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A teacher in every nursery?

(68 Posts)
Imperfect27 Wed 30-Mar-16 06:29:56

Breakfast news today has raised the question of the need for a qualified language acquisition specialist in every nursery as a means of addressing poor language development at an early stage.

I can see the point, but also think much more needs to be done to support new parents at ante-natal and post-natal stages to realise that interacting with and talking to their babies from birth is the point where it all starts.

Memorably, when one young mum was asked to come in and discuss her child's language development with his reception teacher , she commented 'Well 'e don't talk to me so I don't talk to 'im'. This extreme ignorance might be laughable if it weren't so sad.

I want to shout 'It's not rocket science - simply talk, interact, show, play tell ... ', and nurseries should not have to compensate for poor parenting, but unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately they do.

I think a specialist who can promote language-play and identify delays and impediments at an early age is a good idea - not sure they have to be qualified teachers to manage this, but I think it is good that the needs are being identified.

Your thoughts?

Nelliemoser Wed 30-Mar-16 07:03:31

Talking to children should start at birth and continue. IMO this should be picked up very early but the sort of parents who don't interact well with babies are possibly those who don't tend to go often to baby groups or health visitor assessments.

This is a cue for Sure Start sessions for children whose parents do not automatically interact properly with their chlidren. If there are any sure start projects still left after the budget cuts.

There are now supposed to be early access to extra funding at nurseries for children of about two when it is felt that they are not getting sufficient stimulation at home or have signiificant developmental delay.

Anya Wed 30-Mar-16 07:10:05

It's very difficult to reach the ignorant or lazy parent until they access a nursery. While intervention ought to be as early as possible, the odd post natal visit is not going to address the issue of parents who plonk their child down in front of the TV while they get in with texting their friends, or whatever they find more entertaining than interacting with their own child.

I'd like to think these types of parents are in the minority.

However if they can be encouraged to access a good nursery as early as possible, then this will really help their child develop language and other skills which they'd otherwise miss out on.

Whether a language specialist is neccessary in every nursery, I'm not sure. Most of the people I've come across working in nurseries have excellent communication skills and interact wonderfully with their young charges.

janeainsworth Wed 30-Mar-16 07:10:43

I agree with what Nellie says.
I would worry though that making it a requirement that every nursery had a graduate early years teacher would lead to recruitment difficulties for many nurseries.

Imperfect27 Wed 30-Mar-16 07:43:08

This has out a bee in my bonnet today! I fad part of an email read out on Breakfast TV this morning - I wrote:

I can see the benefits of having trained staff who will actively promote language acquisition at nursery level. I worked in nurseries for several years in the 90s-noughties, before teacher training, at a time of great transformation when nursery staff were encouraged to think educationally, rather than ‘baby minding’. However, it is very apparent in the very early years that some children are not stimulated / talked to on the home front. There is only so much poor-parenting that the educational system can compensate for. I think much more needs to be done at ante-natal level and through post-natal clinic-care to promote language development. I now have a 12 week old grandson. His parents talk to him all the time and he is already very vocal, trying to formulate sounds At the school gate, I see parents with ipods, not listening to /talking to their children. When / go out for a meal I see children sitting in front of screens in restaurants. It is not rocket science. Children need to be talked to, interacted with, read stories, shown things ... I really do worry about the ‘screen’ generations we are now breeding.

Nellie and others, you are right - reaching the parents who most need support is often so difficult. But ante-natal / post natal is a potential interface and whilst it is not a time to make 'judgements', perhaps more could be done on a very basic level to promote the need to talk and interact with babies. My DD and I were really pleased to see that the post-natal pack she received (from health visitor I think) contained a couple of board books for the baby. One of them includes a refrain 'I talk to you, you talk to me.' However - if parents cannot read, these are still of no use. We have been sharing books with 12 week old GS for a few weeks now and he is clearly interested in them. Never too early ...

LullyDully Wed 30-Mar-16 07:53:23

Talk talk talk to young children.
Every nursery should be aware that this is one of their major duties. School nurseries always have a teacher and I think it makes a difference to expectations.
I have been to nurseries wheree the staff chat to each other rather than sharing language with youngsters. I ho p e this is a thing of the past. Some however employ very young girls for little money. Education hangs on the early acquisition of language. If a child has poor language at home they must have it at school.

annsixty Wed 30-Mar-16 07:56:47

My D is the manager of a preschool and has a degree in early years education. All the staff take part in continuing training. They are " outstanding " in Ofsted terms and get referrals from SS and health visitors. I would like to think this is or will become standard for all young children in early care.

Imperfect27 Wed 30-Mar-16 08:10:23

From 1997 - 2001, I worked in an 'Outstanding' nursery, led by someone who was also an Ofsted inspector. She was picky with staff and when I joined it was on the understanding that I took a childcare qualification - NVQ level 4. We were always asked to talk TO the children and PLAY WITH them and we had lots of 'educational' games, songs and stories. However, this was no more / less than what I did at home for my children. I was at home most of the time so the main reaosns for sending mine were to help them to socialise and so they could enjoy a wider range of toys. (The odd two hours of peace came in handy too [grin)].
This latter nursweery, where my youngest went, was so different from other nursery experiences I had where as staff I was often the only adult who really played with the children, rather than 'watching' them. But I would have hoped that the standard of nursery care is much higher these days- it needs to be as so many children are spending such long hours there. I would have thought that with all nurseries requiring inspection and having to meet early years learning goals, they should have improved significantly,

Lillie Wed 30-Mar-16 09:06:49

I do understand what they are trying to achieve with a qualified language specialist in every nursery, but I fear this may result in too many structured learning sessions and more of the inevitable testing. I am not a fan of nurseries at the best of times and find it unnatural that 20 toddlers should all have to visit the toilet at the same time after break, all have their snack at an appointed hour, and only be allowed to play with the sand and water when the activity has been set up ....... so heaven help them when they, (especially the struggling ones), are made to sit down and have their language needs addressed. Sounds like a good way to turn them off language before they start and they will probably get given a label too to carry round with them for life.

And why call it "brain time?" Many language skills are acquired through practical and physical activities, and I agree with many of you that talking to toddlers alongside play is what is needed, not enforced language learning however helpful that may be.

It's probably only a minority of toddlers who need this early intervention, regardless of their home background, so to be honest I think the money, (and specialist teachers don't come cheap), would be better spent elsewhere.

Newquay Wed 30-Mar-16 16:05:39

I hope at, when at nursery, at least they don't have dummies in their mouths all day and/or, has been previously said, spend all day staring at a (blind and deaf) screen.
Our first language is called "mother tongue" for a reason and is why women talk more than men. A chap I knew (v clever with clever children) said if the children had stayed at home with him instead of their mother all they would have learned would probably be to grunt-sweeping generalisation I know. . . . But some truth in it all the same.

Leticia Wed 30-Mar-16 16:56:34

There is no joined up thinking- the parents need to be encouraged and SureStart centres are closing- it doesn't make sense!
Libraries are closing.
When I am out and about I see parents who are on their phone rather than talking to their child.

Leticia Wed 30-Mar-16 17:03:15

I am also appalled by the children's TV that I have seen lately. I hope there is some good TV but I have just caught ones that have very bright primary colours, only a few seconds before something new is introduced. e.g. One was about gardening and just as you thought it was going to calm down and they were going to spend some minutes calmly planting seeds you get the interruption of some mad animation across the screen and then a song and everyone is manically smiling all the time. It seemed far better when mine were small.

Nelliemoser Wed 30-Mar-16 17:09:10

Our children and grandchildren were talked to from the start as a natural process.

Nobody had to teach my grandparents or my parents to do this, it just came naturally to them by example and this behaviour is passed on from parent to child.
It shows how important language is in child development.

Listening to a bright two year old "reasoning" shows how clever they are. (Although there reasoning is not always very practical.) I am always amazed how quickly small children work out meaning and catch on to saying things such as; I need it instead of I want it. They are obviously recognising the subtle distinction between the two.

Leticia Wed 30-Mar-16 17:09:14

A lot of parents don't want to spend the time. They have problems with bedtime but they don't have a clear routine that always has a bedtime story. I suggested on Mumsnet that people played board games and cards with their children and it went down very badly. I can't think of anything better for children, from a very young age, not only do you have the game, but all the talk around it.
A nursery can help but the parent still needs to be doing a lot at home.

Leticia Wed 30-Mar-16 17:11:54

You can really tell which children are talked to, Nelliemoser, they are like sponges.

daphnedill Wed 30-Mar-16 17:42:17

From reading the article, it seems that the recommendation is that there should be a staff member with EYTS (an early years postgraduate qualification) in every nursery. EYTS is not the equivalent of a teaching qualification. I think it used to be called EYP (Early Years Practioner). The qualification was introduced a few years ago by Liz Truss, who wanted nurseries to be run with higher, but fewer staff. That idea was (rightly) opposed. I hope it's not returning. Truss was very impressed with French nurseries, which she claimed were more formal from an earlier age than most UK nurseries.

My two children went to a nursery full-time from the age of six months until they started primary school. There were five separate rooms, each of which provided activities suitable for the age/development of the child. Children weren't automatically moved to the next room unless it was appropriate for their developmental age. I can honestly say that both of them loved the experience and insisted on keeping in touch with staff for some years after they left.

Each of the rooms for the oldest children had graduates and the last room had a qualified primary teacher, who worked with the children in small groups for a short session two or three times a week, sitting round tables preparing them for primary school. Apart from that there was no formal learning, although the days in the last two years were quite structured. I don't think it did them any harm. They also used to help with tasks such as laying and clearing the table. As far as language was concerned, I think they used language more at the nursery than they would have done at home, because nursery staff aren't distracted by all the other things a stay at home mother has to do.

I don't know how staff structures in the nursery worked, but they were very knowledgeable on child development. One of my children sailed through all milestones, but the other one was more erratic. He was late to walk and had problems with speech/hearing, because he had glue ear. He benefited greatly from the small groups sessions and I know the staff always made an extra effort to make sure he'd heard what he'd been told to do. My children have kept in touch with some of the children who were in the same nursery. It's quite noticeable that most of them did better at school than average, but I don't know whether that's down to the nursery experience or the kind of families they generally come from.

Sorry about the length of this post, but I think it's important that people realise that some people have no choice but to send their children to full-time nursery. I think they should be as good as they can be. The real problem with them is the cost, which is prohibitive for most these days. They are increasingly becoming the preserve of the children of professionals with high salaries. Many nurseries are already closing, because they can't make ends meet, so I think some kind of rethink is needed. There's a vast difference between the kind of nursery my children attended and groups for children, who usually attend part-time, and whose parents want them to be more sociable and/or to give the parents more time.

daphnedill Wed 30-Mar-16 17:44:28

Last post from me...As others have said, the children who would probably benefit from a more structured, focused approach, aren't getting it.

Penstemmon Wed 30-Mar-16 17:52:54

In many countries the required qualification for Nursery/pre-school workers is degree level. I would not argue against that.

The trouble is that if we think looking after small children is a job anyone can do then we do kids a big disservice. Believe me I have seen both dreadful and brilliant places!! I have seen /worked with many skilled early years practitioners but there is an edge when you have professionals who have a deep understanding of how children learn and develop.
Encouraging language development, curiosity and social interaction can happen spontaneously but is enhanced in the hands of skilled professionals.
I totally agree that it would be detrimental to 'formalise' nurseries /playgroups etc but it is perfectly possible to support high levels of language /communication through play activities prepared and supported by skilled professionals. I still deliver trainng for this! Currently it is required that from birth to the end of reception that :

‘Each area of learning and development must be implemented through planned, purposeful play and through a mix of adult-led and child initiated activity.’ [Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage, DfE, 2012]

ninathenana Wed 30-Mar-16 18:03:38

There is an element of personality to this as well. My brother's two sons were treated the same as toddlers. When they each started school it was obvious the youngest had far better communication skills and would converse like an adult at times.
They both now have good jobs which involve public speaking at times.

Imperfect27 Wed 30-Mar-16 18:15:26

daphnedill my DD will not have the same choices as I did and will have to send her DS to nursery full time from next September. It makes me very sad. I think he will be absolutely fine - she will be the one who finds it very hard!

I agree that given the amount of time many children have to spend in nursery, it is really important that standards are set high and maintained - through inspection of the adults though, not 'testing' of little ones.

Penstemmon Wed 30-Mar-16 18:18:51

Absolutely Imperfect the 2 yr check is already statutory we do need more!

Penstemmon Wed 30-Mar-16 18:19:24

Do NOT need more!!!

Elegran Wed 30-Mar-16 18:38:20

Lillie I don't think your picture of a nursery class is typical - " I am not a fan of nurseries at the best of times and find it unnatural that 20 toddlers should all have to visit the toilet at the same time after break, all have their snack at an appointed hour, and only be allowed to play with the sand and water when the activity has been set up ....... so heaven help them when they, (especially the struggling ones), are made to sit down and have their language needs addressed."

This regimentation is not what is intended. Professionals with a knowledge of child language development won't "make them sit down and have their language needs addressed" They will provide opportunities for them to speak about what they are playing with at that moment, listen to them, talk to them, play counting games and naming games, all informally. Employing a professional is not the same as employing a ringmaster with a whip and a chair!

All having their snack at the same time? Of course - because if all 20 eat their snack at a different time, they will want to join the others who are playing, and carrying food around everywhere is not a good thing. Families have got out of the habilt of eating together, but it is an important part of socialisation, and a moment to sit quietly all together. In the nursery I used to run, we spent the time as everyone was gathering for snack time in talking together, and singing nursery rhymes and songs - all things which help prepare them for reading without seeming like "lessons".

After the snack, the toilet and the handwashing. Did you know that the human elimination system is stimulated by eating, and after 20 minutes, a toilet visit is signalled by the innards? Taking one child to the toilet occupies a helper for several minutes, leaving the rest with one attendant fewer. Taking 20 of them, one after the other, could keep her out of the playroom for an hour. Taking them all at the same time means that they are "processed" in one "go" (to use a relevant word) and the helper can then return with them to the main room to join in supervising everyone. This doesn't mean that they are regimented and have to perform, or that no-one can "go" at any other time.

The sand and water are usually set up at the start of the day and stay there. Why waste time setting it up after the children are all in the room ?

GillT57 Wed 30-Mar-16 19:14:21

It really isnt rocket science to most of us, lets admit it, that the more you talk to children, the better their language skills. Likewise, unless you have children sitting down to eat at a table, using cutlery, however basic, and waiting their turn rather than grabbing stuff off a plate, they will not learn to do so. I hate to sound like an old fart grump, but I get so angry when I see Mothers walking to school, perhaps with another child in a pushchair, and the Mother is having a conversation on her mobile while the child/children walk along beside her in silence. What happened to a chat about their day/what they will do after school/what they will have for tea? Poor little souls. I am being judgemental and I do no apologise for being so. I dont think nurseries necessarily need a language acquisition specialist qualified to graduate level, as the standards of pre-school/nursery qualifications are quite good now, and I think it would be a shame if yet another group were denied access to their chosen profession because of lack of academic achievement, this has already happened in the nursing profession. A well run Ofsted inspected pre-school or nursery will be well aware of milestones and language skills.

daphnedill Wed 30-Mar-16 19:28:49

Gill, From what I understand, the graduate Early Years qualification is a bit of a con. It isn't a 'proper' teaching qualification, but it's being sold to graduates as a fast track to work with 0-5 year olds. They don't get paid a teacher's salary, but the course is free, unlike a PGCE. I know a couple of graduates who've done the course, but they felt they were misled and are now intending to do PGCEs. I don't know the details of the course, but I would guess an NVQ3/4 covers the same ground. Apparently there are few jobs for those with EYTS. Nurseries can't afford the extra pay and they can only teach in EY (reception) in primary schools, which means they're not an attractive proposition and can't teach mixed age children in smaller schools.