Liz Truss: "Chaotic Nurseries fail to teach good manners"

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Mrs Truss, a 37-year-old mother of two, has again outraged the childcare industry with comments in an interview with the Daily Mail. She claims the Government want children “to learn to listen to a teacher, learn to respect an instruction so that they are ready for school”.

In the interview she claims, ‘This isn’t about two-year-olds doing academic work – it’s structured play which teaches children to be polite and considerate through activities which the teacher is clearly leading’.

Her comments have sparked heated debate on social media, with many providers clearly insulted by her statements.

‘At the moment fewer than one-third of nurseries employ graduate-level teachers and have structured, teacher-led sessions. We know that’s very beneficial.

‘What you notice in French nurseries is just how calm they are. All of their classes are structured and led by teachers. It’s a requirement.

‘They learn to socialise with each other, pay attention to the teacher and develop good manners, which is not the case in too many nurseries in Britain.’

She said of UK providers: ‘Free-flow play is not compulsory, but there is a belief across lots of nurseries that it is. I have seen too many chaotic settings, where children are running around. There’s no sense of purpose.

‘In these settings where there aren’t sufficiently qualified staff, and children are running around, we are not getting positive outcomes.

‘We want children to learn to listen to a teacher, learn to respect an instruction, so that they are ready for school.’

‘Children get into the habit of  waiting their turn, of saying hello to the teacher when they come into the room,’ she said.

The minister also referred to recent changes to rules on child-to-adult ratios, that are designed to encourage nurseries to employ better-paid graduates.

How do you feel about these comments?  We’d love to hear your views in the comments box below.

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17 thoughts on “Liz Truss: "Chaotic Nurseries fail to teach good manners"

  • May 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm
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    Absolutely absurd!!
    myself and my friend run a setting and none of our staff have a teacher status nor would i particularly employ one for this reason, yet we have no problems with teaching children good manners and how to wait patiently and be kind to each other or listen to a grown up.

    you government are the ones that need to learn manners and how to listen. how to listen to the people out here every day doing a fantastic job. yes i agree there maybe some settings that have trouble, but is it the actual setting or is it the child or is it even the background of the child. there are many factors that could contribute to why children are not learning manners, so why are you targeting all nurseries and tarring us with this.

    inflicting these ratio changes on nurseries will only worsen the problem as it WILL turn into chaos!!!! and forcing settings to have a member of staff with a teacher status wont help either, most setting do not have the money to pay someone with this qualification!

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  • April 23, 2013 at 1:57 pm
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    My wife Alison and I run a Childrens’ Day Nursery with two separate settings. We always ensure that all visitors are made aware that whilst we have two sites, the ethos is exactly the same, a nursery that holds good manners as important as the facilitation of the EYFS
    I am reasonably new to the running of the business, having been a qualified teacher as is Alison who was a Special Educational Needs teacher. Even in this short period of time I am very aware of the confusion that is caused by a lack of a consistent central policy and understanding, even amongst such interested parties as the DfE and Ofsted itself. Mrs Truss’ recent comments are just another example of this as well the not too distant comments of Ofsted. If you have been around politicians for any period of time you will recognise that these frequent sounbites are often part of a hidden agenda of which there will be more to come later.
    There can be no doubt that the comments that Mrs Truss has made could be seen as a reasonable aspiration but they fail to demonstrate any understanding of three very important facets, ie the role of nurseries, the capabilities of two year olds and what School Nurseries, Children’s Day Nurseries, Pre Schools and Childminders have all be required to do in relation to the EYFS and Ofsted. Many nurseries will be confused by the comments made in relation to the requirements of Ofsted inspectors on conducting inspections. We are all very much aware of the damage that can be done by a poor Ofsted inspection report to the viability to the Nursery in the future which makes it difficult for some nurseries to step outside the system and challenge the decision. Ofsted’s comments recently about failing nurseries only illustrates the point that the Ofsted inspection regime, by their own addmission, has failed to raise standards.
    It is all very well Mrs Truss explaining that such things as ‘Free Play’ are not compulsory but she should maybe spend some time with Ofsted inspectors explaining that to them. Nurseries are ‘marked down’ if they do not demonstrate a ‘Free Play’ capability or cannot subscribe to it in the name of safety. It would appear that there is a lack of concensus between the DfE and Ofsted which only adds to the confusion.
    Having not long finished military service I am very much aware about the importance of good Leadership and training. I am also aware of the difference between training, which is skill based and deals with capability outcomes and qualification which deals with knowledge but does not necessarily deal with capabilities and outputs. The recent drive for ‘better qualified’ staff needs to be brought into clearer focus that clearly identifies the importance of delivering capable practitioners and not simply graduates. I would have hoped that we had learnt something from the similar drive in nursing. The more recent constant change to nursery qualifications has done little to improve standards and the confusion and undermining effect of the Early Years Practitioner (EYP) in the cause of introducing the Early Years Qualified Teacher Status, that incidentally will not grant qualified teacher status, just simply illustrates the point.
    What the childcare sector needs is a period of consistency during which time we can refine the provision and ensure that it is in the best interests of the children. Cherry picking aspects of other countries without understanding the total culture of that country is of very little use and can be damaging, especially to the professional self esteem of our current nursery nurses. I do hope that the childcare sector and the Government as a whole fully understand the importance of encouraging nurseries if we are to have the provision available to meet the aspirations of the Government in getting people back to work.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 6:51 pm
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    I agree totally that children need to be taught good manners and listening skills are vital if children are going to succeed in life.
    However I don’t think that this can only be taught by people with Teacher status.
    As a parent, nanny, nursery practitioner and now Childminder, I have always strived to improve children’s manners and listening skills.
    I attended training courses that helped support my knowledge on how best to do this. Perhaps Mrs Truss should suggest that staff within Early years settings receive appropriate training and support, instead of insulting the excellent work that is already being done.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm
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    I agree… I have always said if we had experienced, qualified teachers in early years we old reduce the problem children after on. Listening to instructions, following good role models nd respect are key.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm
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    I am the manager of a nursery and in my 13 years of experience working with the early years children good manners and respect for others is instill in the children from the age of 2 years through the rules and boundaries we have at the nursery. We believe that if the children are made aware of what behaviour is acceptable and unacceptable in the setting they adjust and respect those values. That is reflected in the children’s behaviour when we take them on trips, restaurants, local site etc. I started the foundation degree and unfortunately had to take time off for personal reasons however, I felt the units I covered and what the course entailed would not equip me at the end of it, as I was not learning anything new that my 13 years of working with the children taught me. At the end of the day its all about the children getting to know them on a personal level, creating a safe and stimulating evironment where they are happy and able to learn. It is also knowing their needs to progress them through on a personal level at their stage of development. That means not comparing them to other children. They are their own little person with their own way of learning and getting to where they need to be in their own way and on their own terms. Our ethos at the nursery is my staff are makeshift parents to the children and therefore we treat them as our own. Reducing the ratios would diminish that and that is where you would get the running around and chaos that Truss is talking about.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 2:22 pm
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    Does Liz Truss have a childcare qualification? I very much doubt it with all the insulting nonsense that she spouts. Children can and do learn during child-led activities…it’s about how the adult skillfully tunes into that and develops the child’s thoughts and ideas. The EYFS recommends a mixture of child led and adult initiated activities, and I believe that the Government published that as a curriculum?

    It seems to me that upper class parlimentarians and their hangers-on look back to their schooldays of learning by rote, standing up when a teacher comes into a class and being hit by a ruler when they were naughty, and think, ‘Well, it never did me any harm.’ Times have changed! We wouldn’t hit children now, so why would we think that returning to the ‘olden days’ would be good in any other way?

    Children need to learn to have self-control, self-discipline and self-esteem. The emphasis is on the self. If children are constantly directed and not given free time, their impulses will have always been controlled by someone else. How will that serve them when they are teenagers and subject to peer and societal pressure?

    Another issue is that if you expect very young or developmentally immature children to sit down and concentrate, you are enabling some of them to fail at a very, very young age. Surely we want to send confident, enquiring, successful, happy children into primary education, not children who know they will be told off by staff for not listening, won’t make eye contact in case they get into trouble, and won’t try out new things because they already think they will fail?

    Incidentally I am the Headteacher of a nursery school and have worked with children for 40 years, first as a Nursery nurse, then as a teacher. Our school received an ‘Outstanding’ grade for behaviour and safety in our recent Ofsted inspection. We use a mixture of child-initiated and adult led activities, and our children are polite, well-behaved and happy. We do teach them, but we do it in a way that follows the old adage of ‘learning by doing’, or developing the children’s interests.

    Returning to the thoughts of Liz Truss-anyone with experience of visiting or working in pre-school settings can tell the difference between ‘chaos’ and children being involved and absorbed in their play, which may be noisy at times. Sometimes classes can get chaotic, and a skillful staff team will change plans, distract children or divide the children up into small groups to stop it.

    It seems to me that when our children are compared to those in any other country, by Government representatives looking for ‘the next big idea’, no account is taken of the differences between countries and their child rearing tendencies. You can’t ‘drop’ the ideas of one country into another and expect to get the same results. It just doesn’t happen that way, because education is complex, inextricably linked with child-rearing practices, families, societies and indeed, Governments.

    The problem with education is that everyone thinks they are an expert, as they have all attended school! It is time to leave education to the educationalists!

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  • April 22, 2013 at 1:01 pm
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    I completely agree with Liz Truss. If anybody can say we do not have a very responsible role in a child’s development that includes basic behavioural skills & school readiness then I believe we are treading the wrong path. It is so, so important that those skills are learned.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 11:58 am
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    In my experience (35 + years) children are always taught about manners, taking turns, to be kind to each other and to follow instructions in nurseries, but lets remember that they are children after all and in many countries they would not be going to school until the age of 7. Staff holding a degree (which i do) does not always make them better with the children especially for the skills you mention. The comments made might be true in some settings, but certainly not all and I am very against making nurseries into mini classrooms, they have enough of that later.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 11:56 am
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    I don’t understand why Liz Truss has such difficulties in understanding child development. Surely in her role she should have a clear idea of what level of care a child needs to thrive. She is sending out terrible mixed messages. I run an outstanding pre-school, we have very high behavioural expectations, and our children do not just ‘run around’ because they are engaged, happy, learning new things every day and they have respect for the practitioners because we have respect for them. We don’t have a graduate leader, or an early years teacher, or an EYP, we have an extremely experienced, motivated, reflective staff team, who understand child development, form very strong relationships with both the children in our care and their parents and genuinely care for the children. We operate a high ratio of adult to child, at 1:5 because we know if we operate at the current recommended level of 1:8 we cannot give the level of care, or offer the amazing opportunities such as forest school, baking, woodwork etc etc. that we do now. Liz Truss needs to get a grip, work in a good pre-school for a few weeks, and like magic she would understand that having one graduate teacher, however good, is not the answer to a high level of care, or respectful children. Listen to reason Liz, if you do not offer decent, hands on, exploratory experiences in early years care, and you don’t have enough adults for children, no matter their qualifications, you will have children that run around and run rings around the adults, unless they are ruled by fear, or so bored that they give up…..is that really what we want for our children?

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  • April 22, 2013 at 11:55 am
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    Loacl authorities and the establishment and training providers have been peddeling the free flow concept for room activity for toddlers and pre-school over several years as if it was compulsory. we have new staff who are concerned we do not subscribe to free flow and take some time to adjust to more discipline in the rooms. our families respect and chose this setting for this reason.
    Our experience with graduates over a ten year period is mixed, and more recently with the EYPS graduate very mixed!
    Changes to ratios will not free up money to pay higher salaries, just the utilities, rates, and equipment.
    Ofsted’s Wilshaw who draws attention to lack of qualification in childcare staff and his ‘absolute nonsence’ that more qualifications are needed to work with animals. JUST ASK WHO MAKES THE LAW it’s not the childcare staff.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 11:42 am
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    Have you ever investigated a Montessori setting. Our Pre-school has been informed that our prepared environment and didactic materials are exactly what the EYFS is trying to enforce with all nurseries. The one difference is a Montessori practitioner prepares themselves prior to entering our classrooms. Our practitioners understand that they are the first role model for manners/courtesy etc and will display good role modelling behavior to all children. Please do go and visit and observe how children interact politely and kindly in Montessori accredited Pre-school.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 11:37 am
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    I feel Truss is missing a key point…. it is not the job of day nurseries to provide school readiness, the Early Years Foundation stage runs to the end of the reception year at school it is the transition between the reception year and KS1 that has the biggest “gap” for the children as this is the time they are expected to adjust to more formalised teaching when some of these children are not even five years old, for myself the issue should be why are the schools not children ready? the upskilling of the Early years workforce seems to be widely over looked in schools, as an early years worker myself I have worked closely with schools transitioning disadvantaged children to school nursery and have met teachers with no experience of early years being employed based on their teaching degrees whom I have then had to advice on certain aspects of behaviors of three year olds in a school setting.
    A good practice day nursery will provide a balance of child lead and adult lead activities, there has been years and years of early education research dating back to the 1900’s detailing that children will learn best through free play both inside and out coupled with adult involvement to guide them to the next steps in their learning. The good practice daily routines include a short circle/ story/ song time that can be gradually increased in time as children get older and their attention grows …. what does a 2 year old gain from being sat infront of an adult and spoken to or read to about things they have not yet experienced, words and concepts they do not know? when infact being out and experiencing these things would give the child the understanding of all of these things and put them in better stance for later education? although I cannot help but wonder how Truss feels these quality adult interactions are going to occur if the proposed ratio change goes ahead especially as this effects the under 3s who are in their vital stages of learning, i know first had alot of private setting are taking this as a potential money saving opportunity and not as an opportunity to upskill their workforce with highly qualified highly paid staff and in reality what would make her believe that myself as a level 6 practitioner would be anymore competent in caring for four babies than a level 3 practitioner my qualification will not automatically omit chaos. As for manners, the children are encouraged to use good manners during meals etc and staff should role model this with each other and children but ultimately is instilling good manners not the role of the parent? I never attended education before aged 5 and I am still aware of manners and social etiquette why should the “blame” for bad mannered children fall on the early years setting.

    I personally believe recent changes are devaluing the role of the graduate lead I am currently one month away from finishing my EYPS, I am the last group that will undertake this qualification as it has been changed to EYTS from september, from my degree class only two people went on to the EYPS because they felt there was no point if it was going to be changed all the time, a large majority dropped out after the foundation degree as employers locally were starting to question whether it was worth employing such highly qualified staff and pay a salary to reflect this when the new government had proposed so many changes. I have personally seen a massive drop in financial incentives to undertake early years foundation degrees, the fee’s have shot up, the LA’s have cut funding and where money was previously being given to settings to allow cover for staff to attend day release university they are now barely covering the cost of tuition meaning both the setting and the employee are out of pocket. I once applied for a job and was told I would have to take my university day unpaid, How is a level three on a relatively low wage to afford this?
    I would be intrigued to know how qualified Ms Truss’s Nanny is and how much she gets paid in proportion to this qualification.
    in my opinion he government seem to be finding problems with one hand but creating them with the other.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 11:15 am
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    Obviously Mrs Truss has ‘selective vision’ and chooses to view UK early years education in a very negative ‘they must all be the same’ box.
    I would invite Liz to review one of our settings and observe children having a fantastic time and enjoying themselves in both a calm ‘French’ fashion and also in an exciting natural outdoors learning environment.
    She would note that whatever the lesson, and wherever the session is taking place, the children are being taught respect for themselves, each other, the environment around them and the staff/adults who are teaching them.
    We have an open door policy so therefore, Mrs Truss, please come along and take a look at a calm British nursery, and perhaps you could export some of our good practice to our friends across the channel.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 11:08 am
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    I absolutely agree with this lady, I am a level 3 practitioner, with many years experience and I know children benefit more from a structured environment.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 11:08 am
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    Myself and my wife have a day nursery, my wife runs the day care side of the business and I run the office. My wife has over 40 years experience in childcare and runs our setting in a controlled and orderly fashion where the children are safe and secure and loved not just by one overpaid teacher fresh out of university but a team of nursery nurses who do the job for the reward of seeing their charges enter as babies and leave as well adjusted 4 year old sgoing off to school.

    It seems to me that newly qualified teachers are full of ideas but have neither the life skills or common sense to enhance a young persons future life. Most older teachers are too far up their pay scales to consider working in a nursery.

    My I ask what Mrs Truss’s qualifications are for making these sweeping statements or is she just another Daily Mail tory hoping to deflect what a mess this goverment has made to their so called inprovments to nursery education.

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  • April 22, 2013 at 10:43 am
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    I have said for ages that the EYFS is not preparing children for school as, in nursery, the learning and development is child led concentrating on children’s individual needs and allowing them to succeed within one stage before going on to the next stage.
    Once children are in school , they are expected to sit and listen to a class teacher for long sessions and teaching is subject led rather than child led. There is plenty of time for children to sit and learn and to go onto the next stage even if they are failing within the previous stage.. Let us keep nursery as a base for promoting confidence and independence and an enthusiasm to learn more.
    This can be done, while at the same time expecting children to learn about manners and respect by having staff who are good role models and who have high expectations of all children.

    Reply

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