The number of four- and five-year-olds, at a “good level of development” at the end of their Reception year has risen for the fifth year in a row, demonstrating once again success in our early years settings. In 2019, 71.8% of children reached the DfE’s Early Years Foundation Stage profile benchmark, a 0.3% rise from the previous year.
Government statistics recently published also show that the gender gap has reduced again this year – however, girls are still outperforming boys. In all 3 key measures of the EYFS, (communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development) girls continue to perform better, with 77.6% at least at the expected level in all 17 of the early learning goals (ELGs). This is in comparison to 64.0% of boys.
For children to reach a “good level of development”, they must have reached the early learning goal (ELG) in 12 out of the 17 areas in which they are assessed. For example, being able to count to 20, read short and simple sentences and being able take turns when playing. The percentage of children who achieved the “expected level” in all 17 of the ELG also increased by 0.5 % on last year to 70.7%.
Interestingly, girls’ performance has stabilised this year – with no change to either the average point score or the percentage achieving a good level of development, compared with last year. Comparing the percentage points’ difference between the two, there has been a 0.8 percentage point increase with boys achieving at least the expected level but a 0.5 percentage point increase in those achieving a good level of development. So the boys’ average point score remains the same as 2018 at 33.4.
What this means is that the gender gap has actually decreased for the percentage achieving at least the expected level and the percentage achieving a good level of development.
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Looking after children’s health and wellbeing is high on the agenda of the Little Adventurers Nursery which has just been awarded a Healthy Early Years London Gold Award for their work with children and parents to promote health, wellbeing and school readiness at their setting in Upminster.
They are delighted to be the first setting to achieve this across all of Outer London and only 2nd across all 32 Inner and Outer London Boroughs. Healthy Early Years London (HEYL) is an award scheme (First Steps, Bronze, Silver and Gold) introduced by the Mayor of London to encourage healthy lifestyles for young children and their families.
Little Adventurers was presented with their Silver Award by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan at City Hall in June 2019 at a celebration event. The were honoured to also receive a visit by Deputy Mayor of London, Joanne McCartney to their setting earlier this year to find out about the ethos and many activities the nursery has put in place to support children’s understanding for the need for good health and wellbeing.
The projects for the Gold Award involved sustained work of their Silver Award case study – an oral hygiene project as well as a new universal (involving all the children in the nursery) and a new targeted case study. The positive impact of their award projects has been wonderful to watch throughout their setting and from parent feedback.
Little Adventurers Nursery which opened just 4 years ago clearly puts children at the heart of all they do; parents are delighted with the care and education their little ones receive here and nominated the nursery for a Top 20 London Nursery Award (out of 1,959 London nurseries) for the second time this year (Daynurseries.co.uk 2018 & 2019).
Nursery Owner, Lee Stimpson is hugely proud of the team and all they have achieved together and believes in investing in his nursery which offers high quality extended day care from 3 months to 5 years. This includes a first-clsss and professionally qualified staff team; offering optimum nutrition throughout their nursery menus; summer Forest School; a rich extra-curriculum programme along with regular outings into the local community for all children.
Building strong relationships with parents as well as teaching the children about caring for the planet through a range of projects are all important parts of this nursery’s ethos, “Daphne, our dolphin mascot is one way we promote this to our children and families and we take our own social responsibility as a business very seriously, for example by incorporating recycling throughout nursery and purchasing locally sourced goods and food.”, Chris Ford, Business Development Manager explained.
Manager of the setting Ginny Andreas spoke about receiving the Gold Award, “I am immensely proud to manage such a fantastic team of professionals here at Little Adventurers. To achieve Gold has been a whole team effort and has provided our children, parents and staff with invaluable knowledge on how to support the best of health from the earliest years. If we can teach children from very young the importance of a good diet, strong oral hygiene and an active lifestyle then they stand the best chance of growing into healthy and physically, mentally and emotionally fit adults.”
Parents clearly adore the nursery, with many parents of pre-school children sending heartfelt messages to the nursery as their little ones leave for the next stage of their primary education. Nursery parent, Anna wrote in her card this week, “You are all such dedicated, professional, special people and we will miss you all very much. In the blink of an eye, our baby has become a “big boy” who is confident in himself, friendly, independent and happy, all because of you. Thank you for helping him shine and for giving him the best possible start in life.”
A recently-published book by David Wright and Simon Brownhill, entitled “Men in Early Years Settings: Building a Mixed Gender Workforce” has highlighted the problem of the gender imbalance in the early years workforce.
In the UK, nursery staff are predominantly female: less than 2% are male, despite 84% of parents saying they wanted to see childcare settings employing male workers.
International experience suggests that change is possible, although each country has its own cultural, work and social differences. In 2005, Denmark had the greatest percentage of male childcare workers at 8%. However, in Norway in 2008, their figure had risen to 10% (up from 3%). In addition, Norway was able to increase the proportion of kindergartens with at least one male teacher from 16% to 22% due to a legal responsibility to increase men employed in pre-schools.
There are many benefits to encouraging more men to work in early years settings, including:
- A more diverse workforce which better reflects our society at large, creating positive male role models. This is especially important if a child’s own father is absent. Research suggests that significant contact time with a male adult was lacking in 17% of children from lone-parent families, who experienced less than two hours a week. And one third had under six hours a week, so men in early years settings are vital in redressing this balance
- A larger pool of male applicants to recruit staff from
- A reduction in the attainment gap between boys and girls aged 16. Although more research is needed, it would seem logical to assume that more positive male role models at all stages of a child’s education, would be helpful
- Children can benefit from the different approaches and caring styles that men can bring, including challenging behaviour, and risk-taking
- Men can often bring more active movement, or ‘rough-and-tumble’ play in their interaction with children which can be positive
- Male practitioners can help challenge stereotypes related to professions, household duties, toys and activities. If children see men in different roles in their childcare and educational settings, these roles can be accepted more readily by society at large.
Barriers to entry
Despite these advantages, statistics prove there are still many barriers preventing men from working in nurseries including:
- A prevailing attitude that caring for the young is ‘women’s work’, despite improvements in men sharing childcare duties for their own children
- Men can feel unwelcome in a predominantly female environment
- Men can still be viewed with suspicion in early years settings or face an uphill struggle to challenge stereotypes
- Negative generalisations about men – such as ‘men don’t talk much’ or ‘men always play rough’ or ‘men are not as emotionally-connected as women’
- Low wages and the perceived lack of career opportunities or progression.
What can be done?
Solutions for tackling the problem are needed at both government and local levels.
In 2012, the UK Government published targets for increasing the number of men working in childcare settings, saying they wanted “a greater gender balance in the early years workforce.”
In 2017, the Department of Education also published the “Early Years Workforce Strategy” setting out “how the department plans to support the early years sector to remove barriers to attracting, retaining and developing the early years workforce.” It identified the problem of gender balance, and whilst the results of this strategy have yet to be realised, things are moving in the right direction.
The recent book by Wright and Brownhill, is one step forward offering guidance on attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing male members of staff.
Suggested ways to tackle the problem
- A strategic approach. Settings could come together to create a steering group to offer advice and direction. These groups should commit to action rather than just talking though. Other ways include creating networks to support male staff. The Fatherhood Institute ran a campaign to attract more men into the sector and in 2016, held the first conference concerning men in early years settings.
- Review educational courses. Training courses need to ensure that they are relevant and supportive for male trainees and that obstacles to recruitment are overcome.
- Improved career advice. Careers advice is compulsory in schools so adequate provision should be made to ensure that jobs showing males working in early education and childcare, are shown as fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding careers with good career prospects.
- The use of male staff in adverts and posters. Images used to advertise roles for permanent or volunteer staff in early years settings, should include both male and female staff.
- Retainment of male staff. Recruiting male staff is only part of the problem. Settings need to ensure ongoing support and practices that tackle pressures, prejudices or isolation felt by male staff.
- Reduced stereotyping. This means tackling the often ingrained, unspoken ideas that men are particularly ‘dangerous’ or ‘undesirable’ in early years settings.
In a joint statement promoting their new book, the authors said: “The thinking behind “Men in Early Years Settings: Building a Mixed Gender Workforce” is to keep children at the centre of the discourse.”
Accordingly, the authors underline the principle of ‘the best person for the job’ rather than employing anyone based purely on their gender.
Expectations, fears, perceptions and pressures to conform to stereotypes are all discussed in the book. The authors conducted empirical research, analysing examples of settings where mixed-gender teams exist that help to illustrate key characteristics of successful organisations.
It’s an exciting but daunting thought. You know you need to embrace technology, go paperless and enter the world of nursery management software. You understand the need to “go digital” to allow yourself and your staff the freedom to be able to...
Hornsea Nursery School’s new outdoor nursery is located within a local authority site which is funded by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
The outdoor nursery offers 26 places and is run by qualified teachers and forest school leaders. Parents can pay for extra sessions for their children, however, both indoor and outdoor places are funded by the local authority.
Headteacher of the nursery Claire White said she hopes that she will be able to increase the number of outdoor places and employees if the outdoor approach is successful.
She added: “We do still offer the traditional nursery provision too, but the Outdoor Nursery and Forest School gives parents and their children a choice.
“Many of our children opt to spend some time in each and, during outdoor time, we have a free-flow system in place so that children from the main nursery building can visit the forest school if they’d like to. We want our children to be curious.
“We’ve always had an outdoor ethos, it’s part of our philosophy here. There is an element of risk-taking but those risks are carefully managed. For example, children are taught how to use the tools before they touch them, and there are strict rules about how they enter and move around the campfire circle. We support the children to help themselves, encouraging them to work together as teams and solve problems. It’s about giving them life skills, as well as preparing them for their future education.”
Children at the forest nursery will be outside all year round; they are provided with willow arches and a canopy in the winter for shelter. They also have access to an art studio and yurt.
Sarah Saunders, a teacher at the forest school, said: ‘‘They had such fun when it snowed, following animal and bird tracks. We find that children respect the rules here because the rules have a point – they are there to keep them safe. We also find that we have fewer behavioural issues in the forest school and that social issues are less of a factor; children that might struggle in a traditional nursery setting often excel here.”
The chairman of the nursery’s governing body, John Whittle, added: “What we have here is very special. Maintained nurseries are the jewel in the crown of our education system and research shows that this is the most important stage of education.
“At this age, children’s brains are like sponges and the early intervention that we can offer here is absolutely key. Our goal is to raise children’s aspirations; we want to show them that they can be anything that they want to be.”
He added: “The development of the outdoor nursery and forest school takes the values that have always been central to what we do here a step further. It means that we can offer something very specialist that is not currently available anywhere else in Hull and East Yorkshire.”
Hornsea Nursery School is offering parents and children the chance to have a look around on Saturday 30th June.
The outdoor nursery and forest school plans to open its doors in September.