Providing toddlers with quality education before they start formal schooling is paying dividends at a city school.
As a controversial call went out to make sure every nursery has a qualified teacher a pioneering trial at one Preston school is reaping benefits for young pupils.
A report produced for Save The Children says the education of thousands of children is being set back decades by the “failure to properly stimulate toddlers’ brains during nursery years” and the charity wants to see a qualified nursery teacher in every setting.
Staff at Eldon Primary in Plungington said they have a seen big difference since it took over the formal running of a nursery unit at the school in September.
Headteacher Azra Butt said the unit, previously run by a committee, was already good but in September the school increased the admission age to two and incorporated the nursery into the school, with qualified nursery teacher Chantelle Sykes at the helm.
Mrs Butt said: “The committee was doing a good job before as far as they were able to in the circumstances, but the fact is, that nursery school teachers are trained to a higher level relevant to the children and are able to plan to that higher level.
“Since we took the nursery under our umbrella we have definitely seen a difference in the children and parents have commented on it.”
She said attendance and punctuality had improved, added: “ Nursery teaching is a very different kettle of fish. The children still learn through movement and playbut we are seeing standards are getting better.
Mrs Butt said that although the youngsters are learning through play, speech and language are high on the timetable and staff, including two teachers and support staff, are much better able to plan and respond to individual needs.
She added: “I scoured the length and breadth of the country to get the right level of teachers for two year olds because that is very important.
“We are also twinning with other schools to try to get the best practice because we want to ensure they get the very best provision.”
All nursery places are full for this year with a few places left for September.
Grace Cole from Ashbridge Independent School, which has nurseries in Hutton and Walton-le-Dale said: “We have always believed that having qualified teachers as part of early years teams extends the opportunities and outcomes for young children.
“From the very beginning we have employed qualified teachers to work in our nursery settings. They bring additional expertise, knowledge and most importantly, an in depth understanding of the way in which children learn through quality play and first hand experiences.
“Experienced,qualified teachers are also aware of the best way to prepare children for future learning and so help to make the transition to primary education a really positive experience for young children.
“Whilst we are aware that the costs involved may make this more difficult for smaller settings - we know that the benefits to children are worth the investment.
National Union of Teachers’ Lancashire executive member Simon Jones said: “Small children must be able to engage through play, in sensitively structured, creative and responsive environments, with well-trained teachers.
“The purpose of early years is not to make young learners ready for school. It is a unique stage with its own goals, and can, when structured properly, enable small children to acquire the characteristics for successful learning later.
A spokesman for the Pre-school Learning Alliance said: “Research has shown that a graduate-led workforce can have a significant positive impact on children’s early learning outcomes, and so we welcome any initiatives that support the sector to attract more graduate practitioners.”
To become an early years teacher, candidates need a degree and at least a GCSE C grade in English, maths and science. They have to pass professional tests and complete a period of initial teacher training.