This doesn’t happen often: Channel 4 news gave me a call a few Saturdays back, asking if I would be interviewed about the interim report from the Nutbrown Review. I said no – partly because I wasn’t sure if I had enough time to get home and get changed from being out in London, meaning I'd end up appearing like the stereotype of an inner London teacher (jeans, T-shirt, unshaven, scruffy, soft on standards, etc. And not even trendy.)
But the serious reason behind my "no" was that the tone of the media discussion would probably have made it impossible to say anything sensible about the Interim Report. More than a week after it appeared, the Times and the BBC suddenly got hold of it and focused on the idea that Cathy Nutbrown was saying that nursery staff are generally illiterate and innumerate, the sort of people who shouldn’t be let loose on pets and farm animals, let alone children. The Telegraph topped them both with: "nursery workers so illiterate they struggle to read stories aloud." Now, where in the report was that?
Actually, the report is saying is that consideration should be given to requiring future candidates for the level 3 childcare and education diploma to have English and Maths GCSEs. Nowhere in the interim report is it suggested that early years practitioners generally lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, or can't read stories out loud. In fact, the report shows great respect for the commitment and quality of the staff – I urge you to read it [PDF] and give it the careful consideration it deserves.
But if the journalists got the thrust of the interim report wrong, did they get something else right? Maybe they were accurately reflecting their readers’ and viewers’ opinions of early years practitioners? The comments posted on the web would make you think so. Here are some of the highlights.
More than 180 people commented under the Daily Mail's news item, mostly showing a high appreciation of the professional status of early years staff. Derek from Kent advises: "let people who can attain such lofty qualifications get proper professional type jobs and leave the dirty manual work to those who can't , it doesn't take GCSE's or anything else to change nappies, just common sense." Many more comments give the work similarly high status, including Matt from Bristol complaining that "you seem to need "qualifications" to clean toilets nowadays, its ridiculous" and Sarah from Iowa asking "Can they count to 10 & teach colors? That's all a nursery worker needs."
- Read the rest of Julian's blog here