Hartlepool education chiefs defend town nurseries after head of Ofsted’s criticism

Darren Guttridge with children in teh Pre School room at Footprints
Darren Guttridge with children in teh Pre School room at Footprints

EDUCATION chiefs in Hartlepool insist nursery children are well prepared to start school and say provision for toddlers in the town is of a high standard.

The head of Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has called for more youngsters to start school at two-years-old and has warned that too many early years education providers are failing to teach children “social, emotional and learning skills”.

Ofsted’s first annual report on early years education says children are at a disadvantage if they are not ready to learn when they start school and argues nobody, including parents, teachers or the Government is currently clear enough about which youngsters will be ready to learn and which will not.

Councillor Chris Simmons, the council’s children’s services committee chairman, says the local authority is encouraging all primary schools in the town to open a nursery but said youngsters are well prepared for life in primary school by attending nursery.

Coun Simmons said: “We are encouraging primary schools in the town to open nurseries because it’s a win-win situation.

“The school will benefit and the children win because they adapt to life in school before they actually start in reception.

“In nurseries children develop language skills as adults are talking to them, that’s a key part of their learning development.

“If they are around other children their communication skills improve, they learn how important it is to share and to care for their friends.

“They can learn through playing, singing, there’s a purpose to absolutely everything the children do in nursery and they do start school very well prepared with the skills required.

“When parents have the opportunity to put their children into early years nursery care it’s in their best interest to do it.”

Sir Michael believes parents should be told to ensure their child has mastered vital skills such as going to the toilet, recognising their own name and understanding certain key words before their first day at school.

And Debbie Randall, manager of Footprints Nursery, in Hartlepool’s Tees Street, said staff there focus on making sure children can carry out vital everyday tasks.

She said: “It’s important that when the children leave here and start school they are able to look after themselves to a certain extent, to be able to do things like put their own coats on.

“It’s vital to give them that responsibility so they are not relying on teachers for absolutely everything when they start school.

“It’s not all about numeracy and literacy although we obviously ensure we focus on those skills through things like singing and activities with other children.”