Parents rate early education highly, survey shows

Nine in ten parents of children six and under agree that early years educators have an essential role to play in their child’s development and believe they should be paid accordingly, research suggests.

The findings come from a YouGov survey of 1,085 parents of children aged six and under commissioned by education charity Montessori St Nicholas, as it prepares to mark 100 years of UK teachers being trained in the Montessori method.

Asked which pay bracket they would expect early years educators of children from birth to six to receive, more than a fifth of respondents (22 per cent) said they would expect them to be paid £17.61 an hour, the same as associate professionals and police officers.

Meanwhile, a similar proportion estimated their pay at £11.69 an hour, the same as a skilled trade, for example a carpenter or electrician.

Parents were also asked to choose the skills they perceived as important for children to develop in early years education.

Social skills, self-confidence and kindness were highlighted by parents as more important for young children than reading, writing and literacy.

The survey found that:

  • One in two parents (50 per cent) said learning through free play in early years education was the most beneficial way of helping their children learn.
  • Parents placed importance on skills for life, such as social skills (81 per cent), self-confidence (80 per cent), kindness (75 per cent), creativity (71 per cent) and concentration (63 per cent), putting less importance on reading (69 per cent), writing (66 per cent) and numeracy (61per cent)
  • Least important at this age was digital literacy (25 per cent) and foreign languages (20 per cent).

However, technology was considered to have an important place in early years settings. While 62 per cent said teachers should use technology as an educational tool to guide learning, only 40 per cent wanted their children to personally interact with devices, for example using education apps, while at nursery or pre-school.

A separate You Gov survey of 3,337 adults found that more than three-quarters (77 per cent) said quality early years education had an impact on a child’s development and life outcomes.

2019 marks 100 years since Maria Montessori made her first official visit to the UK. The training she gave to Montessori student teachers in 1919 became the standard training for Montessori teachers. To celebrate this landmark year the charity will be creating a new children’s garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Commenting on the research findings, Leonor Stjepic, Montessori St Nicholas’ chief executive, said, ‘It is encouraging to see the high level of importance parents and the public place on early years education, particularly with social mobility in mind – as well as seeing how important the British public and parents consider early years educators to be. However, this is currently not matched in funding priority from Government and we see nurseries and pre-schools under pressure.

‘As we mark a hundred years since Maria Montessori first tested her ground-breaking methods in the UK, it is heartening to see there remains a real appetite for her conviction that young children learn best through purposeful activity.

Ms Stjepic added, ‘In my view, the results of this survey send a clear message that quality early years education for all children is an essential part of life in Britain today and the education system should reflect that priority.’

  • See our next issue of Nursery World on 1 April for more on Montessori's UK anniversary year

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