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Ofsted’s new specialist adviser for early years, writes on the unknown


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#1 Rebecca

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 03:02 PM

This piece was originally published in the TES on 14th March 2017. You can read the original article here.

 

It's our early years education that makes the difference. The learning, development and care that we receive at that stage helps shape our adult life. So getting the first five years right should be a top priority.

For many children a successful start is by no means guaranteed. Inequality starts early. It permeates all aspects of the lives of children born into our most disadvantaged families. Even before they start school the odds are stacked against them. Statistically there's a stark difference between disadvantaged children and their better-off counterparts.
Last year we published Helping disadvantaged young children: how good are local authorities and early years providers. That survey showed that in 2015 around a third of all children didn’t have the essential skills needed to successfully start school. And for disadvantaged children the figure was far worse. Just over half secured the essential knowledge, skills and understanding expected for their age.
We found around a quarter of disadvantaged children couldn’t communicate effectively. They weren't able to control their own feelings and impulses or make sense of the world around them. They didn't possesses the necessary skills to be ready to learn. Although the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers has narrowed slightly in recent years, it remains unacceptably wide.
 
Hindering progress – what we find
Addressing inequalities is high on the political agenda. Yet a considerable number of local authorities lack the ambition to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children and families. This is down to weak leadership and poor oversight. There’s also a reluctance to find better ways of working.
At its worst we found professional distrust. Teams are reluctant to share vital information about a child or family with others. In these local authorities, different departments targeted different children and families. They duplicated their assessments and didn’t know whether a child and their family were disadvantaged or not.
Good performing local authorities and staff tackled the issues of disadvantage head on. They adopted a coherent, service-wide strategy. This was shared and understood across health, education and children’s social care.
 
Unknown and invisible
Early identification of those in need is vital. But too many fly under the radar; they’re simply unknown to local authority services.
Health visitors play a crucial role in identifying those children and parents needing extra support. But inspectors found the information and guidance they shared was far from universal.
Our survey found that around one quarter of children didn’t receive a health check at the age of two. And any health and development checks weren't always shared with schools and settings.
 
Joint working brings results
We found local hubs of support where council departments, pre-school providers, schools and families work together. Here the specific needs of deprived communities are being addressed. This was often due to committed public servants and respected headteachers who are trusted by the families they work with.
Greater funding is often cited as an answer. Yet the most successful local authorities, schools and settings make the absolute most of what’s currently available. They ensure that two-year-olds are receiving continuous access to early education until they start school.
Effective leaders adapt national systems to make it easier for parents to access entitlements. They access free, funded education for two-year-olds. At the ages of three and four they use the fifteen hour entitlement and the early years’ pupil premium. And at age five, in the Reception year, they access the school pupil premium. This ensures three, strong years in preparation for school.
Across all local authorities it’s a contrasting and varied picture of success. It's a sad reality that children in their early years today may be the first to fare less well than those from previous generations.

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#2 LKeyteach

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 05:45 PM

I would strongly disagree with the final statement

"It's a sad reality that children in their early years today may be the first to fare less well than those from previous generations."

So many more children are now being seen as children who need support not "stupid or naughty." We work so hard in Early Years to identify and support children achieve and what lets us down is mostly people not understanding what we do and why we do it. Play is so important to build that social and emotional development which is the base for all that further learning.  And actually it is hard to measure what is happening in play.  I can tell you how "bright" a child is by the way they play and sometimes that "brightness" disappears when they start in more formal schooling because it is not taught in a way that is understandable to them.  Some children need play as their medium for learning for a bit longer than rising 5.  If they become disillusioned at this stage then yes they will go on to fail or at the very least not achieve their potential.

I would also suggest that having identified a child as not achieving age appropriate tasks what happens next?  When you have parents who themselves are not as educated and do not see the need for education we are fighting an uphill battle.  There is no answer to this problem not even education can change this.

 

Having knowledgeable Early Years practitioners to support children with their play and therefore by default their learning is key but the current thinking is for a cheap babysitting service.

Money is not always the answer and actually we do not need expensive resources to play with.  The investment should be in the training provided to the practitioners.

 

We do have many financial needs at present which would be so easily solvable by allowing us to charge parents who can afford to pay towards their fees and then freeing up extra funding for the parents who really need it. 


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#3 lsp

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 06:49 PM

Well said LKEYTEACH!
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#4 finleysmaid

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 07:27 PM

Does anyone know if there is an official definition of disadvantaged children? cant seem to find it anywhere???


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#5 mundia

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 08:04 PM

The report referred to above discusses that point, finleysmaid, that there are many differing views of 'disadvantage' especially between health, social care and education. Often it is defined in terms of economic disadvantage, those children eligible for EYPP and recorded as 'FSM'. Others would broaden the definition to any child for whatever reason at risk of not achieving their full potential.
It's a bit like 'school readiness', it's 'out there' in constant use, yet open to interpretation by all of us.
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#6 finleysmaid

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 08:16 PM

The report referred to above discusses that point, finleysmaid, that there are many differing views of 'disadvantage' especially between health, social care and education. Often it is defined in terms of economic disadvantage, those children eligible for EYPP and recorded as 'FSM'. Others would broaden the definition to any child for whatever reason at risk of not achieving their full potential.
It's a bit like 'school readiness', it's 'out there' in constant use, yet open to interpretation by all of us.

sorry hadn't read all the info (serves me right)  but your reply is what I also thought. I have a small proportion on EYPP but there are many more who would be on my disadvantages list...yet how would I know????? we have some families living in very cramped conditions or sharing houses. Quite a few who are living just above deprivation limits, some who share with relatives etc etc etc none of these would show up on anyones radar...don't think the HV's would even know what they are up to!


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#7 finleysmaid

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 08:23 PM

as an aside I have a VERY mixed group when it comes to income.....we do not see that disadvantages children do less well than others....perhaps because our expectations for all the children are high??


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