Is Technology Used Too Much In Nurseries?

In a world where laptops, tablets, iPads and smart phones are the norm, we should come to expect that their presence in day nurseries would become a familiar site. But is this progression and a welcome educational tool or is it possibly having a detrimental effect?

A recent survey by
clearly suggests that they are not welcome by parents and professionals alike.

In fact, out of the 813 people who took part, only 206 said it was beneficial for the children!

A growing number of nurseries have invested in iPads and other ICT equipment, mainly because they are required to by the Government as they strive to integrate technology into the early years curriculum.

This is one of the goals of the Early Years Foundation Stage and aims to ensure that “children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools”. It continues, “children need to find and identify the uses of everyday technology and use information and communication technology and programmable toys to support their learning.”

But clearly not everyone agrees judging by the results of the survey. Sue Palmer, literacy expert and the author of “Toxic Childhood” is worried about the eagerness with which nurseries embrace ICT, saying, “I think what children really need up to the age of seven is real life in real space and real time, which means three dimensional experiences.”

She continues, “We already have problems with children not being able to hold a pen or pencil. But we are giving our kids instant gratification all the time with ICT and it makes it harder for them to persevere with something that takes a while to learn.”

This argument is countered, however, by John Siraj-Blatchford, honorary professor at the University of Swansea Centre for Child Research who says, “I am keen to promote the use of mobile touch screen technologies in early childhood because all the evidence points to it being the most appropriate for young children in terms of accessibility, and even more importantly in terms of play based pedagogy.”

So, do you think that the potential over exposure of technology to children at an early age is a concern? Are the use of iPads displacing the traditional methods of learning and play activities?

Personally I think there has to be a balance and any day nursery has to continue to support traditional methods of learning while understanding and accepting that the growth in technology as a learning tool has a part to play.

If you want to find out more about Monkey Puzzle’s policy on the subject get in touch with us.

Should Children Start School Later?

There seems to be a growing band of professional educationalists that are suggesting that we are sending our children to school too early and that the knock on effect of that is that the UK is slipping down the academic table in key subjects such as maths, science and reading.

So should we change the law and let children start school at age seven?

Increasingly, teachers are reporting that children arrive at primary school unable to converse in sentences, have few social skills and are still in nappies. Is this an indication of schooling children too early or us, the parents, failing to spend enough time talking, reading and playing with them, preferring instead to give them another gadget or sit them in front of the television?

In most of Europe children begin their formal education at the age of six, with some states delaying it further to the age of seven. The UK is slipping down the academic achievement tables with in core subjects, being overtaken by the likes of Sweden, Poland and Sweden where they allow their children two more years of “play” and social development compared to our school system.

It is known that small children have very different rates of learning, so should it be just as important for them to learn and develop their co-ordination, verbal and social skills so when they do begin formal education they are confident and able to fit in and fully benefit from the education on offer?

Currently pre-schoolers are taught using the Early Years Foundation guidelines (EYFS) focusing on communication, numeracy and personal development, however leading academics advocate teaching small children how to speak and communicate properly and insist that is far better than learning to write. They also claim that testing at such an early age may actually harm them, creating little failures before they even start big school.

Further research should be paramount to explore the subject, so that we offer our young children the very best start in their education.

What do you think?

New Childcare Ratio Plans To Be Scrapped.

Since the announcement by Children’s Minister, Liz Truss that the Coalition were to increase the ratio of children to carers as long as carers qualifications met new standards, there have been childcare professionals lining up to dismiss the proposals saying care quality would suffer.

So it didn’t come as a surprise yesterday when Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg telephoned leaders in the childcare sector yesterday, telling them the plans were “dead in the water”.

Mr Clegg was later quoted as saying, “When you are talking about something this important to parents, I think it is imperative to be led by the evidence – which is overwhelmingly against changing the rules on ratios.”

Childcare charities were pleased with the U-turn, as were the majority of parents, with Nick Leitch, Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance saying, “We are absolutely delighted that the Deputy Prime Minister has intervened and listened to the concerns and evidence gathered by the sector, parents and early years experts which dismantled the arguments for taking forward this ill-advised plan”.

He went on to add, “The sector is supportive of the government aims to raise the status and quality of the childcare workforce. But this was not the way to achieve this.”

The proposed changes would have seen ratios for two year olds rise from 4 children per adult carer to 6 and for children under the age of one from 3 children per adult carer to 4.

We are always looking to ways to improve childcare, but believe this must be born out of consultation between Government agencies and childcare professionals and not a unilateral decision.

So in summary Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries welcome the decision and look forward to continuing to offer excellent care to children at a very important stage of their educational development.

Childcare Minister Blames Nurseries For Children’s Bad Manners

Childcare Minister Liz Truss is at it again…

The gaffe prone minister has been criticised for her “ill judged” criticism of nurseries after claiming they are producing a generation of toddlers with no manners. Her reasoning centres around “chaotic” pre schools that allow children to do what they want, when they want leading to unruly children who can’t sit still and listen by the time they arrive at primary school.

Well I can safely say Ms Truss has never a Monkey Puzzle Day Nursery, as her representation bears little resemblance to the quality childcare we provide and, for that matter, thousands of other childcare institutions across the country.

Of course I’m not saying that there aren’t less than satisfactory nurseries out there, there are and they get flagged by Ofsted allowing necessary improvements to be put in place.

Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Pre School Learning Alliance, said: “It is frankly astonishing that the minister in charge of childcare makes such ill-judged, off-the-cuff statements about what she believes is happening in day nurseries and pre-schools.”

“The picture the minister paints is not one that would be recognised by anyone who knows anything about child development and learning.”

While we in the childcare industry are always looking to improve our education provision, it is important to maintain constructive dialogue with all involved in the process. Generalisations and sweeping statements can create barriers thus slowing the development of pre school education.

If you are interested in how a Monkey Puzzle Day Nursery can benefit your child’s early learning then get in touch via our contact page.

New Childcare Support Plan – Who benefits?

Childcare Minister Liz Truss has announced that working parents are to be given up to £1,200 a year in childcare support. The new childcare support proposal is calculated by allowing families to recoup 20% of the average cost of a childcare place, what the Government believes to be £6,000 per year.

Initially, on its release, it will only cover children up to five years old, but they hope to widen the age group to include all children under 12, without actually saying when, but that it will “happen over time”.

Well this all sounds very good! But hold on just a minute, this won’t begin until 2015 and this has caused the Opposition and campaigners to highlight how disappointed parents would be not to get help sooner.

The government claim the new childcare support plan will eventually help 2.5 million working families, more than the current voucher scheme, but as I write it is still not clear whether it will.

So let’s look at the new requirements.

To be eligible both parents have to be working, or the one parent in the case of lone parents and their annual salary must be less than £150,000 each. If, in a two parent family, only one works, they will not be eligible.

So this seems an extension to the Government’s desire for making work pay, but is it fair?

Well campaigners have rounded on the government, arguing that the 1.2 million parents who choose to stay at home to look after their children, are having their needs ignored.

Marie Peacock, from Mothers At Home Matter said, ” Those mothers are working hard and they want to get on. Hard working families are not just families with two earners. David Cameron is alienating mothers across Britain. We have been inundated with with calls from stay at home mums, who are puzzled by what David cameron is saying.”

The decision follows the Government’s reversal of their pledge to offer tax breaks to married couples.

Tory MP Dominic Raab, said, “It is welcome that the government is supporting hard-working families, but it should not end up penalising their individual choice about how to strike the right balance between bread-winning and child-caring.”

This is a complex redistribution of child care funding and in today’s economy, prudent financial planning is a must, but is it fair?

I don’t know! What do you think?

Will Childcare Reforms Raise Standards?

So the Government have announced that they are introducing new childcare reforms, governing the ratio of nursery carers to children, which they claim will “improve quality and cut costs”.

Currently, the ratios vary depending on age and setting, with one carer to four two year olds and for ones and under, three to one. The proposals will see the two year olds figure rise to six and the one year olds and under rising to three.

Children’s Minister, Liz Truss, claims that change in law will bring the UK in line with countries such as France and Sweden. She also added that England’s current ratios lead to higher costs for parents and lower pay for staff.

Truss explained, “It will make it higher quality, more available and more affordable. It will take time to recruit new people and expand nurseries. In the long term it will be more affordable,”

She then added that childcare professionals should be better qualified in the UK, stating, “When parents hand their child over to the care of a childminder or nursery, they are not just entrusting them with their child’s physical safety, they are also entrusting their child’s brain. With this in mind, it is no longer acceptable that childcare professionals are not required to have a GCSE grade C or above in English and maths.”

However there was a word of caution from the national childcare charity Daycare Trust spokesman, Anand Shukla, “No matter how well qualified the members of staff, there are practical considerations when you increase the number of children that they have to look after,” he said.

He went on to add, “for one person to look after six two-year-olds, for one person to talk to six two-year-olds, to help their language development, we think is going to be very difficult.”

This was echoed by National Day Nurseries Association Chief Executive, Purnima Tanuku, “Many parents do not want an increase in the number of children nursery staff are allowed to look after. They are worried it will have a negative impact on the individual attention and care their child receives.”

No parent is happy when their child first goes to nursery, it can be a stressful time for both them and the child. They feel happier that the more adults there are, the more they feel secure about leaving them so they will get the one on attention that they themselves would want to be giving them.

I’m sure that the debate surrounding this subject will rage on and so it should, as any changes to a young child’s education and development must be fully thought through.

Do you have any thoughts on the subject, how would you feel if there was a potential for reduced one on one contact for your child at your nursery?

Save The Children – Universal Credit Campaign

Here at Monkey Puzzle we are supporting a new campaign set up by Save the Children that encourages the Government to ensure that Universal Credit fairly credits working mothers who genuinely need the support.

Save the Children discovered that 56% of mums say the main thing that is stopping them from getting a job, or leaving an existing one is the cost of childcare. With that in mind we agree with Save the Children that poorer mothers who are in work should be getting more help not less!

While the introduction of the new Universal Credit welfare scheme next year will benefit some, it will also have a detrimental on those that potentially need it most – poor mums working longer hours.

Research has revealed the new scheme will hit working mums hardest with as many as 150,000 ending up as much as £68 worse off. The knock on effect of this will lead to many more children falling below the poverty line.

The government actually recognise the logic and say they are committed to making work pay for the poorest families and this, they say, is the rationale behind the Universal Credit. Unfortunately, though, the money isn’t currently available to those who struggle to work their way above the breadline.

If changes to the welfare state, major as the Universal Credit are going to improve the situation, they must make sure their is sufficient support for the least well off mums in our society who genuinely want to work their way out of poverty.

You can find out more about the Save the Children campaign here.

Changes to the EYFS, what YOU need to know.

EYFS imageThe Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is a framework that provides guidance and the legal requirements for all child care workers and providers, supporting learning and development of children in their care from birth to five years.

The two main aspects focus on learning and play and the statutory welfare requirements of childcare provision.

The revised framework, published on March 27, 2012 for implementation from September 2012, aims to simplify the Government’s wider vision for families in the foundation years, freeing professionals from “time wasting” bureaucracy and red tape so that they can focus on supporting a child’s development.

The key improvements within the EYFS framework are:

  • Simplifying learning and development requirements by reducing the number of early learning goals from 69 to 17.
  • Stronger emphasis on the 3 prime areas most essential to a child’d healthy development, these being; communication, physical and personal, social and emotional development.
  • Strengthening partnerships between professionals and parents via clarity and clear language.
  • For parents a new progress check at age 2 on their child’s development which intends to help children get any additional support they need before they start school.
  • Reducing bureaucracy for professionals thus simplifying the statutory assessment of children’s development at age 5.

So what do you, the parent, need to know?

Firstly, a more detailed explanation and helpful literature can be found at the Department of Education’ s EYFS website. You as a parent or carer though, should begin or continue the following activities to further extend your child’s development.

  • Reading stories.
  • Singing nursery rhymes and other songs.
  • Talking to your child when you are out, about all the different things you can see.
  • Independence. Allow them to feed themselves (have cleaning materials on hand!)
  • Spontaneous creativity such as craft making, drawing or writing.
  • Praise! Let your child know when they have achieved something. Praise and encouragement goes a long, long way!

Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries and our Nursey Franchise division implement  the EYFS to a very high standard. Staff are trained in all areas of the framework ensuring our nationwide network of nurseries reflects the guidance and meets with all the legal requirements…

...however, we believe Monkey Puzzle Day Nurseries exceed it and provides you and your child with the perfect environment for early years development.

Would “John Lewis” Style Schools Improve Our Education System?

A recent report from the Policy Exchange,  one of the coalition’s favourite think-tanks, has suggested that the sheer scale of involvement by profit making organisations in the state education sector made a mockery of the current opposition to running schools for profit.

Current law prohibits companies from making a profit when opening and administrating schools for 5 to 18 year olds. However, companies are already successfully and profitably running nurseries, IT services for schools and units for expelled pupils.

The fear, supported by teaching unions, is that organisations will put shareholders before pupils, resulting in reduced standards of state schooling.  However, this has been refuted by the Social Enterprise Schools report who say profit making was already allowed in many areas of the education system without damaging performance, and therefore suggest it should now be be extended to schools themselves.

James Groves, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, commented, “A John Lewis model of school where private companies, including teachers and school staff are encouraged to personally invest, offers one such innovative alternative.”

While this would be a revolutionary approach that flies in the face of traditional government funded education and will be met with huge opposition, surely pursuing a national education programme that produces results and educates our children to the highest standard, whether for profit or not, should be explored.