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Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Childcare
Sarah Steel, managing director of the Old Station Nursery chain
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Childcare minister, Elizabeth Truss, recently launched an attack on nurseries in Britain, saying many are “chaotic”, “where children are running around” and “there’s no sense of purpose”.
She made the comments in an interview with the Daily Mail, where she said, in the UK “free-flow play is not compulsory, but there is a belief across lots of nurseries that it is”.
“In these settings where there aren’t sufficiently qualified staff, and children are running around, we are not getting positive outcomes.
“We want children to learn to listen to a teacher, learn to respect an instruction, so that they are ready for school.”
She wants to see a traditional approach adopted in early years settings, similar to that in France, where “children get into the habit of waiting their turn, of saying hello to the teacher when they come into the room.”
She added: “This isn’t about two-year-olds doing academic work – it’s structured play which teaches children to be polite and considerate through activities which the teacher is clearly leading.
“What you notice in French nurseries is just how calm they are. All of their classes are structured and led by teachers. It’s a requirement.
“They learn to socialise with each other, pay attention to the teacher and develop good manners, which is not the case in too many nurseries in Britain.”
Ms Truss believes this approach will better prepare young children for starting primary school.
Ms Steel found the childcare minister’s comments on nurseries in the UK “so disappointing”.
She said: “Ms Truss seems to have fallen in love with all things French and the latest assertion is that French children have lovely manners – determined solely by their nursery – whilst our two-year-olds are an unruly bunch.
“As I spend most of my time in our nurseries, watching our very hard working staff teams plan meaningful activities which stretch and challenge the children, from babies up to pre-schoolers, I find this so disappointing.
“The political point scoring which has invaded what we do is tiresome and unfair on the staff who deliver high quality care and work so hard to help children to develop their own interests.
“I do not know how many toddler rooms Ms Truss has been in, but would be happy to show her some purposeful, engaged children in our nurseries, who can all say hello to visitors and behave exactly as two-year-olds should – including wanting to play with passion and not sit quietly at a desk. Come on Ms Truss, you can do better than this for Early Years.”
Answers to parliamentary questions revealed that so far Ms Truss has been on official visits to six nurseries, most of which had received glowing Ofsted reports.
21 Aug 2013 3:50 PM
I am very concerned that Ms Truss has made such a sweeping statement with so little evidence. I would be interested to hear if she has followed up her previous nursery visits to see if she still thinks the same way.
17 Aug 2013 3:59 PM
Children at the age of two years should be able to enjoy doing what they enjoy to do, at the age of two children do not understand the meaning of sitting down quietly at a teacher they will get bored and start wondering or making a noise children should'nt have to sit quietly and listen to a teacher until they hit primary school