Educating our youngest children depends on reconciling a number of challenging facts. The need for a higher staff to children ratio than in nearly all other forms of education is one which seems to be understood by most people when considered in isolation. However the need to finance this provision is another, which invariably leads to challenges of the services being considered too expensive. The usual way of beginning to resolve this conflict is to reduce the pay levels of the staff involved to a level which in turn has the effect of deterring many of the staff with the qualifications that would be seen as essential in other areas of education. Although early years education has its own set of qualifications and training provision, this does not address the issue of pay which is far lower than in other areas of education. The idea that early years education is seen as a cinderella of the education sector also means that far too often the staff are not treated with the respect that their skills and experience deserve and so the combination of pay levels and lack of interest in an age range that is all too often heard but not treated seriously means that policy makers constantly look for corners to cut and compromises to make, and rarely bother to listen to the educators themselves. Unfortunately these compromises often lead to a much lower level of attainment amongst the children than they deserve and the cost of this is borne elsewhere in the education system.
From time to time Politicians wake up to the potential to change the environment for the better, one of these was the Education Minister during the time that Tony Blair was Prime Minister, Estelle Morris. As a result of her influence, the Government began to resource early years education in a manner that not only improved the status of the educators, but also made many strides in reducing the inequality of educational attainment at this early age and began to also impact primary education. Another Politician who seems to have become alert to this is the Lib Dem MP for Carshalton and Wallington, Tom Brake who last Tuesday raised an Early Day Motion (Number 1421) which states “That this House expresses disappointment that some children in England are falling behind in crucial early language skills before they have reached school age; regrets that children from more disadvantaged backgrounds can be 15 months behind peers from more fortunate backgrounds at just five years old; recognises the importance of high quality nursery education in the early years of a child’s development; and calls on the Government to improve early learning in nurseries through implementing high quality nursery education, led by a qualified nursery teacher.”
Whilst some of the terminology in the EDM could have been tweaked a bit to extend the reference to Preschools and Early Years Practitioners, the core of this Parliamentary Petition is something that all Governments need to be reminded of. It may be naive to suggest that this Government will pay any attention to the EDM, but our elected representatives are supposed to persevere and pursue the Governments of their day to improve on the outcome for their constituents. I have asked both Caroline Lucas and Peter Kyle to sign the EDM, perhaps others could contact their local MPs to do the same?