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Edinburgh nursery schools at risk of losing their heads and teachers

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Friday, 15 February, 2019


We are delighted that Edinburgh City Council have dropped their proposals to remove nursery teachers from the city's nursery schools.

Original post

Early Education is extremely concerned by Edinburgh City Council proposals to remove nursery teachers and headteachers from their nursery schools to save money and tackle teacher vacancies at primary level  we have sent the following letter to the Council to urge them not to go ahead with this short sighted proposal  

Councillor Adam McVey, Council Leader
Councillor Ian Perry, Convenor of the Education, Children and Families Committee

Dear Mr McVey and Mr Perry

Proposals to remove teachers and headteachers from the Edinburgh nursery schools

Early Education is a national early years charity which has been promoting high quality early childhood education in the UK for over 95 years.  We campaign for every child’s right to the best start in life.  We have members and branches across the UK, including an active local branch in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

I am writing in relation to the proposals to remove teachers and headteachers from the Edinburgh nursery schools, to cut costs.  We would strongly urge you to reconsider this move, which might save money in the short term, but is likely to have high costs in the long term in relation to widening the attainment gap for the most disadvantaged children, and loss of expertise for training and professional development for the wider sector.

The latest figures from the Care Inspectorate graphically show the impact of teachers on the quality of provision:

Local Authority

Teachers in class

Care & Support



Management & Leadership









81% (+10%)

73% (+9%)

81% (+10%)

74% (+16%)

West Lothian

Yes until Aug 18

75% (+4%)

70% (+4%)

77% (+5%)

67% (+9%)

West Dunbartonshire


32% (-39%)

32% (-32%)

47% (-25%)

37% (-21%)



55% (-16%)

68% (+4%)

50% (-22%)

45% (-13%)



58% (-13%)

49% (-15%)

64% (-8%)

44% (-14%)



70% (-1%)

41% (-23%)

59% (-13%)

47% (-11%)

The importance of qualified teachers with an early years specialism who work directly with children was explicitly recognised in Professor Iram Siraj’s 2015 review of the Early Learning and Childcare Workforce in Scotland:

A strong body of research demonstrates the importance of higher qualified staff impacting on the quality of provision. The Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE) project (Sylva et al., 2004) showed that there was higher quality provision in those pre-school settings with a qualified graduate teacher. The quality of the learning environment increased with early years leaders' qualifications, and there were improved educational outcomes at Key Stage 1 when children's pre-school experiences combined care and learning experiences (Sylva et al, 2010).

In ECEC centres where there is a culture of integrated working, there needs to be a strong teacher presence to provide a pedagogical lead and support for other practitioners (Whalley, 2009, House of Commons 130-11: 11). The Childhood Practitioner role, although important in Scotland, does not replace the teacher role. Although they learn about Curriculum for Excellence, the focus of their qualification is more on aspects of leadership, management, collaborative working and the skills necessary to support quality improvement processes - rather than on the curriculum and the pedagogy and practice of teaching and learning. This appears to be well recognised within Scotland: Scott, (SSSC, 2015) speaking as SSSC spokesperson about the new BA Childhood Practice online on the SSSC workforce solutions site, stated that it is '…not about the pedagogy of teaching or the praxis of teaching'. Training with a focus on education, children's learning and working with families to support their children at home is necessary (Siraj-Blatchford, 2009, House of Commons 130-11:23).
(Siraj, 2015)

By moving nursery teachers and headteachers into primary schools this unique pool of expertise will be lost, and will be near impossible to replace.  The Edinburgh Nursery Schools are heavily involved in delivering training for the sector, through a range of local collaborations.  Across the UK, we see extensive evidence of the effectiveness of the nursery school model in delivering outstanding outcomes for the most disadvantaged children and closing the attainment gap, while simultaneously acting as system leaders to raise quality across the board.  As also indicated in the quotation above, they are also particularly effective at working with families and integrated working with other professionals, which is a key characteristic of effective early years provision.

We appreciate that tough financial decision are having to be made, but would urge you to re-consider this proposal and ensure that this small group of highly qualified staff are retained for the benefit of the early years sector across Edinburgh, as well as for the children and families they support.  We should be happy to provide any further details of the research evidence and case studies of the successful impact of nursery schools with highly qualified staff in providing high value, cost effective services if these would be helpful in your deliberations.

Yours sincerely

Notes to editors: 

Early Education (The British Association for Early Childhood Education) is the leading independent national charity for early years practitioners and parents, campaigning for the right of all children to education of the highest quality. Founded in 1923, it has members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and provides a national voice on matters that relate to effective early childhood education and care of young children from birth to eight. The organisation supports the professional development of practitioners through publications, training, conferences, seminars and access to a national and regional branch network. For more information on the work of Early Education visit