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Is the UK government intending to push early childhood education in Egland to the wire, or just being careless?
Here is an extract from today's BBC report (link):
"Ministers provided extra money for Nursery Schools from 2017 after a shake-up of funding left some nurseries worried they would close. But the funding supplement agreed then runs out in 2020. The government has given no assurances about what will happen after this date.
Education select committee chairman Robert Halfon told the Today programme Treasury "bean-counters" would store up huge problems if the schools were not protected.
Conservative ministerial aide Craig Tracey and Chichester MP Gillian Keegan said they had raised the issue with ministers.
England has 400 maintained nursery schools, which are owned and directly paid-for by the state. They have to hire better-qualified staff than private nurseries, and often teach and care for children with disabilities and special education needs. The majority are based in disadvantaged areas. A majority of the schools expect to run deficit budgets next year, according to a survey from an All Party Parliamentary Group supporting nurseries.
The Education Secretary Damian Hinds has identified programmes run in state-run nurseries as assets in improving social mobility - staging a media event in a Luton school in April - but some are already struggling to stay open. Carole Jacques, who runs a nursery in Norwich, said they had to phone print companies begging for paper for children to draw on after money ran out. Ms Jacques said her school would definitely close without the funding, as did Amanda King who runs two nursery schools in Warwickshire. She said her schools were already losing £60 a week for every child with special needs they accepted. Her MP Craig Tracey said there would be "huge consequences" if the schools closed, and he didn't know what would happen to children there with special educational needs as private nurseries had no obligation to take them.
You can also listen to BBC Radio 4 report here (link).
What is your MP's position? Some MPs such as mny in the Education Sub-Committee are highly informed and committed. to early childhood education. Many though, including cabinet ministers, are not. Some may be confused and distracted; some may not care.
Now is the time to help your MP become informed if they aren't, and to support them in championing education if they are.
"Reflections Nursery & Forest School is a 170-place day nursery operating a forest and beach school programme and running a small independent infant school. The nursery won UK nursery of the Year in 2009/10 and has been awarded Outstanding by OFSTED at the last three inspections. The setting is well-known for drawing inspiration from the pre-schools of Reggio Emilia and runs Professional Development Days each year for visiting educators from the UK and around the world.
You will ideally be a graduate with substantial experience of leadership in the early years and an understanding of the Reggio approach. Applications from individuals with a Level 3 Early Years qualification intending to achieve graduate status will be considered.
"Imagination is more important than knowledge"
That banner-statement of Einstein's came back to me yesterday, as I was reflecting on the questions and uncertainties of an enthusiastic team of educators with whom we're currently working. Keen to thoroughly shift their practice from 'instruction' to 'construction', they are encountering that 'rug-pulled-from-under-their feet' feeling of what it might mean to do things differently, with a different mindset:
"What should we do if we're not instructing?"
"What if the children have different interests and ideas to ours?"
"How can we understand what to do?"
Their imagination is kindled, nudging them towards 'doing things differently', yet like many/most of us, their own experience of 'what education is' had been solidly instructional: that's what they'd had, and that's the common practice in the schools around them. Very unsettling, to say the least. I recall how education students participating in our Floor Four exploratorium also discussed how they felt initially de-skilled by the challenge of beginning with listening and observation, rther than predefined ctivities (as they'd been taught in college.)
How different the challege is to work with imagination at the fore, rather than repetition and ingestion.
What a positive call of encouragement Einstein's famous proclamation is, and I was prompted to hear more, so I tracked down the 1929 interview. If you click on the statement , you can read the full interview too - I hope you enjoy it as much as did I. Einstein discusses so much, so elequently - the artistry of being, thinking, examining, living - and the serious danger of living withough so doing.
"Life," Einstein said later in a letter to his son, "is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
Maybe that is good enough advice for us educators too, as we learn, uncertainly, but with inner energy, how to do things differently: learning how better to work with our children who themselves are also born natural examiners of worlds.