OpenEYE… items from OpenEYE Campaign news 14.04.2010

Letter of the week – A Danish Lesson

 There was an interesting letter of the week in the 18th of February Nursery World
I read with interest Professor Peter Moss’s article ‘Five steps to better provision’ (Analysis, 4 February), which referred to early childhood education and care (ECEC) in the Nordic countries. I have personal experience of the Danish system and wanted to add the following with regard to the points raised.

The status of a Danish pedagogue is much higher than that of the UK early years practitioner because pedagogues have dedicated three-and-a-half years to completing a complex social pedagogue training at university (including two six-month paid placements). The course is focused, relevant and intense, and pedagogues are respected in their field of expertise and paid accordingly.

In a room of nine under-threes, for example, the Danish pedagogue is supported by an assistant and another pedagogue. Paperwork is minimal compared with the UK since, as with teaching, there is an understanding that a degree-level qualification ensures that you are professional in your judgements, and capable of doing the job.

There is no expectation that you will do x number of observations a week, or link this to a statutory child development map. Planning is based around children’s and seasonal interests. Pedagogues are entitled to four hours per week out of ratio for planning, meetings, parent consultations, etc (negotiated by their union!).

Teachers and pedagogues have separate remits. Teachers are school-based, pedagogues crecheand nursery-based. We have confused this in the UK, resulting in school nursery and reception classes being run by teachers, who are often uncomfortable with the EYFS, where child-initiated learning and continuous provision are key factors in a successful learning environment. Changing the age at which formal classroom-based learning starts to at least six would avoid this inappropriate use of teachers in early years settings.

The Danish tax burden is high (around 42 per cent), and additionally parents will typically pay a top-up fee to their child’s creche or kindergarten of £150 to £300 per month (depending on the child’s age). Society, therefore, pays for the greater part of childcare costs, with parents contributing extra when using the service.

PVI settings exist in Denmark, but rules are stricter and they have to abide by wage agreements and working-time regulations, as in the state sector. Despite UK local authority input to improve provision, PVI settings will naturally focus on profit, often compromising quality. Who sets up a business to just break even?

Additionally, the lack of purpose-built premises results in poor-quality environments (as offered by pack-away settings in church and community halls), with practitioners struggling to achieve EYFS standards despite the dedication of staff and parents.

How serious are we here in the UK in getting the balance right?

CPE-PEN has always called for the development of Pedagogues. Dr Roland Meighan has described how they could be used extensively throughout our learning system to assist learners co-create their learning and learning pathways within a wide variety of settings. In our more developed and extended vision Pedagogues have the potential to become an essential part of a personalised educational landscape performing the functions of co-creator, mentor and guide to more self managed learners.

Comments from members of OpenEYE on the new OFSTED Supplementary Guidance.
Independent Consultant Margaret Edgington.

“In the newly published OFSTED Supplementary Guidance for inspectors of early-years settings, it is alarming that children are clearly now being expected to have reached all of certain (please note) non-statutory statements on the highly contentious Development Matters grids (see p. 14). This directly contradicts the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) practice guidance booklet, where it states quite unambiguously that the development grids are ‘not exhaustive’ and ‘should not be used as a checklist’ (page 11). It is of major concern that non-statutory grids are now being used to judge children both as individuals and as groups, and that OFSTED is now giving official guidance of this kind. One can only presume that they are ‘delivering’ what they know is the DCSF’s real intention, notwithstanding the reassuring rhetoric in the guidance booklet.
This ominous development confirms the Open EYE Campaign’s worst fears about the learning and development requirements of the EYFS framework, and the way in which they are actually being used as a developmentally ‘normalising’ device for very young children, thus directly contradicting the EYFS’s increasingly disingenuous looking claim that the framework also honours ‘The Unique Child’.

We have heard from several nursery teachers who are having pressure placed on them by head teachers because the children in their classes are judged to have made insufficient progress, and they therefore need ‘to push them harder’. These children have commonly been in nursery class for just 1½ terms, are still only 3, are often learning English as an additional language, and still lack the confidence to speak to adults or join in with activities. Pushing such children will merely generate further anxiety, leading these children to withdraw even more. In short, OFSTED inspectors using this new guidance may only make matters worse for such children.
I see the distress on the faces of many of the practitioners I work with: I find it hard to believe that we have come to such a state of affairs, and I fear that neither of the major political parties will do what is necessary to rectify this situation. However, practitioners are increasingly beginning to question the statutory learning goals and the development-matters statements, with the reality of their impact on the ground really beginning to hit home. To be clear, Open EYE is not, and never has been, ‘anti EYFS’ per se; but we are strongly against highly damaging age-related expectations and targets being set for such young children.”

CPE-PEN is totally against the tyranny of age-related curriculum and testing. This nonsense has no place in learning and is heart of so many damaged and unfulfilled learners. We can do better than this!




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