Interview - Beatrice Merrick
Friday, September 20, 2013
Beatrice Merrick, new chief executive of Early Education, previously director of services and research at the UK Council for International Student Affairs.
What's your background?
I'm not an early years specialist but there are a lot of common strands about the transformative power of education, whether it's in early years or working with students moving between countries.
What do you think are the big issues for the sector?
Strong themes are quality and equity. Our members are really concerned about high-quality experiences in the early years. It's also about how we can continue to push for the importance of play in early years qualifications and for Early Years Teachers to have parity with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).
One of the biggest issues is deprived areas where children are less likely to access early education, never mind quality. It's great to see a proposal from Alan Milburn to extend the Pupil Premium to early years.
The issue of status is really important. Recommendations from the Nutbrown report have only been partially grasped - we need to go the full distance and parity with QTS is part of the deal. Ofsted clearly has a very important role, but not at the expense of demoralising the workforce.
What about the new Early Years Outcomes document?
We're flooded daily with requests for copies of Development Matters.
There is a sense that Early Years Outcomes is for inspectors to use, but that is not the stated role. It's hard to see why else it's there. Seemingly downgrading Development Matters and putting this other document in public view is giving confusing messages to the sector.
Tell us about plans for the AGM?
Cathy Nutbrown will be speaking at a seminar in the morning and we will be discussing a number of issues raised by our members. These include the role of maintained nursery schools, Early Years Teachers and QTS, and as we're UK-wide, raising free early education to 600 hours in Scotland. There are concerns about the Government's views on childhood - early years should be about focusing on child development in appropriate ways, not school readiness.
Early Education celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.
There's been a lot of change in the past decade. The political importance of early years is quite recent. We take it as read, but the argument now is how to deliver in a squeezed environment. There are now 350 nursery schools. Where high quality has been we want to spread that quality. If the Government is keen on teacher training taking place in settings we need high-quality settings for teachers to train, so there is a very clear role for nursery schools.