The Nuffield Foundation’s research recently found that the attainment gap between deprived and privileged children is exacerbated by private and voluntary nurseries in deprived areas, which are of lower quality than those in privileged areas. The gap is widest in language skills. As children who live in deprived areas are less likely to obtain as much early years education at home, this means that those who are most in need of good quality education at nursery are less likely to receive it, leaving them at a double disadvantage, the researchers have discovered.
The assertion from the Nuffield Solution was that this problem is due to a lack of graduates in these nurseries. Whereas half of all school classes are led by graduate-qualified teachers, less than half of private and voluntary nurseries employ one and only 8 percent employ more than one. The team of researchers, led by Sandra Mathers, came to the conclusion that private and voluntary nurseries should hire more graduates in order to ensure children are receiving better levels of early years education, which should help to lessen attainment gaps.
However, this is not a comprehensive solution to this complex problem. While nurseries are to receive additional funding from the Government this year, it is unfair to pressure them to use valuable funds on graduate salaries when they are often struggling as it is, particularly in deprived areas. This additional funding is likely to be needed for other things.
Furthermore, the simple addition of one or two graduates to a nursery is unlikely to be enough to improve the early years education. What would be far more effective is to ensure that every member of staff receives a degree of training to ensure they are able to offer high quality early years education to children, in order to improve their literacy and numeracy skills. It would be far more worthwhile attempting this, for every member of staff feeling qualified to teach children would be much better than leaving it to one or two.
While I am concerned about the attainment gap and the problems of education in nurseries, I do not believe pressurising nurseries to use their funds for one or two graduates is necessarily the answer. They should be encouraged, instead, to ensure that all their staff feel capable and qualified to provide good quality education to children.
-Image courtesy of Simone Ramella (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ramella/)