THE BLOG

How Technology Can Fill the Void Left By Nurseries

19/06/2014 11:12 BST | Updated 18/08/2014 10:59 BST

Ofsted's chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw recently stated on Radio 4 that "More than two-thirds of our poorest children - and in some of our poorest communities that goes up to eight children out of 10 - go to school unprepared,".

And they don't catch-up ever.

Controversially Wilshaw's suggestion was to lower the age at which children attend school to two years old, a suggestion which has caused debate and outrage from parents and educational professionals alike.

In reply to his report, many academics, nursery leaders and parents expressed alarm at his plans. They claim that this early enrolling in a formal learning setting could have a damning effect on the mental health of children who may not be educationally gifted.

Many of the parents of our poorest children themselves had a poor education, which undermined their ability to break out of the cycle of poverty. Often coming from families that don't value education, they themselves spend less time educating their kids than those of parents who had a positive experience of education.

I agree that sending children to school age two may not be the right thing to do. I think there are several things that can be done inside nursery schools to help get children up to speed on their essential skills for school, which don't need to be so distant from what they are doing today. By embracing technology children can both play and begin to learn the essential tools they need for their future education.

There are a wealth of education apps on the App Store designed to mask educational learning with play. My own PocketPhonics app is one such app and is used by thousands of teachers and parents around the world. These apps allow children to learn, in an interactive and playful way and give them the necessary skills they need for school.

Part of the Sir Michael's report also stated that schools, nurseries and child-minders would be expected to run regular assessments of children as young as two in literacy and numeracy. Again, an extreme proposal on face-value, but something that technological learning can help with. Progress tracking is common in many apps, including my own. Teachers, parents and child-minders can log-in to websites and see how their child is progressing, in real-time with an app. This means that children are being constantly monitored, without them thinking or worrying about taking an actual test, removing stress for all involved.

Of course, it's all very well and good to say that all children should have access to an iPad at a young age, but for some people an iPad is just too expensive.

Research by Common Sense Media in the US found that:

"41% of children from families that earn more than $75,000 a year have used educational apps, compared to just 16% of children from families earning under $30,000 a year."

I've spoken before about the Government's Pupil Premium which is used by schools to buy disadvantaged children equipment, such as iPads, I'd like to see this rolled out further to nurseries and younger children. This seems to be in agreement with Russell Hobby, general secretary of National Association of Head Teachers who has called for the pupil premium to be made available to children of between the ages of three and four year olds.

A good grip on the basics of reading and writing can really help a child progress in further education at primary and secondary school. Instead of enrolling children in the formal schools system at a very young age, surely it's better to let children play and learn at the same time? By giving a child access to an iPad, packed full of educational apps, you are not only entertaining them, but also teaching and monitoring their progress.