for more paperwork?

a result of shorter playtimes to fit in more curriculum time?

a result of more parents having to work longer and longer hours, just to make ends meet?

a result of the push for academic qualifications and the complete disregard of caring skills and practical skills?

Maybe – just maybe – it is not the early years sector that you should be blaming and trying to force changes on that everyone in the early years sector knows are not in the best interests of children – but instead blaming the government and the school system.

Please STOP and THINK

Please reconsider – because I and almost the entire early years sector, the teaching profession, the mental heath profession and parents – all think you are wrong  – very wrong

And further that if you implement the proposals in More Great Childcare – you will make things worse.

But then again – maybe it will be a good thing to look to the French for ideas –  because those who have been through the French early years and education system do learn a few  things – they learn not to trust their Members of Parliament,  they learn that MP’s don’t know best – but rather than nice politely worded letters to newspapers, nice organised petitions that can be ignored, rather that lots of  complaining and shaking of heads in disbelief – the French have learnt that they need to strike, to hold protest rallies, to form blockades – to make it clear that they are not happy and quite simply often refuse to accept whatever it is the government are proposing.

So on that point I agree with Ms. Truss – there is something we can learn from the French – that is to stop being so politely British and to shout and stamp our feet a bit more – and refuse to do something we know is wrong and not in the best interest of those we care so much about – the children of this country.

5 responses to “Here we go again – Truss in the papers expressing personal opinion

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  1. Bravo

  2. Well said Penny you speak for so so many of us

  3. Penny, that is so well written.

  4. Absolutely fantastic post Penny!

  5. Brilliant read, so, so true on every level!

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