Will an Early Years Teacher in every nursery really make a difference?   5 comments

Yesterday (30/3/16) there was a lot of media coverage about the Save The  Children report ‘Lighting up young brains ‘. If you have not personally read it yet, I suggest you do by clicking on the link HERE

Lots of people have already commented via blogs and social media, several have spoken on TV and radio – all with their own view – and most are in agreement that the research and data  in this report has been taken out of context, and that the headline recommendation of ‘Calling on the government to ensure that there is an early years teacher in every nursery in England by 2020’ has been grabbed as being essential by all of those who would like to see more formal academic based learning before school.

Yesterday there was lots of media based misleading suggestions about the difference an early years teacher in every setting would make, and the methods they would use.

For example;

Images of children been read a story in circle time might appear to be a ‘good thing’ that would encourage communication skills but looking closely you can see half the children are not engaged.  Some appear to be paying attention, in that they are sat still, but only a very few are actively engaging with and therefore benefitting from the story.


I need to make it clear I am not against early years teachers – they can and do make a difference using their knowledge of child development and how children learn.

However many other early years practitioners and indeed parents also make a difference, because they talk to the children, read to the children and follow the children’s interests.

Reading the report, I can see that actually the report agrees with my view as it says;

‘Parents and carers have the biggest influence on their child’s early learning: A strong relationship with a parent or carer gives a young child the confidence to explore the world, while everyday activities like talking and sharing books help stimulate young children’s language skills right from birth’.

To me this suggests that ANY adult that spends time with a child talking to them, reading to them and exploring the world with them – can and do make a difference.

This then has to mean that every child has the opportunity within their family to develop those essential building blocks of language well before they enter a nursery or a pre school – which in my experience is now often around the child’s first birthday due to parents taking extended maternity / paternity leave.

However research tells us that many children do not have these positive experiences within the home due to a huge variety of reasons including; workload with some parents having more than one job just to make ends meet, stress within the family due to financial reasons; reliance on prescription and non-prescription drugs and other substances; domestic violence; having poor parenting themselves; mental health issues – and so much more. For some the pressures of life are just too much for them to have the headspace to even think about the need to talk to or read to their child; for others they have no personal experience to draw on about the pleasure and benefit of reading to and talking with their child.

In additional the ‘norm’ of society with dependence on ‘gadgets’ and TV, means families do not talk as much; even family meals times have been replaced with TV dinners.

A colleague described to me how she was having coffee at a coffee shop, and observed a family of four come in, sit down and all get out their gadgets – and did not speak a word to each other for the whole hour that there were there! I think about visits to the coffee shop with my young granddaughter not only do we talk to her, and play with her – she manages to engage strangers into her conversations by saying ‘Hello’ and smiling at them (and usually the strangers say ‘Hello’ back, and when we leave say ‘Goodbye’ when she waves at them).

So is the answer an early years teacher in every nursery? I would suggest that this is not the best use of money – that is if enough early years teachers can be recruited and can be afforded by the nurseries that are already struggling to make ends meets – and that is before the roll out of 30 hours, the living wage and staff pensions.

I also have concerns that this agenda of having an early years teacher in every nursery will be another indicator to parents that childminder settings are in some way inferior because they won’t have an early years teacher.  The cynic in me says this is another push for Childminder agencies and leadership by schools – in other words childminders will have to sign up to a agency in order to say ‘we have early years teacher input’.

I am actually not against the idea that childminders (or even other settings that cannot afford to employ their own early years teachers) having input from an early years teacher – after all in the early days of Childminding Networks this was a requirement for an early years teacher input. In the case of childminding agencies the sticking point remains the need for childminders to give up their independent Ofsted registration.


However maybe some of those agencies that are diversifying and offering support services could consider adding the input of an early years teacher to their services?

My main objection to the idea of an early years teacher in every setting is that (as shown by media yesterday) that this get linked to formal academic learning by parents and government, with a reduction in learning through child led play.

Most early years teachers know that formal learning is not needed for young children, but may have to implement it due to pressure from schools and government. They may also have to insist the smaller settings that they may have lead responsibility for also implement practice they do not agree with.

Nearly all research and evidence from other countries shows that a later start to academic learning produces better outcomes in the long run – and ensures those ‘late developers’ have opportunity to build the building blocks of all future learning before they start formal education at 6 or 7.

And yes, early years staff in other countries are highly qualified, but so are many in this country with many of them having a relevant qualification and / or years of experience.

I have to ask why so many early years settings have the highest level Ofsted grades (including childminders settings) and yet do not all have an early years teacher? Are these grades of ‘no value’ to the government?

I hope someone will do some research to show not only how many of those children who are unable to read when leaving primary school actually went to a setting before school – and  also what type of setting.

I hope that someone will do some research into the development levels of pupils on entering school and that on leaving – I have no data, but I suspect that because schools expect children to be ready for school rather than school being ready for children and all their individual needs – that some children ‘switch off’ once they are at school and therefore do not continue their individual learning journeys.

The important thing about any learning journey is that it moves forward – no matter how slowly, and that children enjoy their journey. So many children are now not enjoying the school years and are developing mental health issues

Please don’t let this be pushed ‘downwards’ into early years settings – children need to be free to lead their own learning, at their own rate, They do not need the stress of inappropriate adult led activities, and assessment.






5 responses to “Will an Early Years Teacher in every nursery really make a difference?

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  1. Nineteen years of experience with children tells me that most consolidated learning and major leaps forward are achieved when the child’s family has a special experience together like a holiday, a trip out, family to visit, a party or sometimes sadly a negative ‘coming together’. These are shared times where adults relate to their children and children are encouraged to express themselves. More positively these opportunities are made the most of when the parent shares and encourages the child to share with the child’s carer. This means that family time is built upon with a good carer enhancing the child’s learning. Behind all of this is communication. Parents must talk and read to their children. They must spend time with them to listen and appreciate them. Perhaps an early years teacher could assist nursery staff in understanding this but I strongly feel this is only part of the picture.
    I do worry that as a childminder if you take a child through all the learning stages the reception year is possibly a repetition. What the child needs to do is learn to relate to a larger group of children and this could be achieved through more free play and non assisted role play. Children need to learn to play together before they can learn and work together. Teachers need to be ready to create a place for kinder, fairer and more open play. Teachers need the freedom to be spontaneous so they can introduce fun to the learning environment. Most of all these children desperately need to have fun. When I collect children from the reception class they look jaded rather than brimming over with the excitement of the day. Such a shame and what a turn off for their future.

    Elizabeth Caulfield
    • Thank you for your comment Elizabeth – and I totally agree with you (as you will know if you have read any of my other blogs or articles in Child Care Journal

  2. Pingback: Save the children – philhills

  3. wise words.

  4. I think that having a thorough understanding of how children develop and learn is the main benefit to children that comes from higher qualifications. Early years qualifications focus on the important factors affecting the learning and development of our youngest children. Any old degree does not necessarily equip practitioners to Provide appropriate lactivities and experiences to stulate and develop young minds. QTS iis not enough in itself.

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