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Education Chiefs Urge Nurseries To Accept 2 Years Old
In a letter from Education Minister Lizz Truss, schools and nurseries have been urged to accept students as young as two years of age, due to a shortage in childcare. As part of a push to meet the coalition government pledge of providing 130,000 free childcare places, the letter for the Education Minister has been sent to every local authority in England. Currently, the government is tens of thousands of places short of meeting this target, so urgent action is required.
Creating free childcare places for disadvantaged children, Ministers and education chiefs believe that this move to open up free spaces should alleviate the pressure, in areas where the population density is making childcare a problem. It is also hoped that this will have a positive effect on education as a whole, allowing the most disadvantage children to get a head start.
Baroness Sally Morgan, chairwomen of Ofsted, championed the move, commenting on how it would be beneficial to children in disadvantage areas. This comes after a recent report suggested that poor five year olds are 19 months behind their more well-off neighbours.
“What a dire start to their educational life” she said. “Those children had low level social skills especially reading and communication. They’re not ready to learn at school. Weak parenting, low educational attainment of parents, poor diet, poor housing and so on”. She also added that there needed to be a “big, brave move” aimed at tackling the problem.
Whilst the new proposals have received a mixed response, the Education Minister argued that “If you have a really high-quality school nursery, children who are behind can catch up with their peers by the time they start school”. Neil Leitch of the Pre-School Learning Alliance argued that “From our perspective there is very little talk of what’s right for the child in this – it’s just an attempt to get cheap childcare.”
Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said the plans for more flexibility were welcome, but added “It’s important to recognise that nursery provision for two-year-olds is very different from the formal school day of their older peers.” Longfield continued on to say “Two-year-olds need high levels of support and care to help them learn and develop from skilled staff who can give the specialist support they need.”
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