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Nursery lessons in Italian

THE INFORMATIVE millennium edition article on nursery education is very timely, with the prospect of real expansion in provision for our youngest children.

Your readers may be interested to know that Margaret McMillan, one of the pioneers mentioned in the article, was the first president of the Nursery School Association, which was founded in 1923. The charity, now known as the British Association for Early Childhood Education, has continued the fight for high-quality care and education for all young children for more than 76 years.

Our essential aims remain the same and, until recently, our concerns have changed depressingly little over the years.

Our commitment has however strengthened as brain research and other new knowledge confirms our belief in the importance of play as a key to learning in the early years. Anyone who would like to see convincing evidence of this, and of the thought-provoking achievements young children can reach, may like to know that the world-renowned exhibition of work from the pre-schools in Reggio Emilia is being shown across the UK during the coming year.

One of the keys to the Italians' succss lies in the way that parents, practitioners and politicians work together, and hold the children central to their thinking and planning. Their starting point is the children's interpretation and understanding of their world. They then build on this in ways which allow children to explore their own theories, rather than being instructed about subjects which they do not yet grasp. The documentation from Reggio Emilia provides stunning evidence of the learning that takes place when adults allow children to work at their own pace, and aim to uncover rather than to cover the curriculum.

It is heartening to know that colleagues working in this way acknowledge their debt to traditional British nursery education, which in turn has drawn on other influences over time. Perhaps our wider society too will, at last, be in a position to draw on the existing expertise in our nursery schools and centres around the country. They are an invaluable resource, and should take the lead in developing excellent provision for all our young children.

Wendy Scott

Chief executive

Early Education

136 Cavell Street

London E1 2JA

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