Start school aged two to stop poorest falling behind, says Ofsted chief: Sir Michael Wilshaw wants nursery classes to teach children to count and recognise basic words
- Children of poor families suffer ‘unsure start’ to education, Sir Michael warns
- This, he says, leads to lower achievement as they progress through school
- Ofsted report will call for schools to take the lead in early years education
- But critics of the proposals warn of the ‘schoolification’ of childhood
Schools should take children from the age of two to stop the poorest pupils falling behind, the head of Ofsted will say today.
Thousands of youngsters are being ‘let down’ by poor quality nurseries and childminders who fail to equip them with basic skills, according to Sir Michael Wilshaw.
He will say school-based nurseries should begin to teach children as young as two to count, hold a pen and recognise words.
Learning: Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted Chief Inspector, watches youngsters at play during his visit to the Windrush Nursery in Woolwich, London, on the eve of the publication of the Ofsted Early Years Annual Report
Many children – particularly those from low-income families – have an ‘unsure’ start to their education which leads to lower achievement as they progress through school, he will claim.
Sir Michael will deliver the advice in Ofsted’s first major report on childcare and early education, which is being launched today. He will also call for parents to be given more help to find adequate childcare provision.
The report will highlight an achievement gap between children from disadvantaged families and more affluent youngsters, which opens up during their earliest months and continues as they progress through school.
Only a third of children from low-income homes have reached what is considered a ‘good’ level of development by the age of five.
‘Too many of our poorest children are getting an unsure start because the early years system is letting them down,’ Sir Michael will say.
‘What children facing serious disadvantage need is high quality early education from the age of two, delivered by skilled practitioners with degrees in a setting that parents can recognise and access easily.
‘These already exist. They are called schools.’
The report will call for a radical shake-up of early years care in England which would entail schools ‘taking the lead’ in providing good quality early education, particularly among youngsters from the poorest backgrounds.
‘Children need education from the age of two’: Sir Michael will use the report to call for an expansion of nursery schooling to even younger children, in the hope that this will stop disadvantaged youngsters falling behind
Speaking yesterday at Windrush Primary School in Greenwich, East London, Sir Michael said: ‘The attainment gap between poor children and their more prosperous peers is large and if you are going to narrow it, it needs to start much earlier on.
‘It needs to start before school starts, so therefore the early years provision has to be good.
‘We are saying it isn’t good enough, and we see better provision for poor children, where those gaps emerge, in school-based settings, and we are urging Government to put more early years settings into schools.’
Sir Michael said Ofsted wanted a greater emphasis on teaching children core skills – ‘how to hold a pen, the ability to count, to recognise words, to communicate well with each other and their teachers’.
Schools, nurseries and childminders will be expected to run regular assessments of children as young as two in literacy and numeracy.
Many schools with nurseries currently only take children from the age of three.
Fun times: The report will call for a radical shake-up of early years care in England which would entail schools ‘taking the lead’ in providing good quality early education, but critics warn of the ‘schoolification’ of childhood
Education Minister Liz Truss is already writing to councils to ask them to extend provision for two-year-olds and open school nurseries for longer to cover the working day.
However the plans are proving controversial amid concerns over the ‘schoolification’ of early childhood.
Davina Ludlow, director of daynurseries.co.uk, said: ‘Assessment at a young age would undermine natural development.
‘Rather than giving two-year-olds tests, we should be giving them the opportunity to learn through interaction and play.
‘We need to change the notion that “starting sooner means improved results later”.’