Moira Cruddas, Deputy Regional Director for Ark Schools and former Principal of Ark John Archer, explains why nursery is so important and why she thinks children who join Ark Start are set up to succeed.

“When children come into reception and they haven’t had a grounding in nursery – the social interactions, the excitement for learning – then you’re playing catch up from the beginning. We have to keep in mind that adult literacy skills are going down – around one in four adults today has low literacy levels. Many adults had bad experiences at school themselves.  

We focus a lot on preparing children for secondary school. Preparing them to start primary school gets much less attention – nursery has always been seen as a bit of a play. There’s a lack of understanding about how important nursery is and what it gives our young people. The skill of a really good nursery practitioner is one that’s completely underrated.  

Earlier in my career I worked for seven years with children at risk of being permanently excluded. When I think about what was probably missing for those children, it was the personal, social and emotional aspects of their education. If you want greatness from children you have to make sure you’re meeting those needs. Then they can be open to learning. 

After thirty years of teaching I’m now in the privileged position where I can influence children’s greatness across seven of Ark’s London primary schools. I like to ask ‘What does a readiness to learn look like?’  Yes, it means a child is starting to count and to read but it’s much more than that. They need to be able to interact socially. They need to be resilient, but they also need to be kind and caring and show those real fundamental skills, because without them, they’re not going to be able to access a full learning journey at school. 

The children who come to us from Ark Start are so ready to learn. They’re grounded and polite. They’ve had positive learning and social experiences. That’s because of the Ark Start curriculum, the language the adults are using and how they interact with the children. The way that they talk to the children encourages them to independently develop, to find their own little character and find their own way. That’s what makes children go onto flourish.”