It found that babies who spend long periods in nurseries with poorly qualified staff can suffer lifelong mental damage.
Andrea Leadsom, a Tory MP who led the cross-party investigation, said “leaving infants in the hands of “young unskilled girls” during the most critical period of their brain development could have serious consequences….. Very often the least qualified staff are looking after the youngest children.”
She says the very young girls who are less well trained won’t realise the importance of eye contact, mimicking their expressions and telling the child it is loved, to brain development.
Research shows that experiences during the first two years are critical for future prospects. This is because the pre-frontal cortex develops most rapidly during that time and that’s the area of the brain which influences emotional well-being and the ability to form relationships. So the bonding between the baby and its carers is crucial in the first few years.
If the baby comes from a stable, happy family and is not in nursery all day then it’s not a problem. But if the family life is more chaotic and the baby is cared for a by a range of inexperienced, poorly trained or insensitive staff who only meet basic feeding and changing needs – then there could be devastating consequences says Leadsom who went as far as to say “Sociopaths are not born; they are made”. She is presumably referring to a sociopath’s inability to empathise with people.
In her report she asks the government to shift funding from older children to younger ones and especially under-twos.
Her views were echoed by the chief executive of 4Children who said “Pregnancy-till-two is an age that is.. absolutely crucial in all aspects of child development”.
Unfortunately the Sure Start programme has been drastically cut back under the government’s austerity measures with over 500 closures and many centres offering reduced services.
I’m sure there are many nurseries which offer good quality care with well-trained staff but it sounds as if there are many who don’t.