Last year saw the increase of hours in nursery and partnership pre-school settings increased to 600 hours. This move meant that children were now entitled to sessions of three hours and ten minutes where previously a session would last two and a half hours. The increase in hours was met with mixed emotions from both the parents and the workforce.
Certainly during the consultation period there was a feeling of unease as to how we, the workforce, would cope with the increased hours in terms of finding time to update PLP’s and file photos and observations , never mind the planning meetings, full school meetings and SIP groups that were all compulsory parts of our job remit. I remember having discussions with the management teams and my own team members about where we could shave time in order to complete the elements of our job remit. of course our hours would not be increased in line with the children’s new hours so in effect we would have less time to do more work…?
The more recent announcement that nursery hours are set to increase to 1140 hours by 2021 led me to think who is the change actually for… Sure we have the early intervention strategies that we know have a great impact on children and their development. Yet on closer inspection the hierarchy reads quite differently… The new provision for under three’s for example has “workless families” near the top of the list, above ASN children. What this means in laymen’s terms is that if your family is unemployed and in receipt of certain benefits then your child is immediately entitled for early entry to nursery. (age two) This is to encourage families back into work… How many jobs last 3 hrs and ten minutes? Apart from the unfortunate truth that if these families were to work they would most likely lose the benefits that they desperately need to stay alive and support their families. The swap from benefits to wages would likely put the family at risk of slipping well below the poverty line. So my question to this particular issue is …Should we not be looking at benefit reform in order to ensure families willing to work are supported and not using education as an excuse to pump up the workforce ?
Could it be that, perhaps, the guise of early intervention is in fact a ruse in order to boost the workforce…
If we take a step back and really look at how our Curriculum was developed we can see that Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) is centered on a holistic approach with emphasis on experiential learning and taking the child’s learning forward at their own individual pace. Of course it ties in nicely with GIRFEC and SHANNARI. Fantastic just what we needed but how did this develop? Is it new innovative thinking? I think that that is exactly what we would be led to believe. However looking back in history and more specifically at two particularly important, in my opinion, reports: The Hadow Report (1931) and The Plowden Report (1967) we can see that CfE is not in fact new at all. We need only look at the recommendations from these reports to see that the principles of CfE are evident in both these reports. Why then has it taken 80+ years to act upon. And furthermore Why are other recommendations still being ignored?
Particularly poignant is the age with which the Plowden Report regards as appropriate to enter formal schooling. Within the report it discusses school starting age as seven in line with many other countries yet also takes into consideration the importance of maturation and the difference between developmental age and chronological age. The concluding recommendation was that children should start at around the average age of 5 years 6 months, a far cry from today’s intake of primary one’s who can be as young as 4. We can see from the Swedish and Finnish models that starting later serves only to better prepare the children and it is clear from statistical evidence that the later start does not hold them back. On the contrary, Swedish children at age ten surpass our own British children in terms of attainment.
Throughout history the concurrent theme in our education system, in my opinion, has been the focus on the workforce, thus political and economical motives…
When are we going to realise that education is about the children.
We have to ask ourselves …
Who is it for?
Here are some interesting articles I found about Finlands Education system