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Education News The best start to a lifetime of learning Mark Bushby, Head of the Prep School at St Joseph’s College in Reading, shares his thoughts on helping your child to get the best start in their educational journey. It is common knowledge that young children learn at an astonishing pace – they take in everything around them and are constantly acquiring new skills. But how important is it to harness this learning potential, and what can we do to make sure children use it to get the best start in life? According to leading charity, Save the Children, “all young people should have access to a graduate early years teacher because they are the single biggest indicator of quality childcare. Without them, children are 10 per cent less likely to reach good levels of development in their first year of primary school.” Between the ages of three and five, children’s brains become more efficient and complex. A three year old’s brain is about twice as active as an adult’s brain, and neural networks are refined as language skills emerge and vocabulary expands. As the architecture of the brain is strengthened, children are able to learn and recognise more words. As time goes on, the brain circuits become increasingly difficult to change so the early years are an absolutely critical time to lay foundations for later development.

Early education and childcare play a vital role in supporting this development. Early Years teachers play a critical role in creating a high quality learning environment and so children who attend settings led by qualified teachers are much better positioned to learn effectively at this critical stage. This research found that the higher the average qualification level, the better the setting is able to support children’s developing language and thinking skills. Qualified Early Years teachers are able to extend children’s verbal contributions, scaffold conversations and use sustained shared thinking techniques. They can ensure that children are encouraged to learn in a way that will seamlessly blend into formal learning once they are in Reception and beyond. Their learning will still be for the most part child-led and child-initiated, but a teacher’s experience and qualifications will enable them to support and enhance this into a more valuable long term experience, that will be built upon throughout their years at school. The challenge is then on to find a setting for your three-year-old which offers the right blend of care and education – careful to nurture very young children but also with an eye on their future learning. If you are a working parent, this is often compounded by the need to find a setting that is open year-

round – many school-based nurseries are only open during term time, and few holiday clubs cater for children under five. Increasingly, schools are beginning to be more aware of the needs of working parents, and are starting to offer more flexible solutions – something that is undeniably necessary given that 72% of families have two working parents.

Top prize for Queen Anne’s in Mandarin competition Four young linguists from Queen Anne’s School, Caversham, showcased their skills at the HSBC British Council Mandarin Chinese Speaking Competition to be placed second nationally.

French and Spanish. The final result was a close call, but the Queen Anne’s group team was delighted to achieve second place, while Molly in year 10 came third in the individual category.

Held at the British Museum in London, the four students from years 8 to 10 battled against the UK’s leading schools to prove their Mandarin skills to a panel of distinguished judges.

Queen Anne’s School, set just north of the River Thames, offers day, flexi and full boarding for girls aged 11-18. Find out more about the education on offer at or visit the Open Morning on Saturday 11 May or Open Evening on Thursday 13 June.

The girls began learning Mandarin in year 7 and are also studying

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Families Thames Valley West • 9

Profile for Families Magazine

Families Thames Valley West May June 2019 issue 101