Education news

Teachers' union head rejects colleague's ‘well-meaning amateurs' comment

Avril Hall Callaghan, UTU general secretary, has argued for teacher-led pre-schooling

A TEACHERS' leader has hit out at remarks by the head of a sister union who labelled hundreds of pre-school classroom staff "well-meaning amateurs".

Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) president Mark Langhammer said he wanted to disassociate his union from comments by the Ulster Teachers Union (UTU).

Mr Langhammer said "loose remarks" made by general secretary Avril Hall Callaghan were "damaging and wide of the mark".

Arguing that pre-school should be teacher-led, Ms Hall Callaghan said some children were being left in the hands of people who lacked the necessary skills or knowledge.

This year, there are 15,216 children in teacher-led nursery school or units compared to 8,716 in private and voluntary settings. Some of the latter group will be teacher-led.

Ms Hall Callaghan said the UTU believed that children in early years education should be "under the care of highly skilled professionals".

She added that it was ironic that the education system "clings onto the so-called elitism of the grammar schools, yet thinks nothing about leaving our most vulnerable children in the hands of well-meaning amateurs in some pre-school settings".

Mr Langhammer said early years settings are robustly inspected and adhered to strong, international, quality standards.

"Independent research shows that the qualification levels of educators is high and rising exponentially," he said.

"Many staff in the sector are trained to degree level and beyond, including many qualified teachers. Recent education publications have noted that - notwithstanding the progressive curriculum in place in the early years of primary school - few teachers are trained about the child's brain.

"A feature of early years educators is a grounding in child development and an understanding of the latest neuroscience research.

"The UTU's comments, regrettably, are ill informed and we hope that dialogue between those representing educators in both early years and schools settings can help establish constructive relations going forward."

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