Liz Truss encourages schools to take children as young as two

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Education Minister, Liz Truss, is pushing for schools to accept two-year-olds in on-site nurseries.

Mrs Truss wrote to all local authorities in England, asking them to encourage schools to take toddlers to combat the shortage of childcare. The hope is that it will create tens of thousands of spaces across the country and help more mothers to get back into work, reducing the gap between children from different economic backgrounds.

This comes alongside government changes to make it easier for schools to take two-year-olds, making the Ofsted registration process easier for those with primary schools and nurseries on one site. This was previously seen as a barrier for many.

A scheme is already being piloted by 49 schools, where each has been given £10,000 to trial giving care to toddlers. This was introduced to give children from all areas a similar start to their education, reducing existing gaps.

The aim is for the new places to be age-appropriate; there needs to be different activities for younger children. Schools cannot lose sight of the fact that provision for younger children is very different to that required for those over five. It also demands an entirely different level of care to that currently offered by many schools in the form of after-school and breakfast clubs.

Critics are saying, with the cost of childcare rising and putting added pressure on parents financially, this is just a way to offer cheap childcare, rather than an honest attempt to improve the system. It has also been suggested that the initiative will encourage more mothers to prematurely break the early bond they have with their children.

How will the proposals change the childcare industry? Will we see a change in standards?

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3 thoughts on “Liz Truss encourages schools to take children as young as two

  • February 10, 2014 at 4:45 pm
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    I find it difficult to comment on this situation as I am positive that it will be seen that I have a vested interest in retaining the current status quo as the owner of a Private Day Nursery as opposed to being an individual, like many others who wants to further improve the childcare provision and protect it from erosion. But I will try.

    I fear that this has been on the government plan for some time, although it is still difficult to see how it might improve the situation.
    The current approach of there being a ‘shortage’ of childcare places is different to the initial statement recently released by numerous MPs that childcare is too expensive. I have represented this very situation to our local MP for Chester, Stephen Mosley and, through his good offices,have invited Elizabeth Truss to visit The Spinney Day Nursery to get a more up to date picture of what is actually happening in Private Day Nurseries and most importantly what parents both feel and see as their need. Sadly she felt that she was too busy to accept our offer.

    We are all clear about what makes childcare so expensive, generally it is Government policy. Putting VAT and the current rate of VAT aside, the Government has really forced the agenda as regards standards of provision which has undermined the current NVQ provision and therefore generated more cost as a result.. One only has to consider the situation of the Early Year Practitioner (EYP), which now appears to have little currency when viewed against the new QTS, which doesn’t actually provide Qualified Teacher Status (?). When pushed to explain what the cost of childcare actually represents, MPs will invariably quote London and district figures which are often twice that charged in the North West. This might have also resulted in a ‘dumbing down’ as regards parent inquiries to nurseries. That aside we also need to consider the costs experienced by the myriad of other Government initiatives on what are most clearly Small and Medium sized businesses. I certainly do not recognize a 30% increase in income as has been recently discussed as an increase to childcare costs in recent times.

    Anyone who runs a nursery will be quite clear about the fact the cost of younger children and babies is subsidized by the fees from the Pre School age group. This group of children has been constantly eroded over the last few years as this group of children are moved into school at a much earlier age. I do not see how the cost of childcare can be improved by taking the current course of action. It is. therefore difficult to see how Private Day Nurseries will be able to run a service for children from babies, which in reality is age one after maternity leave up to two years of age – one year. Even with the suggested Government increase to the ratios, which I believe is still open for consideration after the passing of the recent bill, there will still not be enough of a margin to making it a viable proposition whilst also reaching for improvements to the provision. And the result will be?

    Taking all this into consideration I believe that Private Day Nurseries will be adversely effected. Private nurseries are not immune to gas, electricity, water and food increases, this is further aggravated by the fact that the VAT that is charged on some of these services, is currently at 20% and as far as Private Day Nurseries are concerned, non refundable whereas schools, of course, do not have to pay VAT. A true comparison needs a level playing field approach at the very start of the study.

    The solution to this situation is as far as we are concerned very clear. The Government has it within its power to correct this situation by simply supporting Parents and existing Private Day Nurseries who have an enviable track record of both success and high standards already in place. I fear that the lack of experience in schools will do more damage than good and certainly feel that experience is just as important as qualification in this situation. We linger in 26th place in the European education league tables, we recognize the effectiveness of the Scandinavian approach (where they do not attend school until seven years of age,) and yet here we are proposing to send two year-olds to school for up to ten hours a day.

    What has been achieved by the release of this news is the resultant uncertainty will lead to a lack of commitment to development on behalf of owners and investors (including banks) until the full effect of this policy is understood. Again, I find it difficult to see how this contributes to raising standards. And finally the agenda in schools is different to that of nurseries, we have for example had children returned to nursery after having failed to cope with school at four years of age and we worry that we are on the forward edge of a huge mistake. We hope that a more cohesive plan that is aimed at fulfilling parental need as opposed to political expedience will become apparent in due course.

    Reply
    • February 11, 2014 at 9:36 am
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      Wholeheartedly agree with John Thomson. Very well written, very professional.
      May I just add my opinion …
      Liz Truss has fallen by the wayside one too many times in my view as Education Minister, and yes, I believe there is a Government agenda at work here. I can’t think of a more inappropriate place to send a two year old than into school. I am one who believes that young children should not enter into a school environment until they are at least 6 years old. The 1944 Education Act needs a serious review, but I guess both Liz Truss and this Government are not up for the job!

      Reply
      • February 27, 2014 at 8:12 am
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        I completely agree with the very sensible comments by practitioners on this subject. I would add, in addition to owning a private nursery, my partner is a supply teacher in state primary schools and they are creaking under the burden of regulation and are struggling to meet their budgets. How on earth therefore will primary schools have the time or the money to accept two year olds into school. One final point is the ratios in nurseries in primary schools seem to be different to those in the private sector. My partner has to teach up to 25 4 year olds currently, with one teaching assistant. In our nursery, we would be required to have 4 staff for the same number of children…if the
        Government proceeds with this idiotic idea, will they be required to have one teacher for every 4 toddlers? The government has neither the money or the teachers to do this, so it would be the children who would suffer. Moreover the result would be many private nurseries going bankrupt, with resulting job losses. Hardly something I would expect the Chancellor to support. Liz Truss needs a rethink …or a new job!

        Reply

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