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Seeking Truth: Sixty Years in Early Childhood Education - Wendy Scott O.B.E
"I learned a great deal from the children, families and communities in London's Docklands and the East End where I started teaching in 1961. Conditions were not much better than those faced by the McMillan sisters in Deptford half a century earlier. Children played on unreconstructed bomb sites, and many, including immigrant families, lived in difficult conditions. My college training had not equipped me with necessary knowledge about bed bugs, or prison visiting, so I had a lot to learn …"
"Educators should guard against over-concentration on formal teaching and the attainment of a specific set of targets". the Rumbold Report 'Starting with Quality' 1990
In a paper which we are publishing for a general readership, Wendy Scott brings much to our attention in a rounded reflection on her sixty years of experience and advocacy in early education. The highs, principles, histories of morally committed pioneers; developing democratic early educational practice despite the disinterest of wider society; the frustrations and volte-faces of policy and ministers. She highlights the need for educators to maintain vigilance and articulate 'what quality is and should be' in the face of seas of change and ignorance in recent and contemporary times – and from her own experience reminds of the need for individuals to find their ways to keep rooted and also open.
Wendy Scott is an early years teacher with extensive experience in the PVI sector as well as schools. Headship of a demonstration nursery school was followed by a senior lectureship at Roehampton University, where she co-ordinated the original advanced diploma in multi-professional studies.
Wendy has been an early years and primary inspector in London, and has worked across England as an OFSTED Registered Inspector and trainer. She led The British Association for Early Childhood Education and chaired the national Early Childhood Forum before becoming a specialist adviser to the DfES, and working abroad with the British Council and UNICEF. She is has been President of TACTYC, the Association for Professional Development in Early Years, and has judged the Nursery World Nursery of the Year competition since 2008. She was awarded an OBE for services to education in 2015.
"The Treasury … allocates resources to Government Departments over three years. This is reviewed biennially, but is followed by an annual internal battle within Departments for funding. This together with our oppositional political system makes long term strategic planning virtually impossible: I was told that my ideas for developing secure and effective early years provision over 20 years had no chance, nor did any proposal that would take longer than a single parliamentary term."
"A heavy accountability system together with inappropriate definitions of school readiness and ill-advised approaches to the teaching of reading are narrowing the curriculum in nurseries as well as reception classes. Several recent initiatives pushed through by Ministers go against research evidence and professional experience. The lack of respect for expertise is hard to understand, let alone accept. …. The politician simply put his hands over his ears, and said "I'm not listening". "
"As an experienced professional, I have deep concerns that rigidly imposed accountability to a flawed system currently takes precedence over the real needs of individual pupils: rising levels of mental health problems among students of all ages and stress on teachers are serious symptoms of the current malaise. It is very frustrating to find that although many parents as well as professionals seek to speak truth to power, they are not being heard. The human cost is considerable, and will cast shadows long into the future."
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