Our education correspondent GENE BRODIE reports on some worrying findings for Croydon parents about teaching provision in local nursery schools
Croydon is in the bottom five of local authority areas across the whole of England for the provision of pre-school teachers at independent nurseries, according research published by Save The Children.
According to the study, nearly 8 out of every 10 Croydon under-fives who are attending independent nurseries do so without having a trained early years teacher.
Yet in neighbouring Lambeth, only 36 per cent of nursery school children lack the essential support of properly trained teachers.
“As a country, we need to start recognising that if we want to give every child the best chance in life – no matter what their background – they must have the support they need to learn, grow and develop in the early years of their lives,” said Gareth Jenkins from the charity.
Save the Children reckons there is a shortage of 10,000 trained nursery teachers across the country. The charity warns that more than a quarter of a million children are at greater risk of falling behind by the time they reach school – and then trailing behind throughout their lives – because of this chronic shortage of nursery teachers.
While all nurseries have staff who are trained to care for children, not all have a qualified early years teachers among their staff.
Good nursery school education is established as essential for the development of young children, in terms of associating with others, building the child’s confidence, their rapidly developing communication and understanding skills, as well as some basic numbers and letters.
“Early language skills are the fundamental building blocks for a child’s development, confidence and ability to learn,” said a Save the Children spokesperson.
“Research from the charity shows that children already behind at the age of five are four times more likely to fall below expected standards of reading by the end of primary school than those who started school on track, and are more likely to struggle to succeed in the world of work. It can also have a significant impact on their confidence, social skills, relationships, and behaviour.”
The charity’s research found that children in independent nurseries without an early years teacher are almost 10 per cent less likely to meet the expected levels of development when they start school, compared to children who do have a teacher, leaving them struggling with basic skills like speaking full sentences, using tenses, and following simple instructions.
The number of people applying for the teaching roles has dropped dramatically to 860 last year from more than 2,300 the year before – well below the number needed to fill the gaps.
A shrinking number of available positions, poor salaries and a lack of promotion opportunities is driving this chronic shortage as nurseries around the country struggle to cope with funding pressures and afford the costs of training and recruitment.
Across south-east England, half of children in independent nurseries don’t have a qualified teacher working with them
Jenkins, who is Save the Children’s director of UK poverty, said: “It’s incredibly worrying that so many children in England are at risk of falling behind by the time they start school when we know they don’t have to be.
“Nurseries do an incredible job nurturing our children, but many are struggling to afford and recruit the qualified teachers they need to give children this support and support their workforce with more training and development.
“If the government is serious about creating a country that works for everyone, it’s crucial we urgently invest in a qualified teacher for every nursery across the country – giving children the support they need to reach their full potential.”
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