Play and nurture pay off
Early intervention has had an impact on children born into social deprivation, the lead inspector for the early years told a conference in Edinburgh last week.
The recent Improving Scottish Education report from HMIE rated 90 per cent of emotional, personal and social development programmes for children in early years as "very good", Kate Cherry, assistant chief inspector, reminded the audience.
"That to us is critical," Ms Cherry said. "The most important aspect is that we have to ensure children are emotionally and socially developed. But is it so important that, by separating it out as an aspect, HMIE is diminishing it?"
The welcome parents received at nursery was setting a standard for involvement with education, she said. In primary, by contrast, parents are standing at the front gate. However, HMIE was finding in some centres that learning and teaching did not "cut the mustard" or meet the needs of individual children.
Ms Cherry commented: "In the past, it was thought that that might be because of the lack of experience or expertise of people - that they had not been able to identify what it was that the child needed. But there is a lot of information and support out there, so we really need to get that right.
"We need to identify those children who need these supports early on. There is no point in waiting until they get to primary school and hoping that someone will test them and get it right - that is too late for some. We have to be careful we catch them and intervene as early as possible. If staff don't have the knowledge themselves, they need to know who to go to and get some support."
Ms Cherry also criticised some centres where staff engagement with children was not as good as it could be. "Sometimes there is a misconceived philosophy about child-centredness. Sometimes that is just an excuse to let children go off and do whatever they want. There is a difference between letting them go off to do whatever they want and intervening for purposeful experiences.
"A lot of children are very deprived in their vocabulary and don't get talked to enough. If children don't have the vocabulary at the start, they won't be as imaginative or as deep later on."
Key concerns about A Curriculum for Excellence * Why are there not more secondments from nursery to primary?
* How can the facilities in P1 match those in nursery more closely?
* There needs to be more staff training in ICT.
* Nursery teachers need to be kept in nursery education.
* There needs to be more CPD on the "how" of teaching.
* P1 teachers need more skills on how to use play as part of the curriculum.