An upset parent after nursery assessment   2 comments

Readers of my blog will know my views about excessive assessment of young children and the tick box culture we now have within early years, and they will know that I refuse to do written assessments on the children UNLESS my in my head assessments say I have a concern that the child may need support in one or more areas. When I say concern, I don’t mean the child is choosing not to do something at a particular moment in time, but the child is unable to do something / is significantly delayed in something.

Most readers will also know that I now have just one funded two year old in my care, who attends for his 15 hours of funding. And for the record I do not have any concerns about this two year old – yes his speech is a little delayed but he has made significant progress with his speech since he first started attending my setting, he speaks in sentences, his words are mostly clear, he can express his needs, and he uses speech in his play both when playing alone and with peers; and so I know that he will ‘catch up’.

This little boy has just started his planned transition in the school nursery, they do not offer two year old funding, and so he is just doing one afternoon a week which mum pays for to help him settle before he starts accessing his three year old funding at the nursery after Easter. At this point (after Easter ) he will leave my setting.

The nursery setting used to be a pre school based in the school grounds but now has been taken over by the school – however most of the pre school staff have been employed by the school and they have a lovely new classroom within the school and their own outside space.

My own children went to the pre school, and many of my minded children over the years, so I am well known by the staff. In addition the brothers of my current minded child also went to the pre school and mum has always been very happy in the past.

So imagine my surprise this morning when mum asked if she could have a word about the parents evening she had attended last week at the nursery. I could see she was upset just mentioning it, and so I asked her to come in rather than chat on the doorstep.

Mum explained that nursery had done some assessment on her child and had reported development was delayed in several areas and was cause for concern. She said both her and dad had attended and they were shocked at what they had been told.

Mum said, ‘I know you would have told me if you had any concerns, and I know our handover chats and the information in the diary, and the photo’s you take don’t indicate any concerns – but can I discuss with you what nursery have said and ask you your opinion. Mum was trying hard not to get upset while talking, and I could see she was also rather annoyed.

Naturally, I agreed to listen and to give my opinion

Based on just THREE 2.5 sessions, the nursery had assessed the child as follows

  • He only repeats the last thing said to him, so concern he has a speech difficulty.

Yes, he does repeat things a lot, but he also forms his own sentences and uses words in his play. As an example this morning we are going upstairs to use the bathroom, he repeats ‘Let’s go for a wee’ BUT then he says on seeing the dog’ Max going upstairs. Max running’ Then when the dog goes out of sight ‘Max hiding. Where has Max gone?’

I could give hundreds of other examples – but I think this one example from this morning demonstrates that my observations are different to the nurseries.

  • He does not sit still and can not concentrate

Not sure where this comes from and can only assume that he is still settling and not yet used to the environment or activities / experiences on offer. When last at my setting (Tuesday) he play with a set of number puppies for over an hour sitting more or less in one place on the floor – he lined the dogs up, he counted them, he moved them in and out of the basket, he ‘fed them’ some wooden threading fruits, he barked for the dogs, re lined them up – need I continue. As well as the puppy play, he played with the duplo for over 20 mins, threaded the wooden fruit getting 10 pieces on the lace, sat reading some books to himself, and watched Gruffalo’s child with interest, laughing and joining in with some of story.

  • He does not play with construction toys

This one made me laugh and I reminded mum of all the photo’s I had shown her of her son playing with wooden blocks, duplo (including Toolo duplo) and magnetic polydron – all very complex and detailed and prolonged, especially with the magnetic polydron. And if that was not enough, today we had a play date at my colleagues setting and he played cooperatively with another child building a model with wooden blocks together. (I took a photo and showed mum and dad when they collected the child).

So what is going on?

I completely understand that the child is still settling at nursery and that I have lots of evidence from the last six months


– WHY has the nursery not spoken to me about the child

– WHY have the nursery not asked mum if she has any info from my setting (she does – his daily diary)

-WHY did nursery feel it was appropriate to try to assess the child after such a short time in nursery?

In my chat with mum this morning, and both mum and dad this evening, I explained that it is all part of the reason why I campaign; as it is the governments tick box requirements and the governments belief that children should all develop in the same way, at the same time  – and in nice straight linear lines.

I also explained that the nursery now not only has to  worry about what Ofsted will say, they have the pressure from the school to assess the children and prepare them so they are ‘ready for school’ by the time they are 4.

It is all so wrong, how many parents would on hearing this sort of negative feedback about their child be upset, be worried, be concern enough to implement formal activities such as pre reading and pre writing (and most likely on some sort of electronic gadget)? How many would remove their child from the nursery and try another one – with all the associated attachments issues – only to find that their child did no ‘better’ in the other setting?

I have to ask what is the point of this sort of assessment before a child is even 3?  In this case it has led to a very upset mum and dad and …..

……. for the first time to me feeling guilty that I am retiring from childminding because I wanted to be able to say to this mum and dad ‘Don’t worry he can access his 3 year old funding here if you want him to’

But of course he can’t because I won’t be a childminder next term.

There is little I can do to change things at the nursery other than give the parents confidence to challenge the nursery and to provide evidence that their son is actually doing very well in the grand scheme of things.

However, it does reiterate to me that it is not time to put away my soapbox yet.


Seems others think the same as me – in the news today (12/2/16)




Posted February 11, 2016 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

2 responses to “An upset parent after nursery assessment

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  1. Oh Penny, How I feel for you, the mum and her child. I have a year 1 student at my after-school study centre whose mum was almost in tears because (a)her child had been told off by the teacher for not knowing her number bonds to ten, which left the child distraught and (b) Mum had been told she should be spending more time helping the child to learn her number bonds at home. I know, I can hear you say, ‘why is this child having to go to after-school classes, she’s only in year 1?’ She comes, I believe, so that she and her mum can receive cheerful and sympathetic learning support that recognises her ability and offers age-appropriate challenges and enjoyable mathematic activities with no government-imposed targets.

    • I don’t have a problem with after school activities as long as they are appropriate and fun. With no targets you will I am sure follow the child’s lead, and if attending your classes gives confidence and reassurance then that is a bonus.

      Of course I wish the child got this in school and schools did not have targets ……..

      Until the education systems are changed, we have to do our best within those systems because there are real children that this is all impacting on.

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