Youngest pupils ‘don’t even know how to hold a pencil’

Lack of qualified nursery teachers has an impact on ability of children starting primary school, teaching union hears

Henry Hepburn

Youngest pupils ‘don’t even know how to hold a pencil’

The job of primary teachers is getting harder because many children starting primary school without a “basic level of ability”, a teaching union’s conference has heard.

Some pupils cannot sit still or hold a pencil, delegates heard during a debate where concerns were raised about the lack of qualified teachers in many nurseries.

At the AGM of the EIS, Scotland’s biggest teaching union, primary teacher Jillian Gillespie said: “Over the years we have seen a steady decline in the abilities of children coming into P1.

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“Poor communication skills, poor speech, social and emotional difficulties, lack of independence. We can no longer assume that the children coming into P1 have a basic level of ability.”

Speaking at the AGM in Perth yesterday, she added: “Some children are coming in to school unable to speak in sentences, they don’t know how to sit and listen and a majority of them don’t even know how to hold a pencil.”

Local authorities insist that even if a nursery does not have a qualified teacher, it will employ child development officers who are better qualified than they have ever been.

On the final day of the three-day AGM today, however, vice-president elect Carole Thorpe said that a Norwegian delegation visiting Scotland was “aghast” that there was not a qualified teacher in every nursery in Scotland. Research has also consistently highlighted the importance of teachers in nursery education.

Ms Gillespie said yesterday that the job of being a P1 teacher was getting harder every year because of a lack of “educational input” in nurseries.

She added: “Local authorities are decreasing the educational value in the early years and we need to put teachers back into nursery,” she added.

“Our curriculum is three to 18 and we should have a teacher there educating from three.

“I am not disrespecting what our early years officers do, they do a very good job, but teachers are qualified to a higher standard and can offer high quality educational activities and encourage pupils’ development.”

A motion from the Dumfries and Galloway EIS local association, which called for a campaign to make qualified teachers a requirement in nurseries, was approved yesterday.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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