Letter: Nursery education: vital for children's development or simply hothousing?

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The Independent Online
Sir: Thank you for your excellent leading article 'Nurseries: we can afford them' (16 November). It was my good fortune to spend a year as a student at the Rachel McMillan Nursery School in 1927-28. Margaret McMillan, that pioneer of nursery education, was in residence at the time.

It was there, in that garden nursery school, that I saw pale-faced toddlers, many of whom suffered from rickets, being transformed into healthy, rosy-faced children. I saw aggressive children being encouraged to use their energies in constructive ways; timid children learning to gain confidence by adventuring on the climbing apparatus; withdrawn toddlers learning to play happily with other children in the beautiful garden with its winding paths edged with lavender and rosemary.

As you so rightly say, the dividends of nursery education are not just academic. I am convinced that many of the psychological problems of later life have their roots in the frustrations and resentments that can build up in early childhood, if all the things that a normal healthy three-year-old wants to do are denied them or treated as 'naughty'. Where can a child, whose home is in a high block of flats, or other cramped surroundings, enjoy climbing, digging, playing with water, or running about in the sun, in a garden?

It is depressing when those who demand 'excellence' in education fail to realise the folly of building on unsound foundations.

Yours faithfully,


Bolton, Greater Manchester

16 November