Memorandum from Professor Priscilla Alderson
OFSTED should take far greater account of
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
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
Institute of Education, University of London.