Thursday, 3 April 2014

A Gradgrind Curriculum even for the Early Years

The latest attacks on the Early Years curriculum are another example of how the Government, backed up by Michael Wilshaw, are imposing a policy which ignores international evidence about child development and best educational practice.

As Dr Richard House, writing in today's Telegraph, explains

"At 4, England already has one of the earliest school starting ages in the world; but rather than doing all it can to mitigate the impact of children being forced into quasi-formal learning at too young an age, the Government is doing the very opposite.

There are plans for assessment tests for 4 year olds, less learning-through-play and more teacher-led pedagogy and more preschool literacy and numeracy learning being demanded by Ofsted – there are even ability tests being mooted for two year olds.

In the belief of virtually all informed professional and academic educational opinion, this is arrant madness.

Government has completely misdiagnosed the nature of the problem, believing that our long tail of educational underachievement is due to England’s children not starting formal learning early enough. Yet all informed opinion argues the opposite; that it is precisely because early education starts too young and too formally in England that so many of our children are deemed to be ‘underachieving’."
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The NUT has also issued the following press release today:

"We cannot start labelling children as young as two years old as failing. Some parents will be unnecessarily worried about the progress their child is making and inevitably their concerns will be transferred.


“Two is some five years younger than children in many European countries begin more formal education. The difference of course is, that, particularly in Scandinavian countries, there is high quality pre-school provision using a play based curriculum as an entitlement which does prepare children well for more formal learning later. The educational outcomes for these countries are not affected and in fact are often held up as an example of excellence by Michael Gove.


“Equally important to successful outcomes in the Early Years Stage is the necessity of fully qualified teachers and a manageable ratio of children to carers.


“Ofsted’s narrow conception of ‘school readiness’ is in stark contrast to what the term means to teachers and parents. For a youngster to be considered school ready, being confident, independent and curious is as important as cognitive and academic skills and must be defined in the light of children’s diverse abilities. 

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