Why doesn't this country respect its nursery staff?

One respected retired primary head thinks he has the answer to the lack of respect shown to nursery staff and preschool

Early years: We need to show more respect to preschool education, says Colin Harris

There was once a time when there were few nurseries and little, if any, preschool provision in most areas.

This resulted in primaries and teachers experiencing many issues of children being prepared – or not prepared –  for school life.

These days, it would seem the majority of children have some time in a nursery provision, especially since the introduction of the 30 free hours, and are therefore better prepared for full-time education.

And yet can we honestly say these settings are given the respect and praise they deserve? We have a legacy attitude to preschool in this country that is troubling.

In Scandinavian countries, the picture is very different. Their attitude to preschool is totally different to ours – and their output world-class. Most of their workers are graduates and it is commonly recognised that the work performed in such establishments will be high-quality, beneficial and respected.

But what of our own set-up? Certainly, we have nowhere near the number of graduates in our settings... Not that that is essential.

Last week I visited a nursery and was blown away by the quality on offer. The resources were excellent, planning and preparation of tasks were of a high quality and no one could fault the dedication and commitment of the staff, even though they were not all graduates.

Early years: 'Preschool is the bedrock of education'

Despite this happy experience, underneath the surface you could see the issues our nurseries have to cope with. The government tries to convince us all how wonderful it is to provide 30 hours of free provision to all. And yet the National Day Nurseries Association highlights that the reality is a deficit of £2,166 between the cost of delivery per individual and funding received from government.

Yet again we see the government trying to buy quality provision on the cheap, and being conned in the process.

And so the providers have to make up the shortfall in some way, making charges to parents/carers that some can ill-afford. Add to this the issue of SEND at preschool, and the lack of support there is for this vulnerable group.

In reality, many preschool establishments will be unable to continue in the present climate if nothing changes. But where will we be without them?

As it stands, the vast majority of preschool providers do an incredible job, and most Reception year teachers now find the majority of new starters are "school-ready".

If we are to move even a small way in the direction of the standards set in Scandinavia, as a country we must learn to respect the nurseries and preschools that our children attend, fund them properly and support them extensively.

After all, they provide the very foundation, the very bedrock of our education system.

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were "outstanding" across all categories

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Colin Harris

Colin Harris

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were “outstanding” across all categories.