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Ofsted chief comments on "school readiness" at Alliance conference

By Rachel Lawler

Amanda Spielman speaks at Alliance conference
Amanda Spielman has commented on levels of "school readiness" and clarified the aims of Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report in a speech at the Alliance Annual Conference.
Bold Beginnings
Speaking at Minds Matter, in London, Spielman said: “Bold Beginnings was aimed very specifically at the Reception Year.” She added that Ofsted was not “calling for play to be removed from Reception classrooms”.
Instead, Spielman says that the report was aimed at helping “unlucky” children who do not spend as much time learning “nursery rhymes, ABCs and settling down for a story” as their better-off peers. She said: “Unlucky children certainly need more of the structured learning to replace what they don’t necessarily get at home.”
"School readiness"
Spielman also spoke about varying levels of “school readiness”, including the ability to use a toilet. She cited an ATL survey that claimed that 70% of schools were reporting that more were children starting school without being toilet trained and a YouGov survey commissioned by hygiene company Essity that estimated that teachers spend 30 minutes every week cleaning up after children have been to the toilet.
“Of course there are rate health complications that can be a good reason for this. But these exceptions aside, no one could say that this is an acceptable situation,” Spielman said. “While parents clearly have the most important role here, it follows that nurseries and childminders must also play their part.”
Alliance response
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "Childcare providers are already working incredibly hard to support children in the first few years of their lives, supporting families and children as they prepare to start school.
"And this won't change. But the fact is that three quarters of providers (74%) have told us, in Alliance research released today, that they have been regularly stressed about an issue relating to their work. 
Let children be children
"It is also important to let children be children. The best childcare providers know that each child is unique and develops at their own pace. They know that the focus of the early years should be on ensuring that schools are ready for children, and not the other way around. 
"That said, it is vital children and providers are given the support that they need. Earlier this year we learned that more than 500 children’s centres have closed since 2010, removing a valuable source of support for vulnerable families.
"If the government wants to support children in the first few years of their lives, it will need to fund quality early years provision, including through children’s centres.​"
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