Below are extracts taken verbatim from an appearance on Newsnight by Elizabeth Truss, the Childcare Minister, on Thursday 12th September 2013. The words in blue are my (tongue-in-cheek) ‘translations’.
“If you go into a Reception class, you will find that children are playing, they’re learning how to play together, they’re learning how to take turns and what I think the issue is, is that too many children are arriving at school not with those skills … [not] ready to learn.”
I just love group work and play! Adore it! Yeah, I know Govey dissed it the other day, but not me. Respect to the group work technique. Hey OldAndrew, Trussie here, I know Govey loves you but don’t you realise that you simply cannot learn without these skills in place?
“Well, what I’m saying at the moment is we are recruiting early years teachers for our nurseries …”
Hey, I know we don’t actually have all that many nurseries in the state sector, because there are lots of private and voluntary run ones, but it sounds good to say it like we run all the settings. (Anyway, perhaps what I actually meant was that we’re recruiting people to train as teachers, let’s not be pedantic). So, if I had lots of nurseries, I’d sure as hell recruit lots of early years teachers to run them. Yeah, I know that’s tricky on £3.50 an hour. Especially since the pesky early years sector got all uppity with that silly campaign about rewinding on ratios. Goodness me, what high quality adult can’t deal with four babies at once, or six 2-year-olds? Haven’t they got four pairs of hands? And I really can’t think why so few of them use my wonderful, flexible, once in a lifetime only offer of 1 adult to 13 children. Get ‘em sitting in chairs all day: simples.
“… so children have the skills, they have the vocabulary, they know how to take turns, then they can start school ready to learn …”
Yes, I know, group work again. Love it. It’s the only way. Okay, just ignore the fact that early years education isn’t compulsory. We simply must get them to start school ready to learn. Perhaps we can do something about that soon. Grab ‘em as they come out of the womb or something. Get them away from those pesky parents who seem intent on ruining them.
“… early years teachers in Scandinavia are paid the same as a primary school teacher. Here we’ve got an issue that early years teachers are paid much less …”
Okay, I know early years settings only get around £3.50 an hour per child, but let’s do some maths here (you know how much I love maths). 13 x 3.50 = £45.50 an hour. What do you mean that’s not enough to run a setting? What do you mean you have to pay for rent, and utilities, and resources, and employer’s NI, and training on top of wages … oh just be quiet will you.
“I would like to see early years teachers better respected and better paid, I think it’s really important …”
Which is why I’m raising the early years hourly funding to … okay, I only said I’d ‘like’ to. Which is why I’m including them on the mainstream teachers’ pay scale … okay I’m not, Govey’s destroying that anyway. Do you have to be so pedantic.
[Kirsty Wark: "You have started putting kids into test situations at the age of five."]
“We’re absolutely not doing that. There’s already an early years profile done at age four or five to see where the child is. We do that through the current system. What we’re doing is saying that schools can have a choice between using that and using alternative methods to see where a child is.”
There will not under any circumstances be a standardised test at age 5 … or 2 … actually could you get back to me on that one? I’m not sure I was meant to say that …
“Can I just make the point Kirsty about play, is that we’re not against play, we absolutely think children learn through play, the issue is whether it should be entirely child-initiated, or whether it should be teacher led.”
Look, I know that best practice in the early years is a balanced mixture of child-initiated, adult-initiated and adult-led learning. And that this is what happens in all early years settings, because that’s the basis for the EYFS. But let’s not let the truth get in the way of a great soundbite, shall we? Cmon, be reasonable guys. You were the ones who said the ‘p’ word first anyway.
[Kirsty Wark: "Are you saying that poor people, that working class people, aren’t capable of actually introducing their children to books?"]
“I’m saying that children on free school meals do much worse at GCSE than children without, and there’s a long tail of under performance and yes, low income children arrive at school less well prepared, we have evidence to show that.”
Yes, Kirsty. Do you need me to spell it out for you? We at the DfE are trying to plant the idea that anyone who is against formal and traditional learning is an enemy of poor children, whose parents cannot afford … I mean who do not give their children access … to books. Our strategy takes the focus off the fact that our policies are pushing more children into poverty. Have you not figured this out yet?
“We’re not saying how we want teachers to teach, what we’re saying is that we’re going to allow you to get the best outcomes for children, to see where a child is, to offer much more flexibility.”
Okay, yes I know I didn’t mention the word ‘practitioners’ the whole time I was here. Please let’s not mention the fact that the majority of the early years sector is made up of poorly paid practitioners. ‘Teachers’ sounds sooo much better, and more traditional as well. In fact, I’m not sure if I was talking about the early years sector at all … I think I might have been mixing it up with Reception classes … now where did I put my copy of the statutory EYFS document? Must read it. Someone said it actually mentions adding up …