Ofsted’s chief inspector has suggested that too many nurseries are failing to prepare children for learning at primary school.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, argued in favour of a more structured nursery environment, claiming that it would help to reduce the attainment gap between children from the richest and poorest backgrounds.

“More than two-thirds of our poorest children – and in some of our poorest communities that goes up to eight children out of 10 – go to school unprepared,” he said.

“That means they can’t hold a pen, they have poor language and communication skills, they don’t recognise simple numbers, they can’t use the toilet independently and so on.”

Sir Michael names “school-led nurseries” as best for development because head teachers are able to “track the progress of children in those school-based nurseries all the way into reception and beyond and make sure they do well”.

But Sir Michael has received opposition from some childcare experts who feel that school-based learning is not necessarily the best environment for young children.

The Pre-School Learning Alliance, which represents 14,000 early years providers, said: “We are at a loss to understand why Sir Michael has essentially dismissed the existing huge network of experienced, passionate group settings and childminders who currently provide excellent, and appropriate, care for young children despite chronic under-funding and a never-ending wave of ill-researched, ill-thought-out early-years policies.”

Purnima Tanuku, head of the National Day Nurseries Association, who also appeared on the Today programme, said that Sir Michael is unfairly judging the quality of private and voluntary nurseries.

“I’m not sure when the last time Sir Michael set foot into a private or voluntary nursery, as opposed to a nursery school,” she said.

“He would see the high quality of play-based learning and a very suitable environment.”

Do you agree with Sir Michael? Should nurseries spend more time preparing children for the formal environment of school? Or do you believe that it is play-based learning which helps young children to thrive? Please get in touch and share your views below.

For full BBC article visit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26853447