Interview - Dr Margy Whalley and Barbara Riddell

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes in Primary Schools has just been launched, with Pen Green acting as secretariat.

Why has the APPG been set up?

So little attention has been given to the quality of early education recently. The recommendations about the need for qualified teachers with QTS in the Nutbrown Review were effectively ignored by the Government. The introduction of Early Years Teachers without QTS and without the same status, pay and conditions as other teachers is a matter of serious concern, both for experienced early years educators who believed they were embarking on a route into teaching and for the many qualified, highly skilled early years teachers currently working in nursery schools and classes.

Nurseries with a higher proportion of teachers and graduate qualifications achieve better outcomes for all children, particularly for those from disadvantaged homes or with SEND. The APPG will provide a forum to inform Government and ensure the voice of this key part of the early years sector is heard.

As the law stands, nursery schools currently cannot become academies. As the single most successful part of the schools sector, as judged by Ofsted, they are excluded from organisational change that might allow them a better chance of a secure future. The APPG will consider ways in which changes to legislation might help nursery schools and how funding arrangements could do more.

Why is the survival of nursery schools so important?

Because we need to retain the best to support and improve practice in the rest of the sector.

Because over half of maintained nursery schools are consistently Outstanding. We should use their skills and expertise to train and support staff in other nurseries.

Because most nursery schools run extended services, many are the most successful integrated centres for children and families in the country. The most successful and effective children’s centres are nursery schools.

Nursery schools and classes give priority to the most disadvantaged, children with special needs and disabilities, where children are living in poverty and where families need significant family support.

How do you think nursery schools can survive in an age of austerity?

If austerity results in the loss of nurseries that pay higher wages and employ the most experienced and qualified staff, we will all lose. We know that unless quality is high, children will not benefit.

The worst value for money is when Government invests more in childcare where staff do not have the skills or resources to make a difference to the most disadvantaged children.

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