Friday, 24 October 2014

North Beckton Teaching School Alliance Conference: Narrowing the Gap

Thanks to everyone who came to my workshops at the conference and for all your thoughts and questions. The PowerPoint I used is below, or you can download it here.

You can also see the video of Sheringham's work with Bow Arts here.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Safeguarding: why the differences between early years providers and schools?

The statutory guidance for schools, Keeping children safe in education [PDF], was published in April and makes it clear that schools must always pass on safeguarding records when a child transfers to another school.

The school's safeguarding lead is required to ensure that "where children leave the school or college...their child protection file is copied for any new school or college as soon as possible but transferred separately from the main pupil file." 

The Department for Education's 2010 study of serious case reviews [PDF] by Brandon et al found that recommendations about information-sharing were the second most common out of the Serious Case Reviews analysed in 2009-2010:

With so many of the serious case reviews concluding that a failure to share information had contributed to children's deaths or serious injuries, it is easy to see the rationale behind this requirement on schools. 

So, why aren't early years providers, including nursery schools, similarly required to share safeguarding information? The safeguarding requirements for them are set out in the EYFS statutory framework which has just been revised this year [PDF]. This says, in Section 3, that early years providers must have regard to the 2013 government guidance, Working together to safeguard children [PDF]. They must also have policies and procedures in line with the guidance of the Local Safeguarding Board.

The EYFS at paragraph 3.68 (page 29) states: “Providers must maintain records and obtain and share information (with parents and carers, other professionals working with the child, and the police, social services and Ofsted as appropriate) to ensure the safe and efficient management of the setting, and to help ensure the needs of all children are met. Providers must enable a regular two-way flow of information with parents and/or carers, and between providers, if a child is attending more than one setting.

Providers must be alert to any issues for concern in the child’s life at home or elsewhere. Providers must have and implement a policy, and procedures, to safeguard children. These should be in line with the guidance and procedures of the relevant Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB)."

But there is nothing I can see that specifically requires providers to keep records of concerns, and nothing that requires them to pass them onto receiving schools when the child reaches statutory age.

I wonder why there is this inconsistency, given that the EYFS has only recently been revised? It doesn't seem to make any sense.

This post has been amended to make it clear that the EYFS does require early years providers to maintain and share records; thanks to the DFE social media team for their feedback.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The future of Nursery Schools: Tuesday morning's adjournment debate in Parliament

On Tuesday morning, Pat Glass MP has secured an adjournment debate on the Future of the Nursery School.  So, there is still just time to get in touch with your MP (it takes less than a couple of minutes online) and tell her or him about the importance of nursery schools having a future.

Pat Glass MP
It's urgent: over 100 nursery schools have closed since 1999.

Some basic text you might want to use or adapt is below. You might also want to have a look at Why Nursery Schools Matter from the National Campaign for Real Nursery Education.

If you have some time to personalise what you say and make it more relevant to your MP, then your email will have even more effect. If it helps, have a look at what I wrote to Stephen Timms MP.

Dear [insert the name of your MP]

On Tuesday there is an adjournment debate on the future of nursery schools. The continued closure of nursery schools is a matter of great concern to me, and I think it is urgent that parliament speaks up to support them.

Maintained nursery schools are DFE-registered schools, like primaries and secondaries. There is a substantial evidence-base for their effectiveness. The DFE-sponsored Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) project found that nursery schools had the highest quality and the best outcomes for children. As recently as this year, Ofsted’s first Annual Report on the Early Years found that “looking only at the overall judgements given, nursery schools perform considerably better than other types of early years provision”. In fact, figures from the National Campaign for Nursery Education show that 55% of nursery schools inspected between 1st January and 31st March 2014 were judged outstanding in comparison to 8% of Primaries and 14% of Secondary schools.
Perhaps even more impressively, Ofsted commented in its annual Early Years Report that nursery schools are the only part of the school system which “perform as strongly in deprived areas as more affluent ones”.

So, the evidence points strongly to the quality of nursery schools, and their particularly beneficial impact for disadvantaged children. Nursery Schools do not just benefit the children on their roll: they are often at the heart of Children’s Centres, providing support and early intervention for thousands of children. Increasingly, they work with other early years settings and with childminders to support quality improvement for all. The national charity Early Education reports that more than 80% of nursery schools are involved in training and placements for training, with more than one in five leading or being part of a Teaching School Alliance.

Yet they are closing fast. In 1980, there were 599 nursery schools in England. According to the DFE, there are now just 418. And the rate of closure is getting faster all the time: figures from the national charity Early Education indicate that over 100 nursery schools in Britain have been closed since 1999.

Across the country, many nursery schools report that they are feeling vulnerable to closure. In a recent survey conducted by Early Education, 77% of nursery schools reported that they were concerned about their future viability or faced imminent loss of their independence. Only 12% felt positive about the future. Ignoring the evidence about quality and wider impact, the previous minister for Early Years and Childcare, Liz Truss, sat back and allowed the continued loss of nursery schools to accelerate, telling the Select Committee that “nursery schools should not get special treatment”.

Please show your support for nursery schools on Tuesday, before it is too late.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

NUT Education Conference: workshop presentation

Here is s the PowerPoint from my workshop at the NUT's National Education Conference; it's also available to download [PDF]

Quick quiz about early years, nursery schools and nursery teachers

I'm delighted to be offering a workshop at the NUT's Education Conference later today. Part of my presentation is quick quiz about early years with a particular focus on teachers and the early years. 


A major, independent report on the early years was launched with the suggestion that “child benefit could be linked to parents' attendance at parenting classes” and claimed more than two-thirds of children are receiving a sub-standard preschool education. 
Who? When?

Will staff with the new “Early Years Teacher Status” be qualified teachers who can teach any class in a maintained primary school? Will they be able to teach a class in an academy?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Taking a break

I'm going to take a break from the blog up to May 2014 as I am focussing my energies on Early Education's #earlyyearspledge campaign. Visit our campaign website to find out more, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, support, donate and keep up to date.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Two-year olds in schools - standing together for quality

There's currently a rather shouty discussion going on through social media and the early years specialist press about whether school is the "right place" for two-year olds, like the Pre-School Learning Alliance's tweet asking "should schools take children from the age of two? - Alliance CEO Neil Leitch says NO".

In fact, in the linked article Neil Leitch makes the entirely sensible point that that using school nurseries to offer childcare for very young children “should only be done where the environment and provision is suitable and of sufficiently high quality and appropriate to their care and development". In other words, the question is not about schools vs private nurseries, but about whether the early provision being offered to two-year olds is appropriate for their needs, or not.

It is true that the discourse of the current discussion about schools admitting two-year olds is largely about finding a cheap solution to the childcare shortage in England. I would argue that "childcare" itself can be very limited in its conception, implying a utilitarian service enabling parents to go to work. Instead, I would argue for early childhood provision that is in the interests of the child, as well as making it possible for parents to balance bringing up their children with going out to work.

Margaret McMillan
I have worked in maintained nursery schools offering places for two-year olds throughout most of the last two decades, and have been privileged to work alongside practitioners who are absolutely dedicated to proving the best possible experiences to those young children. Schools have been admitting two-year olds for a hundred years now - the very first nursery school, set up in 1914 by the McMillan sisters in Deptford admitted two-year olds.

The debate about quality for two-year olds is too important to get sucked into the long-running and pointless war of attrition between the different organisations which offer early years provision. When the sector is divided, we are easily defeated: we should be standing together for quality.