Nurseries not preparing children for school (BBC News Article) 

Too many children lack basic skills that they are expected to have before they start school at age 4/5. Some are not toilet trained, can’t hold a pencil and struggle with language and communication. So who can we blame for this?

Let’s blame nurseries and pre-schools.

Yes, I would expect nurseries to encourage a child’s development – through playing with toys, reading books and doing arts and crafts. At Izzy’s nursery they use both structured activities and free play to observe her development, and provide regular feedback to let us know if she meets the Early Years recommendations for her age group and advise on next steps we may want to work on.

However, we (her parents and wider family) taught her to use the toilet, hold a pencil, speak and communicate. Yes, nursery has encouraged and reinforced these skills, but they didn’t start there. They started at home.

Some children don’t go to nursery – even once they turn three the 15 hours free nursery care per week isn’t compulsory. And even those who do go to nursery, what about the time they spend with their parents? Nurseries can try to teach children the basic skills they require, but its no good if the hard work isn’t being continued at home. It is hard. It requires some element of effort and commitment. But isn’t that part of being a parent?

It’s much easier to blame professionals and institutions than to blame parents. But how are children supposed to learn about responsibility and the impact of their actions on others if they are brought up in such a culture of passing the buck.

It is important to recognise that children develop at different rates – putting very strict expectations on children can be damaging – but I don’t think the list of basic skills for all school-starters that Ofsted has come up with is unreasonable. It’s more about basic social skills than academic knowledge. But it shouldn’t be down to nurseries to ensure children meet these developmental milestones. It’s a job for parents.


4 comments on “Preparing children for school”

  1. I totally agree with this. I have a family member whose son needed speech therapy so received one session per week and they were advised that they should spend a good few hours per week practising at home. Two years later and no improvement because “they didn’t do it enough in school”. Yet they never put the work in at home. Different but definitely blaming the institution. Schools can only do so much.

    • School only accounts for a proportion of children’s learning time, there’s so much more they can learn outside of school if the parents just made the effort. I had speech therapy too but my parents always made sure they did my therapy homework in between sessions and luckily my speech problems were resolved at a young age.

  2. Sad but true, I have two family members who teach in junior schools and you want to talk about not being ready? Parents send their kids to school when they are not potty trained and lie about it. Then the child constantly pees and poops themselves in class which is awful for them and disruptive to the whole class and not right for the teachers who are not there to clean them up!

    When I signed up my son for JK a few months ago they were great and gave me a whole package of things he should know to be ready so we knew exactly what to work on. He does not go to day care or preschool (I work days, dad works nights) so I know it is up to us and while we have been teaching him a lot, it was really nice to have the package to guide us. She also recommended local programs that would be helpful so we were able to sign him up for a summer day camp to help him adjust to being away all day in really fun circumstances.

    At the end of the day, I totally agree with you, it’s up to us. It really urks me that (more in the later grades) parents spend more time making excuses for their kids and fighting with teachers than they invest in actually helping their children learn and grow.

    Great post!

    • Thank you. I think it would be really useful to have more guidance in the uk about what children should be doing at certain ages. It would help prepare the parents as much as the children. At least then we would have an idea what priorities to work on. Unfortunately some parents won’t put the effort in regardless of the support and resources available.

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