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Send underprivileged two-year-olds to school, says Ofsted chief

The Guardian is reporting that Sir Michael Wilshaw has called for children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds to be taught in schools from the age of two…

…Wilshaw urged the parents of disadvantaged two-year-olds to access free early years places provided by the government, adding that half of the parents entitled to 15 hours of free childcare a week were not taking up the offer.

Providing early years care in a school setting could particularly benefit children from poorer backgrounds, because children would find the transition to school easier, expert adult help would be closer to hand, tracking children through the system would be easier, while “well-qualified graduate teachers” could also make a real difference, he said.

Improving the educational chances of toddlers by putting them in a school setting was not proven”, he admitted, adding: “But it is obvious what has been done to date has not worked. It’s time to try something different.”

Ofsted found that while 40% of two-year-olds in England were eligible for a funded place based on family income, only 9% of two-year-olds in schools were actually on a funded place. The rest of the places were filled by children whose parents were paying.

“It seems that school nurseries have been colonised by the middle classes,” he said. “And who can blame these parents? I’m sure they see the well-qualified staff and the appeal of an easy transition to reception and conclude that it’s a good option for their children…”

More at: Send underprivileged two-year-olds to school, says Ofsted chief


Two questions here: why are disadvantaged parents not taking up the opportunity of free child care, and what do you think of SMW’s idea of getting more early years provision into schools?

Do you think it would help in closing the attainment gap?

Please let us know why/why not in the comments or via Twitter…


Should we be trying to get disadvantaged children into schools aged two?

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Wilshaw says, ‘Schools that offer nursery class provision have an in-built advantage for such children – there is no transition. Once the child has settled, they can stay where they are when they reach statutory school age.’

That’s not true and sends out the wrong message to parents.  Schools can only prioritise pupils from a school nursery if they’re also eligible for pupil premium (see my comment below).



Wilshaw’s plea for schools to provide nurseries can have unintended consequences.  Who funds the new provision?  Or will the ‘nursery’ be a mobile on the edge of the playground?  Second, the ‘smooth transition’ between nursery and reception that Wilshaw promotes can discriminate against those who can’t or don’t want to send their child to a school’s nursery.  Nurseries aren’t compulsory and are therefore not covered by the Schools Admission Code.  This means some schools could have criteria for nursery admission which would go against the Code.

The Revised Code allows schools to prioritise pupils eligible for pupil premium who’ve attended a school nursery and this may be what Wilshaw has in mind.  But this isn’t going to help such children if schools set criteria for nurseries which deter such applicants.



Yes, let’s do another experiment on small children and see what happens.


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