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Welcome to the Author Blog for Sheila Nutkins. Here you will find information and Sheila's own thoughts and opinions on topical issues relating to early childhood education and care.

Monday, 23 June 2014

UN Petition update

UN Event: A Resounding Success!
Tessa Jowell 
Petition organiser
Jun 22, 2014
Last Monday 16th June, the Permanent Missions of Colombia, Ecuador and Italy hosted an event at the UN entitled "Early Childhood Development: The Foundation for Sustainable Human...
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Monday, 9 June 2014

Update on UN Petition

LATEST VERSION: UN Appeal Document

6 Jun 2014 — Please download the latest version of the UN Appeal document produced by the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development and UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network which was presented at a side event during the 11th Session of the UN's Open Working Group. This document has now been endorsed by ADEA, Aga Khan Foundation, Conrad N Hilton Foundation, UBS Optimus Foundation, International Pediatric Association, Terra dos Homens, WALD, UCLG, Grand Challenges Canada and many more... Download it here:https://www.dropbox.com/s/75mplvohuoedr46/ECDandSHD%20060614.pdf

Monday, 5 May 2014

Open letter to Scottish Government

An ‘open letter’ to Scottish Government regarding proposals for expansion of childcare.

It is good to hear that Scottish Government propose to invest more resources in providing quality childcare services.  It is also good to hear that they understand the importance of early learning to later outcomes which suggests that they are making these proposals to achieve better outcomes for more children.  Statements about making Scotland the best place to grow up where no child is disadvantaged by poverty are, of course, laudable and irrefutable.  However, the proposals for expansion of childcare provision will not meet any of these aspirations.

Scottish Government insist that if (and only if) Scotland gains independence they will be able to provide a “high quality universal childcare system that is sustainable, affordable, flexible and provides choice”.  This is a huge task and all the other problems to be addressed following independence will inevitably impact on how and if they can deliver.  The route to achieving this utopia has been reduced to a set of figures proposing 1140 hours of childcare for all children aged 1 – 4.  A figure of £100 million has been floated.

The word ‘quality’ (often ‘high quality’ or even ‘the highest quality’) is thrown into every sentence.  It is not clear what ‘quality’ looks like other than the workforce being ‘highly qualified’.   The current degree qualification that will soon become a requirement for all lead practitioners in childcare settings takes years to complete.  Until this year these BA Childhood Practice students, who are completing a 3 year programme part-time whilst working which takes a minimum of six years, have not been eligible for SAAS funding.  Achieving the degree does not bring any extra pay.  It does enable an individual to take another path, for example, by completing a PGDE course and entering Primary teaching, or moving into a managerial or advisory role where opportunities arise.  There is no incentive for a graduate to stay in, for example, a private nursery actually, directly involved in the education and care of very young children – as in face to face interaction with them.  The actual education and care of very young children is mostly left to young (16 – 19) women with little or no qualification.  They are poorly paid – very poorly paid.
To expand childcare provision as proposed will require at least another 35,000 in the workforce.  The Government tells us this expansion will be paid for from taxing all the mothers who can then go out to work (though this is couched in terms of ‘generating wealth’ or ‘boosting the economy’ rather than increasing tax revenue).  35,000 of them are likely to be doing the poorly paid childcare jobs.  The bulk of the workforce now are not highly qualified and we have barely started to up-skill them so it seems unlikely that another 35,000, even ‘simply’ qualified, as opposed to ‘highly’ qualified, staff can be found any time soon.
The Government’s proposal is more about aspirational statements to achieve a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, than about achieving better social outcomes.  Whilst they promote this expansion on the basis of better outcomes for children, it is costed on the basis of mothers working.  There is evidence to suggest the majority of children 0 – 3 are best cared for at home. Everybody, including Government, likes to use the Nordic countries as a model.  There has been evidence from Sweden that children in day-care from age one have not achieved better outcomes.  If we shift to a system that requires all mothers to return to work where is the ‘choice’?
The present policy agenda of providing more childcare for the most vulnerable children and ensuring that this is delivered in high quality settings by highly qualified practitioners might actually achieve the better social outcomes we all aspire to.  Research tells us that the high qualifications need to be specific to practice in the early years to impact on the experience and outcomes for children and families.  Perhaps BA Childhood Practice graduates could be paid the equivalent of a teacher’s salary to staff these settings?  We could also look to qualified Primary teachers who also have specialist qualifications and experience in early years rather than removing teachers from nursery classes in increasing numbers.  This might make a real impact on outcomes for children, improve services for families and start to build a properly qualified workforce.
Surely the education and care of Scotland’s children is too important to be tied to and dependent upon a ‘yes’ vote in any referendum or election?  This has to be a plan for the long term and not at the mercy of party politics.  It is a shame that the SNP have chosen to use some of the most vulnerable in society, very young children, poor parents, lone parents and poorly paid childcare workers, in their campaign.

It will take years to ensure the ‘high’ quality (which they also need to define).  It is simply not possible to cost the model suggested or, indeed any such proposal, and therefore impossible to state it is sustainable or affordable.  The delivery of this expanded service appears to be landing with local authorities … which allows plenty of room for the blame for failure to also land elsewhere – as usual.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Update on petition to UN

Dear Friends,
We have seen an incredible amount of interest in this petition over the last couple of weeks. I want to say a huge thank you and welcome to our new supporters!
We now have supporters from over 150 countries, recognition of this as a truly global campaign.
As practitioners, parents, activists and supporters you all know the importance of investing a child’s earliest years and the impact it has on our communities and societies. I have been extremely impressed with this commitment and passion and I wanted to highlight some of the comments we have been receiving on the petition:
Kristen from Oregon, USA said: “Children are at the heart of our societies and our future. Investing in children creates a safer, smarter and more sustainable future for us all.”
Edward from Freetown, Sierra Leone said: “I believe the life and development of everyone begins at childhood, and what ever happens at this time, affects the individuals, what they will be, and what they will do for the communities they live in and the world at large.
Amadou from Niger said: “Les enfants representent l'avenir de demain.”
We have also uploaded some of the latest news from the early childhood development world. The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development ‘s responded to the UN Open Working Group’s ‘Focus Areas’ document and campaign supporter Lisa Jordon of the Bernard van Leer Foundations has written an article about how early childhood development can provide the foundation for the 21st century business skills we need. Please feel free to share your work and stories with me to post on the petition page.
Finally, I’d like to encourage you to have your say and participate in the UN’s MyWorld Survey Let the UN know that you think young children and early childhood development should be one of its priorities in building and better world.
Please continue to share and promote this petition. Our aim is to present the petition to Ban Ki-Moon at an event at the UN in June. Help us to reach and exceed that target!
Yours Sincerely
Tessa Jowell
 Update from Tessa Jowell who started a petition on Change.org to 

Put early childhood development at the heart of the new post-2015 development framework to give all children the best start in life

Go to:
 http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/un-secretary-general-ban-ki-moon-and-un-member-states-put-early-childhood-development-at-the-heart-of-the-new-post-2015-development-framework-to-give-all-children-the-best-start-in-life?utm_source=supporter_message&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=supporter_message 
to view and sign petition

Dear Friends,
We have seen an incredible amount of interest in this petition over the last couple of weeks. I want to say a huge thank you and welcome to our new supporters!
We now have supporters from over 150 countries, recognition of this as a truly global campaign.
As practitioners, parents, activists and supporters you all know the importance of investing a child’s earliest years and the impact it has on our communities and societies. I have been extremely impressed with this commitment and passion and I wanted to highlight some of the comments we have been receiving on the petition:
Kristen from Oregon, USA said: “Children are at the heart of our societies and our future. Investing in children creates a safer, smarter and more sustainable future for us all.”
Edward from Freetown, Sierra Leone said: “I believe the life and development of everyone begins at childhood, and what ever happens at this time, affects the individuals, what they will be, and what they will do for the communities they live in and the world at large.
Amadou from Niger said: “Les enfants representent l'avenir de demain.”
We have also uploaded some of the latest news from the early childhood development world. The Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development ‘s responded to the UN Open Working Group’s ‘Focus Areas’ document and campaign supporter Lisa Jordon of the Bernard van Leer Foundations has written an article about how early childhood development can provide the foundation for the 21st century business skills we need. Please feel free to share your work and stories with me to post on the petition page.
Finally, I’d like to encourage you to have your say and participate in the UN’s MyWorld Survey Let the UN know that you think young children and early childhood development should be one of its priorities in building and better world.
Please continue to share and promote this petition. Our aim is to present the petition to Ban Ki-Moon at an event at the UN in June. Help us to reach and exceed that target!
Yours Sincerely
Tessa Jowell
 

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Conversation - funding for early childhood education and care

This Conversation article makes the case for funding and qualified staff in early years settings. Read at http://theconversation.com/early-years-education-is-a-class-leveller-not-an-optional-extra-24379

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Does this bring back memories for you?

PharmacyWeek's photo.

 Is this what childhood should really be about? Do children today experience the same freedom and have the thrills previous generations did? If not what can we do about it?