Sector outraged at plans to train shop staff to support children's language

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The early years community has reacted with horror to reports of a new Government scheme that involves Clarks staff helping children to develop language skills.

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Facebook user Caroline Gray Roarty shared the news on the Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding group, commenting, ‘Should we ask Waitrose to help with maths and McDonalds to aid physical development? Complete joke.’

In response, another user, Sue Gray, wrote, ‘It breaks my heart that they can be so crass, there is absolutely no recognition of the importance of Early Years, or the dedication, research and development which underpins the quality we all strive to achieve.’

On Twitter, Keeping Early Years Unique (@KEYU), commented, ‘At age 16 I worked in a low end shoe shop. It was a some shoes cost 1.99 kind of low end. I was an NNEB student. I was in Kids dep. Of course I chatted but the idea I could somehow developed their language in the long term is ridiculous.’

Another Twitter user, @kjmurrell1, who describes herself in her Twitter biography as a speech and language therapist, wrote, ‘This still infuriates me 3 days after reading about it... what positive publicity Clarks COULD'VE had if they'd chosen (along with other companies) to spend the money on sponsoring a national programme of speech & language training for all early years practitioners instead.’

Several online responses also pointed out the cost to families of the offer.

Facebook user Charlotte Williams commented, ‘Apart from the basic stupidity of this idea, if the government really wants to support the most vulnerable children think about the probability of how many families that live in poverty can afford to shop at Clarks.’

Another user, Melissa Woodford-Smith, agreed, ‘Why not use the money to increase our funding so we can hire more staff! Why not roll out suitable training for all early years settings so everyone is teaching to a high standard? I’m guessing children from deprived families aren’t shopping in Clark’s so much as their prices are extremely high!’

Even the Society of Shoe Fitters waded into the debate, commenting on Facebook, ‘Are they saying that customers are all ignorant and ill-mannered, or that retail staff need to be more engaging and eloquent?

‘Talking to all ages, working out what they need and why, referring them to a qualified podiatrist if they spot a potential problem, is all-important and vital to fitting footwear. Ill-fitting shoes can affect health and development so fitting requires great knowledge and skill not just a gauge. Thankfully there are still some dedicated qualified shoe fitters from The Society of Shoe Fitters and Children’s Foot Health Register who communicate perfectly with their customers and usually find this is reciprocal.’

However, not all responses were negative. Jo Whittaker, writing on the Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding Facebook group, said, ‘I honestly don't see the huge hoo ha. They are not assessing and referring. The staff are getting training on talking to children correctly and modelling good language skills. Great for the staff and great for kids and great for practitioners to see that other people are actually taking what we do day to day seriously and realising children pick up language everywhere they go.’

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