Well – I watched Newsnight ………………   3 comments

I have to admit that I missed the programme last night but thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to watch early this morning.

Link to Newsnight 24.4.13 – if not seen

I was hoping that Ms Truss will have used the opportunity to explain to all of us who object to the proposals in More Great Childcare – why we are wrong and she is right – I had even checked my bank balance – just in case I would have to fulfill my promise and place adverts to apologise to Ms Truss.

Let’s just say – my money is still safe in the bank.

So these are my personal views after watching the programme

They showed 3 year olds in a nursery – not two year olds. Why I wonder?

The outside area appeared to be provided to enable  children to let of steam – I have to ask why? Where were the opportunities to do things other than climbing, running etc. My personal opinion is a) what a wasted opportunity, b) poor children – they were clearly in need of that opportunity to let of steam – such as we might see in a group of reception age children in this country – desperate to be able to move about and not  be directed in what they do by an adult. Again my personal opinion is children of 4 should not be subjected to this and children of 3 certainly should not.

I saw and heard more than one adult during the circle activity – the camera did not show the whole class at once so I could not count the children. But as a guess I would say the number of children and number of staff were not very  different to those seen in our state nursery classes. Now is that because actually there is no difference when you count the lesser qualified staff – the assistants (or TA’s)? Or is it because the French did not want us to see what really happens in  a class with just one adult? I have to ask are we seeing the ‘whole picture’?

Although I do not speak French – so no idea what was being said – the adult voice in the background when the children were coming into the classroom – sounded to me to be raised and in a tone that I would describe as ‘sharp’ – actually just like the one I might use if a child was doing something that was a danger to themselves or someone else – in other words rarely used . So did I not hear correctly? was it it an occasional voice?  or do adults in France always use that tone of voice and if so why? Crowd control comes to my mind – and remember there was more than one adult with that group of children.

The adult at the creative table appeared to be providing an activity that I might provide, appeared to be providing the same sort of support that I might offer – I have to ask would completing my degree make any difference? (because due to re registering  as a childminder and not being able to attend lectures – I have not completed by degree ) Personally I think not – a degree requires one to undertake study – reading books, arguing a point in assignments and so on – it can if the student is motivated increase knowledge and understanding – or if not motivated  build skills in being able to quickly gather quotes and rephrase others words  – in other words – it is not the degree than gives you that hands on ability with children – the skills needed to support children in a creative activity – it is the desire to want to understand children better and to provide the best possible care and education – and in my experience not all graduates are bothered about the actual children.

What I did not see – because not shown – was if the children had any choice in which table activity they choose to do – or if they were able to change tables when they wanted to – or even not take part if they didn’t want to – or if other non table activities were available.

In my opinion – if the things I did not see were not options for the children – then I would say the children might as well have been robots or maybe programmable dolls. I would like to hear Ms.Truss’s views on what she sees as the benefit of these activities – as it certainly is not part of the Early Years Foundation Stage or backed by research into how children learn.

Then there was a childminder setting – oh what a lucky childminder to have such a large home to have all that space in the play area – hardly typical of the average British lounge – and again so lucky to have all that soft wipe clean matting – I wonder if her family sit on that matting in the evening to watch TV? – but then again maybe it wasn’t part of the ‘family space’

I wish that they had shown the childminder on her OWN at the meal time because I saw lots of adults helping out – maybe parents? maybe assistant? How would the childminder have coped with 8 x 2 year olds on their own?

It must be remembered that although Ms.Truss is not suggesting that childminders in this country have 8 children on their own – it will be possible – if a childminder choose to – to have 4 children under the age of two – in fact possible to have 4 children under the age of 13m because will be able to have 2 under 12 months and 2 over 12months – so as 13m is over 12 months and would be legal.

Then there was the interview with the head teacher – of course he will mention all the good points – I would have been more interested in the not so good points – the views of staff and the parents of the children. It may not surprise anyone who has met the children who attend Penny’s Place – that they are making the same exceptional progress – as  judged not only Penny – but by their Health Visitors (2 year old checks actually taking place around the children’s 3rd birthday).

I am not going to comment on the studio discussion because I found Truss to once again being very vague, not given facts, just her personal opinion, being rude in that she did not really listen to the points made by the other guests and was just on a mission to say what she had come to say.  Manners? I wish our early years minster displayed some during TV interviews.

I fully agree with the mum on the show – parents in this country often do not have a choice about if they work, they often do not have the option to work part time – and the transfer of tax allowances would help. I do not support parents who think it is ok to live off benefits –  as my view is you should personally support any children you bring into the world (however if reason for not working such as caring for disabled child then benefits system needs to support this)- but I do fully support those parents who would like one parent to stay at home, or to work part time. In fact I have commented in the past – many times – that if all children could access free childcare then the parents would have real choice, and parents would be enabled to choose if they worked full time, part time or not at all – as needed to meet their own personal family costs. Childcare costs should not be the deciding factor.

Finally – the Newsnight programme demonstrated once again that this is not about the children of this county (loved the question ‘Do you care about the children of this country?’) It is about saving the government money – they are not even prepared to pay the costs involved in gaining higher qualifications, or in being part of a childminder agency – surely if the government was really concerned about the children of this country having the best possible early years care and education they would be proactive in financially enabling these changes to happen.

Furthermore if the government were really interested in the well being of the children of this country – they would listen to parents, practitioners, experts of this country, not to ‘ put on a show’ people from from other countries – especially as we now know the truth about the previous favoured model from the Dutch. These are British children not Dutch or French or from any other country – our system works well  – of course reflection, evaluation and taking on new theories and increased knowledge of brain development and so on, will always be required – and has always been part of the practice of  the majority of early years settings in this country. However you should not make major changes without research and evidence to back up why changes are needed.

Ratio increases are all about trying to create more childcare places – at no cost to the government

Higher qualifications are a smoke screen – because although to be encouraged and financially supported – the government are just interested in giving a reason why higher ratios are possible (but do ask yourself why they do not have the same requirement for childminders? As they are proposing higher ratios for childminders but no requirement for a formal qualification at all – could it be that government money would be needed or that they would risk a further drop in childminder numbers, that they can’t risk because of the need for two year old funded places?)

Childminder agencies are nothing to do with increasing quality, or helping parents find childcare – no it is all about saving the government money – again.

3 responses to “Well – I watched Newsnight ………………

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  1. Well said Penny. I don’t speak French either, but I thought the teacher in the nursery was directing the children to which table they needed to go and sit at.

  2. I’ve just watched the programme and agree with all your points. Such a muddled mish mash of ideas from the minister. I wonder if she could define ‘structured play’ (which seems to have become the magic answer) and then enlighten us as to exactly how it alone improves language development and communication (and the research which demonstrates this!). Surely it’s the whole environment which is created by the many knowledgeable and excellent practitioners out there (which would include some structured play) which supports children’s all round development. Less adults will mean less time and thought put in to creating that ‘enabling environment’ and making it relevant to individual children. Oh dear – makes me very fearful for the future of Early Years even though I know many, many excellent practitioners are sticking to their principles and supporting children and families to grow and prosper using the developmentally appropriate practice which the minister appears to be so against.

  3. I especially loved the comment towards the end of the studio part where she said something along the lines of how she was supportive of childminders.

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