The Educational Institute of Scotland has a vested interest in campaigning for more teachers to be based in pre-school education. But the union is not alone in arguing that early education led by trained teachers is more effective than pre-school care which is not. HMIE findings back up this argument and there is strong research evidence, notably from the EPPE (Effective Provision of Pre-School Education) project in England and Wales, to suggest that "pedagogical content knowledge" is just as important in the early years as at any other stage of education.
There is consensus that intervention at the early years stage has the greatest impact. Yet pre-school education receives less attention and significantly less funding than higher education, for example, which can command more vocal lobbyists on its behalf. Nursery education is likely to become one of the priorities for the EIS as it calls the various political parties to account in the Scottish elections next year. And it is right to do so. For it was the Labour-Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive which first broke the link between teachers and nursery education in 2002 and the SNP Government which diluted it to a pledge to give every three- and four-year-old child "access" to a teacher.
The concordat between central and local government has allowed councils to interpret "access" to a teacher in a multiplicity of ways. Yet the Government surely cannot have envisaged that access would be delivered in such a piecemeal fashion as happens in some authorities, where a whole- time equivalent teacher can in reality be 20 teachers travelling round nurseries on a peripatetic basis. Dropping into a nursery for a couple of hours every few weeks does not constitute the support and leadership required to make the difference.
Neil Munro, editor of the year (business and professional magazine) 2009.