Select Committee on Education and Skills Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Priscilla Alderson (OFS 06)

  OFSTED should take far greater account of

    —  children's own views;

    —  children's rights to time;

    —  and to space and natural resources

  1.  Children's views.  Taking account of children's views involves asking even young children directly, and also drawing on related research. See for example my book "Young children's rights: exploring beliefs, principles and practice" (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2000). Many young children are very distressed when they start nursery. If their views are dismissed as inevitable "separation anxiety", this stops the staff thinking carefully about each child and how best to support and help them and induct them into the nursery. The OFSTED guidance speaks of parents learning from staff. It should also tell staff to listen to and learn from parents and children.

  2.  Rights to time.  From nursery onwards, children's time is highly organised by adults. There is too little time for them to reflect, ponder, imagine, explore and play freely in activities initiated by children themselves. This is stifling the precious capacities and confidence which real education nurtures.

  3.1  Rights to space and natural resources.  The minimum space required in nursery per child is far too small. It takes no account of all the equipment, or of the lack of areas to run and play vigorously which are essential, especially for children from small homes. OFSTED standards say nurseries should have "adequate natural lighting". This is pointless if this is not defined. If all the rooms have to have electric lights on all the time, as in basement nurseries, is this adequate?

  3.2  All children should have daily easy access to outdoor play space. Drug users' needles, with fear of infection from dogs, means that children are kept inside for months on end. Meanwhile reported hyperactivity levels soar.

  3.3  OFSTED's vague standards are keeping nurseries with very sub standard amenities open. Surely OFSTED should be working with other authorities to raise standards of buildings and other resources, looking more at structures and contexts as well as activities.

Professor Priscilla Alderson, Social Science Research Unit,

Institute of Education, University of London.

November 2001

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