Opinion: Letters



Oli de Botton's 'Teacher-led activities produce better results' (16 September) prompts a mixed response. On the one hand, surely 'effective' early years programmes depend on what their aims are, and these objectives may be different in different communities. We sometimes get tied into one way of thinking (about 'success'); different cultures may have different ways of measuring education and upbringing.

On the other hand, identifying that practitioners need quality space to learn, develop and think about their practice is welcome. Thoughtful people who work with young children have an important and critical role in addressing inequality and discrimination; this involves sensitive and insightful intervention. Further, it involves identifying prejudice that is already, and usually unconsciously, learned, and challenging it in appropriate and respectful ways.

It is about how people who have grown up in a society where inequalities are endemic and institutionalised, need opportunities to re-evaluate their positions, teaching and learning.

Practitioners seriously need the opportunity to develop this. They do very important work not only for the children in their care but for all of us, together, and for the future well-being of a society that is at ease with itself.

Andrew Sanders, lecturer, University of Derby, and Jane Lane, advocate worker for racial equality in the early years

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I am writing in response to 'Set ting art free' by Karen Hegarty (Letters, 16 September). I have been in childcare for 30 years and have seen the children I have cared for blossom into wonderful creative adults.

I feel as a childcare practitioner that I have looked at each of the children as a whole being.

One child I cared for lived in a lovely rural location. The family loved their garden and country walks. To calm him as a baby, I just had to put him under a tree and he would stare up at its loveliness.

From a young age we may have spotted flowers and trees in his early markings. He used trainer scissors to cut out flowers and trees. We used templates of jungle animals to rub pictures of elephants and tigers. I will never forget his excitement at seeing them appear. He said some of his first words this way.

The other day I had a threeyear-old discover a sea horse in his picture. We used trainer scissors to cut around it. We framed it together.

As childcare workers we look after children's care, their nappies, washing their hands, their safety. We teach children to cut, learn their colours, plan a scene which they then might use templates for; we teach the names of animals, plants and trees they grow to love. We look at their creativity as a whole, and if using a template of a tree helps them say their first word, as I have seen, then I will carry on using them.

Creativity is happening in every thing we do with each unique child. Nurturing this unique child is a voyage of discovery and creativity, and I want to be part of it for the whole of my life. What a privilege!

Elaine Coote, Saffron Walden, Essex


It is commendable that Alan Bentley is adopting a policy of reduced ratios, to one member of staff to two babies under one year old ('Staff-baby ratios add up to new concept for chain', 9 September). At Early Years Childcare we have had this policy in place for the last 20 years. Not only does it mean that babies in our care receive more attention, but we have found that stress levels for staff are reduced and ultimately a better standard of care is delivered.

Indeed, in order that optimal care is delivered to this age group, we believe that Ofsted should make a distinction between children of the age from birth to 12 months and children of age one year to two years, mandating a one-to-two ratio for the former group in line with their developmental needs.

Kate Peach, managing director, Early Years Childcare, Hove, East Sussex.

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