An EO member on the problems that led her to withdraw her 5yr old from school.

I sent my son to school at age three. I’m shocked by that now. He’d been to a crèche two days a week up to age two and loved it. He’d been to a nursery three days a week up to age three and enjoyed much of it. At age three all the children disappeared into schools - free, full-time childcare.

At first he was only there in the afternoons - only one and three-quarter hours a day. The place was swarming: over 50 three to four year olds and four staff. The noise, the “crammed-in” feeling was overwhelming for an adult. One boy wailed constantly, was inconsolable and usually occupied one member of staff full time. My son’s nursery nurse was of the old school, long since tiring of children and their ways. No-one seemed to smile. Violent episodes and most tears went unnoticed and weren’t responded to.

My son, a very verbal and bright lad, complained that it was too noisy, he was bored and he didn’t want to go. He began wetting and soiling himself - though he never told me until we were well away from school. I had seen his nursery nurse humiliate a girl who had wet herself, holding up her knickers and growling harshly at her, so I fully understood why he didn’t want them to know.

He hated assembly - the three and four year olds were forced once a week to go into a hall full of older children. He couldn’t cope and tried to hide. This became an issue. He learned to swear. This became an issue. He escaped and got out onto the road. This became a big issue. I was summoned to see the head. In the meeting I was patronised, lied to and my baby daughter was spoken to harshly by the nursery nurse, who growled that she was a “dirty girl” for reaching out to a bowl of pot pouri. In this meeting they claimed that my son’s successful escape attempt was a behavioural problem, (like Drapetomania, a psychiatric disorder only suffered by Black slaves, characterised by an “irrational” desire to run away). When I pointed out that I had thwarted another child’s escape attempt when no member of staff was in sight of the door, it was dismissed. They said that I would have to stay with him in the nursery. I didn’t go back. I wrote about my concerns that a three year old could escape, to the school and to the educational authority. Neither replied.