Schools are being encouraged to open their doors to children as young as two and extend their nurseries' opening hours as part of the government's latest attempt to increase access to childcare. Liz Truss, the childcare minister, is asking local authorities to ask nurseries to be open for longer during the working day, while legislation will also be introduced to enable schools to take toddlers. As well as helping mothers to go back into part-time employment, the government claims it will create large numbers of childcare places and help to prevent the children of poorer families from falling behind their peers.
Truss told the Daily Telegraph: "Schools have excellent facilities. It is age appropriate, so what you are doing with two-year-olds in terms of singing, reading stories, playing with paint is very different from what you do with a seven-year-old. If you have a really high-quality school nursery, children who are behind (at two- Ed.!) can catch up with their peers by the time they start school. Many parents will prefer longer days rather than five short bursts during the week. If you're working part-time two sessions of seven and a half hours, or three sessions of five hours gives more flexibility."
Some school nurseries already offer care to children under three. The government expects that 40% of all two-year-olds will be in line for 15 hours of free care a week. At present, school nurseries have to register with Ofsted before taking in two-year-olds. This "red tape," as described by Truss, will be removed by legislation in September.
NASS works closely today with nursery schools as most are small. Is this but another strategy to address workplace issues? Is it a strategy to distance parents from involvement with their children's learning or to write off many now regarded as disinterested in education?