A debate that goes deeper ..

3rd August 2012 at 01:00

I refer to your report of 27 July of the Court of Session ruling on the decision of Glasgow City Council to appoint heads to nursery schools under conditions of service set out by the Joint Scottish Council.

You are correct that the EIS is contemplating a challenge. The issue is, however, far from being a purely legal matter. The statement from the Scottish government spokesperson perpetuates the confusion over what is meant by "access to a teacher".

The ill-fated concordat between Scottish government and Cosla envisaged teachers being deployed in individual establishments or on a peripatetic basis across establishments. It was believed, erroneously, that this would be in addition to provision at that time.

It is this peripatetic deployment that has allowed a dilution of early years education delivered by teachers. Both Scottish government and some local authorities have formed a view that peripatetic teachers support establishments and early years workers in those establishments. Working directly with children is seldom routinely planned and, at best, is random. At the Court of Session, Glasgow City Council did not seek to lead evidence on the delivery of education provided by the cohort of peripatetic teachers.

If three- to five-year-olds are to be given 475 hours of school education, as set out in the 2002 Order, we are entitled to know how many of these hours are provided by a registered teacher. The concordat promised providing access to a teacher as quickly as possible. The reality is that deployment of peripatetic teachers means many children, who previously were taught directly by a teacher, no longer have such direct teaching.

While the issue of adequate numbers of teachers may be tested legally, the issue for parents who send their children to nursery schools in Glasgow this month will be whether teachers will deliver the curriculum and develop educational experiences as part of the 3-18 curriculum envisaged in Curriculum for Excellence.

Is it too simplistic to state that a school without a registered teacher cannot be a school?

The Scottish government spokesperson refers to research to be undertaken by Education Scotland. It will be interesting to see if that research can inform the Scottish public how many hours of education for three- to five- year-olds are delivered directly by teachers. Any report which does not set out that evidence will miss the point.

This debate is not only about the educational benefits that registered teachers bring to early years education. It is about what parents are told and expect when children are enrolled into nursery schools. When registered teachers and heads are removed from nursery schools, the trust of parents has been abused.

Drew Morrice, assistant secretary, Educational Institute of Scotland.

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