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Saturday, 02 June 2018

Early years workers urged to play their part in teaching young children life skills

Written by Alison Kershaw

Some parents do not appreciate the importance of early education and teaching young children life skills such as how to communicate or use the toilet, it has been suggested.

Some mothers and fathers do not know how to impart these skills and need more support in doing so, according to early years experts.

They said there has been an increase in young children with issues such as poor language skills.

In a speech, Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman (pictured) urged nursery staff to play their part in helping pre-school children learn basic skills such as how to communicate and basic hygiene skills.

Gary Jeffries, a nursery manager from Doddington Green, Birmingham, who has 16 years' experience in the industry, said school readiness can mean different things for different children.

"For example, some children might be learning to read and write with us, prior to going into reception, but others might need a lot more development, emotionally, socially, with things like toilet training, self-help skills, dressing themselves," he said.

He added that "some parents may value early years more than others" and some need as much support to help children learn skills as their youngsters.

For example, Mr Jeffries said, parents may need help and guidance on reading to children, how to speak to them, dietary requirements, and some "may not know where to start with things like potty training".

Mr Jeffries said that as a parent he realises the pressure mothers and fathers can face, and nurseries need to work with parents and engage with them to help their children learn.

He said every family has its own issues and concerns, but added: "I would say that not all parents value early years, and I don't think the Government values it enough."

Mr Jeffries said there is a lack of involvement and interaction by some parents with pre-school children.

"I always say to my parents, if you haven't got time to do anything at home, but got time to do one thing, education-wise I always just say, read a bedtime story, read, read, read, talk to them, ask them questions, point things out when you're in the supermarket, on a car journey."

He said that, in general, there has been an increase in the past five to seven years in the numbers of children being referred for speech and language therapy.

He cited issues such as "deprivation, lack of interaction, a lot of parents are on their phones, screen time".

Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager for the Pre-School Learning Alliance, who has managed and worked in nurseries, said: "It's always been the case of children that it takes longer to get dry, to potty train, but I think, from what our members are telling us, they are finding these things are increasing.

"The big issue is we have parents who need help but don't know it. When you've got a parent who needs help and wants help and recognises it, then they will seek it with you and we are able to signpost."

A survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) in November 2016 found that 70% of those questioned who were working with children aged three to seven said more were starting school without being toilet trained compared with five years before.

Ralph Surman, deputy head of Cantrell Primary School, said: "We have to ask if the system is right.

"Should we be measuring these young people at these specific stages? Should we be putting pressure on professionals to make sure kids meet these milestones at points that someone has arbitrarily decided that they should be meeting them?

"They may not be reaching them at certain points for a number of complex factors."

Louise Regan, a primary school head from Nottinghamshire and national officer for the National Education Union, suggested a lot of the issues are "linked to poverty in communities" and a lack of support for parents.

She argued that many services such as Sure Start centres have been cut or closed, leaving mothers and fathers with fewer options to turn to for advice.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Caroline Graham, Pre-School Learning Alliance / PA Wire.