What’s The Priority?

There is a substantial amount of credible evidence that investment in early years can have an incredible impact on some of the most challenging problems in our society including poverty, addiction and violence.


The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 included legislation that would be of benefit to the youngest, most vulnerable members of our society, including the promise of pre-school places for 3 and 4 year olds, and vulnerable 2 year olds, and the provision of a Named Person for every 0-18 year old in the country. The role of ensuring this legislation and these promises are carried out falls to local authorities, and this task is by no means easy. However, in ensuring that the requirements of law are met within their local authority, priorities can be conflicted and decisions can be made that are counterproductive to the reasoning behind the legislation. The question that has to be considered is ‘What is the priority?’.

Local Authority nursery schools are often running at full capacity, with classes of 40 children per session. However, the demand for places still far outweigh the available provision, and decisions have to be made about how to provide for the children without a place. Is it right to increase the capacity of the nurseries that exist? Or should new nurseries be built?

Is the priority simply for all children to have a place, or should the priority be that the place they have is of the most benefit to the children?

It doesn’t take an academic to recognise that 40-50 children within the one class is not beneficial to the children. The Early Years Collaborative pinpointed attachment-led practice as a key priority over the coming years in Scotland and cramming large amount of children into a nursery is not supportive of attachment-led practice and puts a strain on the capacity of the staff to build strong attachments with the children in their care. It is important to ensure that, in meeting the legislative requirements the decision-makers are not doing so to the detriment of the learning and emotional development children they are supposed to be helping.

With budgets to balance and pressures mounting, the decision-makers are faced with tough choices. But it is important to recognise that for every pound spent on early years, the economic return is ten-fold. The economics of early years can justify every new building that needs to be built for our youngest members of society. Yet, how do we convince our decision-makers at a local level that this is important?

2 thoughts on “What’s The Priority?

  1. I know of local authority nurseries that have 70/80 children in an open plan setting. As a teacher who has taught both in small nursery classes of 25/25 and large schools of 70/70 over 30 year period I can honestly say that applying nurture/attachment theory principles and practice much more achievable in smaller settings. Larger settings would benefit from enhanced staffing. Sometimes the expectations of HMIE and Care Inspectorate as well as Curriculum for Excellence are at odds with this very effective approach.
    The adult/child ratio for 3 to 5years olds in nurse schools and classes is 1:10 and has not been reviewed since 1956 when this staffing ratio was originally set down in law. Nursery centres of all descriptions are required to do so much more than they were in 1956, it is surely time to review these arrangements in light of all the recent research. It is worth noting that where Independent schools have a nursery/kindergarten department that they are usually small classes.
    Quality nursery provision just cannot be achieved cheaply it is time for politicians are civil servants to realise this.

  2. Thank you so much for this amazing comment. I completely agree with your point on reviewing adult-child ratios in nurseries. The amount of research to support such a review is overwhelming. I hope to find a way of convincing such people but until then I’ll continue to connect and share with like minded people like yourself. Our voices and collective experience is a strong tool!

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