Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Guest Blog - An Educational Decision - by Daniel Newland

By Daniel Newland,
On Wednesday the 26th November, 10am to 2pm, Hampden Way Nursery is inviting Barnet residents and members of the local authority to an open day.  The reason they have arranged this awareness event is because they want to have the opportunity to explain why they are so concerned about the closures of national maintained nurseries; these concerns are based on their professional knowledge, and experience, as well as educational reports; which suggest that inadequate early years education can potentially detriment a child’s schooling right the way through to their GCSEs .

This subject is particularly relevant to us residents of Barnet because there are plans to amalgamate a number of local nurseries into one core site; however it is not because Hampden Way may close that they have decided to hold this day but because they want to ensure that there continues to be adequate staffing provision, and skills, so that children continue to receive excellent levels of early years education, wherever this should be received; the open day’s aim is to make people aware of the work that maintained nurseries perform in the community.

Although, I am not an educational professional there are a couple of reasons why I asked, Rog T, if I could write this guest blog in a bid to encourage people to attend. I am married to a very experienced nursery nurse and I am also a parent of a nursery age child, who attends Hampden Way Nursery.  I have spent many hours socially with specialist early years staff and have heard on a number of occasions that it is a very misunderstood area of education.  To the casual observer it may seem that there is not much to it really just make sure children have some paint and playdough and try not to expose them to any risks of injury; a kind of large scale child minding arrangement. Whereas those with more experience and knowledge appreciate that this is actually where the foundations of education are set in place.

This does make logical sense as if a child suffers, and continues to develop increasing, anxiety when starting nursery; is not gently introduced to the formalities of a structured day and any early signs of additional needs fail to be identified then a child is put at risk of being held back.  This may just set them back an academic year, perhaps two, or as some educational papers suggest the whole of that child’s education.

As a parent of a, just turned, 4 year old, I spend my life in a kind of perpetual uncertain haze. Constantly questioning my parental actions; for example, Did I handle that situation correctly?  Is my son’s behaviour normal? Do I actually have any idea what I ‘m doing?  Even though I am married to someone who has an amazing affinity with children, my wife will occasionally ask me if she should have handled a situation, with our son, differently; this actually terrifies me as I am almost completely reliant on her to ensure that I am not emotionally scarring him, unintentionally.  

I guess, or perhaps am hopeful, that this is common for first time parents.  This is where experienced nursery staff can help support families; offering reassurance when concerns are unfounded and help identify needs early and arrange for additional specialist support, such as speech and language therapy, should this be required.

The message that Hampden way is desperate to get across is that early years education is vitally important; they want to demonstrate during their open day the value, to the community, of maintained nurseries and the expertise of the staff that work within them, and highlight evidence that inadequate early years provision is damaging to a child’s educational progress.  

As this nursery has been rated, repeatedly, as outstanding by OFSTED I think that their views are worth listening to, and considering, before any changes are put in place, regarding the ongoing provision of early years education.  This is the reason why I would urge anyone involved in or who could influence decisions regarding these provisions attend on Wednesday; so that all relevant information, and views, can be heard and considered when contemplating future decisions.

The nursery’s invite is open to all local counsellors, and MPs, as well as to anyone who believes it is sensible to hear the views of, and see demonstrations by, an outstanding early years education provider, to help, best, decide how these services should continue to be delivered both in Barnet, and nationally.  If Hampden Way’s message is compelling enough perhaps it will help prevent the making of decisions that could potentially damage the educational opportunities of local children.

I believe that it is never unwise to listen to expert opinion before taking actions in areas where you are not, personally, knowledgeable; I sincerely hope that the local authority agree and I look forward to seeing their representatives on the day.  

Hampden Way Nursery, Hampden Way, Southgate, N14 5DJ; Wednesday 26th November 2014, 10am to 2pm

Danny, Barnet resident and parent.
Daniel Newland  is a Barnet resident and parent. Professionally, he works as a Carers Advocacy Officer working at Enfield Carers Centre; Previously he worked at Barnet Carers Centre for a number of years.
Guest Blogs are always Welcome.

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