The DFE turned down a bid from two Oxford primaries to run a school-centred postgraduate course to train high quality teachers of four to seven-year-old children. Adrian Townsend, headteacher of New Hinksey First School, and Rosemary Roberts, head of Elms Road Nursery School, were told that their course had been rejected because all primary training should focus on curriculum content for 11-year-olds as well. They have circulated a letter outlining their concerns to early years specialists.
Mr Townsend said this week: "Is there an agenda that says early years will be down-graded? Are we sliding back to the Mum's Army?"
More than 20 Oxfordshire primaries had expressed interest in the course. The heads say in their letter: "We are dismayed to conclude that it is not possible to offer a focused graduate course for nursery and key stage 1 teachers. This seems to imply a value system where older children's education matters more than learning in the early years; although the foundations of children's learning are known to be crucially important. There cannot be nursery education without nursery teachers; to have a situation where it is not possible to train them is a destructive contradiction."
The "Mum's Army" proposals, which would have allowed non-graduates to take a one-year training course to teach five to seven-year-olds, were scrapped a year ago after an outcry from early-years specialists.
The headteachers say that if they had included curriculum content for 11-year-olds in their bid, there would have been insufficient time for the study of child development, the process of learning, and working collaboratively with parents and other agencies.
"As the raison d'etre of the bid was to meet a need for more appropriately trained and high quality nursery and reception teachers, it is not our intention to make the required alterations."
The Professional Association of Early Childhood Educators said: "With the Government's promise to expand nursery education, we are concerned about where the essential training is going to come from."