Sunday, 18 September 2016

Campaigning for nursery education - back to the future?

As I write, we're getting close to the deadline (22nd September) for responses to the government's consultation on early years funding for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on nursery schools and classes has been greatly effective in showing the huge risk that changes to funding will lead to a dilution of quality and have a negative effect on outcomes for children:

Although the government is committed to extending free childcare to support working families far less attention is being paid to the quality of that care and the consequent impact on educational and developmental outcomes for young children. Nursery Education appears to have been subsumed into Childcare. [read their full statement]

There is ample evidence from Ofsted that better-qualified staff provide better-quality early education. The argument that high-quality early education pays off in every imaginable way, especially by improving the life-chances of disadvantaged children, is now so often repeated that it hardly needs re-stating. Just in case you've landed here but still need convincing, here is one of many excellent reviews of the research from the Centre for Research in Early Childhood.

Back in the 1970s, the campaign to increase government support for early education was an extraordinary success. The education minister of the time, Margaret Thatcher, was responsible for the biggest expansion of early education ever seen.

I'm indebted to Anne Kibuuka, headteacher of Kay Rowe Nursery School, for the photos below which show how, in the pre-social-media era, those wily campaigners knew how to craft a great image and a soundbite.

Liz Murphy from the National Campaign for Nursery Education says that she "remembers these photos from the 1970 lobby we had to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1870 Education Act. We had as our motif a forget-me-not and parents and children dressed up in vaguely Victorian dress. A petition was handed in to Margaret Thatcher who had just been appointed Secretary of State for Education."

So, enjoy the photos and if you know any more about the lobby, or if you were in it, please drop me a line add a comment below. But let's not go back to the future: now's the time to keep arguing for the critical important of high quality early education.