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HMIE boosts nursery teachers

Inspectors seek to encourage probationers into early years, writes Henry Hepburn.School inspectors have called for a reversal of GTC arrangements for probationers so that in future they can carry out all their training in an early years setting.

Such a move would mitigate against "the loss of new and enthusiastic teachers coming into the early education workforce", says the HMIE report, published this week.

It explains that under recent changes to General Teaching Council for Scotland registration, probationers are no longer allowed to carry out their training in a nursery school or class, but must instead do their induction year in a primary or secondary school. The report also found that overall, the quality of children's experiences was of a higher standard in a nursery where a teacher was employed.

But the Scottish Government has responded quickly to the HMIE findings, highlighting its promise to make sure that all children get to spend time with a nursery teacher.

The report, which scrutinises the role of staff in providing high-quality pre-school education, points to the negative consequences of the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act, 2000.

It removed the statutory requirement for local authorities to have a ratio of one teacher to 20 children in nursery classes when it came into force in 2002. That led to a reduction of teachers in nurseries, which, the report found, had made it difficult to place student teachers in pre-school settings with experienced teachers. "Headteachers and teachers expressed concern that student teachers are not being given sufficient encouragement and support to establish a career within the early years sector," the report stated.

The report also found that "high-quality" nursery schools had been closed down or replaced by other types of early years provision in a number of local authorities.

This, too, meant the placement of student teachers in nursery schools had proved "difficult".

The same report backs up previous national and international research by finding that nurseries with teachers are better for children, based on the evaluation of 1,600 out of Scotland's 2,500 various "pre-school centres" between 2003 and 2005.

When it came to meeting children's needs, for example, it was found that 51 per cent of local authority nursery schools and family centres with teacher involvement ranked as "very good" - against 28 per cent of those with no teachers.

Those with teacher involvement achieved 65 per cent of "very good" evaluations for interaction between staff and children, against 49 per cent of those without teachers.

Children's Minister Adam Ingram said: "I believe early years policy holds the key to building the Scotland we want for the future. That's why we're determined to ensure that all children have access to a nursery teacher and get the maximum possible benefit from their pre-school education. Under our proposals every child will get the benefit of nursery teacher experience, which is currently not the case."

Mr Ingram also highlighted the report's finding that well-qualified non-teachers, like teachers, had a positive impact on pre-school education. He stressed that the Government was developing degree-level qualifications for early years professionals.

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