Last week the UK’s Children’s Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, confirmed the government would no longer commit to increasing the number of early years graduate teachers – despite a shortage of more than 16,000 early years teachers across England.

As the UK’s leading provider of Montessori early years professional training, Montessori St Nicholas is incredibly disappointed by the Government’s U-turn. We support the UK education bodies, unions, charities and academics who have openly criticised the government’s U-turn and believe the decision must be overturned.

The Early Years are absolutely crucial for the development of the child and present a once in a lifetime opportunity to provide those vital experiences that will offer greater opportunities for children as they grow.

It is clear that a well-trained and specialist workforce will ensure that children have the best opportunity to develop regardless of their social and economic background. A graduate early years teacher will bring not just the enthusiasm and love of children that is essential in their role, but also the knowledge of the best way to support and develop the children in their care.

Montessori St Nicholas Chairman, Kevin Coyne, said: “Early years teaching is not a hobby, nor is it something that participants only take a passing interest in. It is a profession and should be treated professionally. If we have the opportunity to give children, the most vulnerable members of our society, the best opportunity to be cared for, educated, developed, and given a life-long love of learning, then children need professionals working with them.”

The biggest challenge to under 5s in the UK is not pedagogical, nor is it based on curriculum and assessment. It lies in the attitude of adults whose roles are to provide what is best for them. Failure to put the needs of the child first can only result in worse outcomes for all. If we do not respect children enough to do our best for them then this raises serious questions about our priorities as a society.

We urge the minister and department to put the needs of children first and reassess what we see as the urgent need for an increase in the number of skilled and qualified early years teachers. It is essential for future generations that we now treat the sector with the professionalism it deserves.