PARENTS

Ofsted Chief Says Children Should Start School At The Age Of TWO

01/12/2014 09:37 | Updated 20 May 2015

Calls for children to start school aged two

In a startling announcement, Ofsted is calling for children to start state education from the age of TWO years old.

Without barely a nod or a wink to the existence of us parents, Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw wants the state to take charge of teaching our children basic skills, such as holding a pen, counting and recognising words.

OK, we all know there are some parents - a tiny minority, in fact - who struggle to cope with their children, especially in the early years. But most of us manage just fine and are more than capable of making our own decisions about how to socialise them and equip them with the fundamentals to flourish.

Many of us work and are perfectly happy with the choices we've made with regard to the nurseries and childminders we trust to take care of our precious ones.

Many mums and dads choose to stay at home to raise their children until they're ready for school.

But Sir Michael wants to take a broad brush action by making state education compulsory for ALL our children from an age when our kids are still toddling, barely speaking and, quite probably, wearing nappies.

Why?

Aside from the fact that he quite clearly doesn't trust the vast majority of us to simply get on with the task of what we've been put on the planet for, he believes thousands of children from poorer backgrounds are being 'let down' by low quality nurseries and childminders who fail to equip them with basic skills.

Speaking at a nursery in Windrush Primary School in Greenwich, London, Sir Michael said poorer children did particularly badly in early years settings, often lagging two or three years behind other children.

He said: "They do better in school-based provision - in schools like this with a discrete early years setting which teaches them the skills they need to start school.

"We're saying we're going to be a lot tougher on early years settings that don't teach children these basic skills and we're urging the Government to put more early years provision into schools."

And he said the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more 'prosperous peers' is 'large' by the time they start school.

And perhaps this is true, but why do we all have to be roped in to this master plan? Why can't a more targeted approach be adopted to help educate and assist the parents who need that help?

Remember Sure Start - the excellent but long-scrapped programme of support centres for mums and dads to get help and advice? Wouldn't that be a better way of tackling this issue?

Today, Ofsted will release its first Early Years Annual Report in which Sir Michael is expected to call for more nursery education to be carried out in schools, with a call for children to be enrolled from the age of two.

The plan is controversial. Wendy Ellyatt, from the Save Childhood Movement, told Sky News: "The needs of two-year-olds are profoundly different to children who are older. They need space to move and develop their physiology as well as neurology.

"You can't just say schools for two-year-olds isn't a bad idea - what we're saying is whatever environment you put a two-year-old in is environmentally appropriate.

"What's right for one child won't be right for another, so we can't have a 'one size fits all' approach to people at this very sensitive age."

Sir Michael warned that too many early years education providers are failing to teach youngsters 'social, emotional and learning skills'.

He said Ofsted would toughen the inspections of providers and take action against those that do not adequately prepare children for academic life.

He said: "We're asking HM inspectors to focus on early years more than ever before.

"Our concern is those skills are not being adequately taught - and we will recommend de-registration of those providers who are not doing both."

All this smacks of an orchestrated manoeuvre to force parents who want to stay at home with their children back to work, or to prevent those who work from making the childcare choices they would like for their own flesh and blood.

But even more than that, it feels designed to prevent children from being children and just allowing them to spend their early years enjoying play and games and fun and running around - just like we did when we were very young.

Part of this 'schoolifying' of pre-schoolers was amply demonstrated last week when the Government announced that children aged four are to be tested just days after they start school.

In a letter to the Telegraph, a group of 235 academics, authors and charity leaders said that Ofsted was attempting to 'dragoon England's young children into unconscionably early quasi-formal learning'.

It suggested that childminders and nursery leaders may have to launch a campaign of 'principled non-compliance' in protest at the reforms.

The letter, signed by figures including Philip Pullman, the author, Dr Penelope Leach, an early years expert and honorary fellow of Birkbeck College, University of London, and Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said that the approach 'betrays an abject... misunderstanding of the nature of early childhood experience'.

The letter states: "The determination to dragoon England's young children into unconscionably early quasi-formal learning is catastrophic for their well-being, and is setting up many for failure at a very young age."

Dr Richard House, lecturer in early childhood at Winchester University, who helped organise the letter, said: "In these grave circumstances, it is both legitimate and, indeed, an ethical imperative that professionals and citizens resist and subvert misguided, ideologically driven statutory impositions that all the evidence suggests will harm our young children."

Hear hear to that! But are you listening, Sir Michael ?

Please, PLEASE, stop interfering and let our children be children. And let us parents be parents.

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