A review of standards of qualifications needed to work with young children has highlighted concerns about literacy and numeracy skills among workers. The Nutbrown Review commissioned by the government and carried out by Professor Cathy Nutbrown, points out that students do not need to demonstrate competence in English and Maths to complete their qualifications.
Whilst a lack of basic literacy and numeracy skills in those caring for our young should be of real concern, an equally pressing issue is that of understanding brain development in young children, in particular the 0-3 range.
For the first time in our history, there is a wide body of neurological research available that shows specifically how a baby’s brain develops. This is backed up by over 50 years of psychological research and theory, so that we have a very clear picture of a child’s emotional needs throughout the early years, and how those needs can be met to foster happy, secure, confident and empathic children.
This is no small thing. If this knowledge was easily accessible to those working with babies and young children, it would dramatically change the nursery environment, and even the workplace. In today’s western economy, it is largely impossible for a family to survive on one salary exclusively for a prolonged time. Mothers are encouraged to work as soon as possible so some kind of external care for their young children is mostly inevitable.
Grandparents would once have been the obvious choice for this level of care, but in a world of nuclear families, this is now not always possible.
It is essential that in addition to good numeracy and literary skills, all those working with young children have a clear understanding of a child’s developing brain and what that child needs to thrive emotionally as well as educationally. The government and all the main political parties now have an early years agenda, but this is not something that can be mandated by Whitehall. As a society, we have a responsibility to invest in the emotional health of young children and thereby improve the quality of care they receive in their early years.
by Marissa Guthrie