I am in nursery teaching, and I'm angry. Why on earth have we been spending so much time, effort and money turning our education system into a form of intensive farming? Our schools are like battery farms, in which we are force-feeding our chickens (otherwise known as children) into producing more and more identical and hugely marketable eggs (otherwise known as the 'results'). The trouble is, when the eggs are opened and examined closely, the contents are not too wonderful. They are poor quality, tasteless, colourless, and of limited nutritional value and sometimes they are even dangerous.
Why do we want children to turn out all the same? Spouting the same information, with the same limited horizons? Why are we not honest about what has been going wrong for years in our schools? We should be looking first at our social evolution and addressing the actual problems that we have created for our children. Mr Blunkett, Ofsted and others should be looking into the home, where education must necessarily start.
The Early Learning Goals document may well be attractive and packed full of jolly good, somewhat patronising examples of what can be done with dear little groups of three- to five-year-olds. But life for these children just is not like that not in real nurseries, in real cities, day in day out.
Why don't the ministers and inspectors try standing in the three-year-olds' shoes to take a long look at the world around them? The three-year-old whose mother has just had another baby, and is now bundling the older one into school. The three-year-old who is being brought up by Nan, because dad has gone back to Jamaica, and mum has a new boyfriend who abuses the child. The three year old who speaks and understands only Bengali or Urdu or French or Polish or Cantonese, and is suddenly dumped in a 70-place English-speaking nursery. The three- year-old whose big brother has gone to prison for strangling his girlfriend to death, and who wants to talk about it all the time.
These are actual children in my care, and you don't help them to grow and develop by turning a blind eye to their individual needs and shovelling 'teaching' down their little throats, in order to achieve the ELGs in time. You help them by listening to each one's own needs and using imagination and spontaneity to create and develop activities that are suitably educational and personally affirming. All children want to learn. They are naturally inquisitive look how every parent notices his or her child pointing to things and asking endlessly 'Why?' They'll learn if we answer.
Those who work in the early years are disturbed by the increasing problem of severe language delay and speech difficulties among our young children. We shouldn't be surprised. Hardly anyone talks or listens to children properly until they land in a nursery somewhere. Parents are at work, or too tired and stressed from work. Extended families have been largely disbanded. So children are talked at by TV, videos, computers. And in many situations where parents or relatives might communicate with their offspring, the mobile phone has made life much more interesting. Now you can hold on to a small child's hand and chat away on the mobile in the supermarket, while preparing the food, even while bringing the child into the nursery, where staff will do what's necessary, after all! Who needs to communicate with small children? It's boring. That's for schools to sort out.
If children do not learn about the world at home first, from the people they will always love best no matter what, teachers will never be able totally to make up that loss. We are paying the cost of devaluing parenting as a 'profession'. Parents must parent, before schools can add effectively to their skills in child education.
If we remember our own childhoods, our own schooling, our own feelings about parents and teachers and power, then we might be able to look at the dilemmas of today's children who are so very different from us, and yet just the same. l