Saturday, 15 September 2007

Early childhood education and care: some of this week's news

Defending nursery education

Despite high levels of expenditure on the early years, concerns remain that high quality early years education is being relentlessly closed down and replaced with cheaper alternatives. Recently, Blackburn with Darwen has used its "powers to innovate" to take headteachers away from seven of its nursery schools - Early Education says that this has "already impoverished the quality of educational
experience offered to its youngest children." You can read their full statement here.

Meanwhile, in Manchester, there is a feisty campaign going against the privatisation of early years provision in the Sure Start Levenshulme area.

At the Kids' Academy day nursery, which is part of Manchester's Burnage Children's Centre, Ofsted found that: “nappies are changed on torn mats with foam exposing, feeds are left in bags on top of a radiator and the fridge is dirty and smells of sour milk. Babies are provided with some manufactured toys, which they hardly access and are left to crawl around aimlessly. Children do not benefit from a consistent staff team, who know the children well to meet their individual needs.” Read the full report\\ey\\DC\\INSPDC_EY274784_03052006.xml.



Dummies are bad, health professionals say - they ruin children's teeth, and speech, and interfere with breastfeeding. Parents should ditch them.

Dummies are good - and parents are now being advised to put babies to sleep with a dummy in their mouth, as this may reduce the chances of cot death.

It seems professionals working with young children are just as confused as everyone else.

An interesting piece of research by Dr Judy Whitmarsh shows that attitudes to dummies in early years provision are influenced more by personal experience and viewpoints, rather than by research. As a result there seem to be no clear guidelines on dummies in nurseries: instead there is "ambivalence and anxiety".

More news on the impact of Sure Start

The Guardian states - without giving a source - that "the child from a deprived home has heard an average 34 million fewer words addressed to them by the age of five." The attempts by the Sure Start programme to encourage parents to communicate more with their children through a programme of talks by Beryl Hilton-Downing are described as "hard-hitting" but "frustratingly, out of a potential 300 or so parents and carers, only around 20 have turned out to hear her".

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports on what a local parent calls the "brilliant" facilities at the Children's Centre in Thurnby Lodge, Leicester but worries that Sure Start is not reaching the people who need it most and can focus too much on what adults want rather than what would benefit their children.

A local headteacher says that "the only gain has been the early identification of children with learning and behaviour problems, so they don't just turn up at school and it's the first we've heard of them. Other than that, it's money down the drain."

That seems a little harsh to me - that's not such a bad result. Is it?