Thursday, 28 March 2013

Leading researchers warn that government proposals will "lead to an unintended reduction in quality"

Four of the country's leading researchers into early education have produced a detailed analysis of the proposals in More Great Childcare, which they have evaluated against the best available evidence.

Naomi Eisenstadt, Professor Kathy Sylva, Sandra Mathers (University of Oxford) and Brenda Taggart (Institute of Education, London) applaud the aims and ambition of the government proposals. But they are sceptical, and suggest that they are most likely to "lead to an unintended reduction in quality".

Their review of the proposals speaks for itself [PDF] so I won't quote too much from what they say. But here are a few salient points:

  • For babies and toddlers, ratios were much more important for quality than were staff qualifications. Therefore, relaxing ratios for this age group will lead to a reduction in quality; and improving qualifications would not lessen the impact.
  • The introduction of a new qualification - the ‘Early Years Teacher’ - to replace existing Early Years Professionals (EYPs) will not necessarily enhance the status of those working with young children because they will not have comparable training, or Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), and will not be eligible for teacher pay and conditions. They will simply be second class ‘teachers’.
  • "very worrying are proposals to reduce the quality improvement role currently offered by local authorities (LAs). This may lead to a direct reduction in quality as currently local authorities do far more than simply ‘inspect’ quality."

Overall, the tone of this paper is even-handed and sober, determinedly non-ideological.

For me, the message is clear: there is no serious evidence to support most of the government proposals. More Great Childcare is nothing more than a reckless gamble with the wellbeing, development and futures of our youngest children.

Read more of my posts on the More Great Childcare proposals:

Professor Denise Hevey's comments on More Great Childcare

Can we afford not to provide high quality early education and care? Cathy Nutbrown responds to More Great Childcare

When is a teacher not a teacher?

Liz Truss on ratios and qualifications - an ill-considered announcement

Elizabeth Truss and nursery ratios: why there is no case for change


  1. I so ageee in particular with regard to LA role being taken away not even reduced but cut. Many Parents do not understand or recognise how this may affect quality and its been done so quietly. Shame on this govenrment for consisitently undoing all that has been gained under Ever Child Matters. These new policies just show that our current government does not want to undertand or care enough about our children and the care and education they should receive. Every expert says the same thing but will they listen?

    1. Hi, and thanks for your post. Taking away the role of LAs is a very foolish move. Firstly, local authority teams have on the ground relationships with nurseries and other settings; they have a role not just to evaluate quality, but also to tailor support and training to the specific needs of each nursery. Who will do that now? And in a small number of cases they can pick up on providers operating illegally or dangerously and take swift action - in my experience as an LA officer some of the most dangerous settings slipped through the Ofsted net for one reason or another. It hasn't been thought through.

  2. Thank you Julian for signposting to this report.

    I had not seen it, maybe because like so many in the sector I am struggling to find the time to keep up to date with everything, to fill in the various consultations, to follow the progress of the Children and Families Bill (of significance to me as a childminder due to this being the bill that childminder agencies are being dealt with), while like many others carrying on with the day job of caring for the children.
    I have added the link to this blog to the One Voice website - where I am sure you know there is is a page just for links to your blogs - so that hopefully more people will get to hear about this report.
    However I have to ask if the government will listen? So many leading experts have now spoken out, including of course Cathy Nutbrown, so many people have signed the various petitions, including the one I started - and in total there are around 80,000 signatures now - many from parents as well as from early years professionals.
    We do of course have to keep trying to get the government to listen - and I will personally being doing all I can to achieve this.

    As Cathy Nutbrown said in an email to me

    'I hope the many voices will be heard and taken notice of. Lots of people are, like you, doing their best to make a difference, and that's important'.

    She is right, of course, it is important and so we must do our best, to ensure the children of this country have access to high quality early years experiences

    1. Hi Penny - first of all, I want to pay tribute to your campaigning and blogging on this issue. Will anyone listen ? - I believe that giving voice to opinions and speaking truth to power is always important and will always make a difference in the end, even if not immediately. Keep on keeping on.

  3. June O Sullivan30 March 2013 at 11:10

    Thanks Julian

    I have made my views clear from the outset, changes to ratios are never going to improve quality. I went to France to see for myself and frankly was quite disturbed by some of what I saw. Better quality settings mitigated the lower ratios with a number of ancillary staff doing some of the support tasks. Many of our French colleagues and parents rejected the French ratios as potentially disastrous and parents worried about them. Indeed, the Minister who introduced them was now out of office! They admired what we do here!

  4. Hi June - yes you did. I think blogpost on seeing the ecoles maternelles in France is essential reading for everyone interested in this debate - if you missed it, catch up here: