Memorandum from the Early Years Inspectorate,
Worcestershire (EY 47)
1. THE APPROPRIATE
PUBLISHED QCA EARLY
1.1 In the early years this is most effectively
achieved through being creative, being physical and having their
natural interest and curiosity about the world stimulated and
extended. They need to practise their knowledge and skills within
a wide variety of experiences.
Early Education should be broad and balanced.
The crucial importance of creative and physical
development to children's literacy and mathematical development
should not be underestimated.
1.2 It is important that young children's
learning experiences are not compartmentalised into "subjects"
or "areas of learning". It is critical that educators
understand the content and processes involved in each area of
learning but necessary that this does not inhibit them from presenting
children's experiences in a cohesive and coherent way. The Early
Learning Goals would be further strengthened by the recognition
of core basic skills which should thread through each area of
Children need opportunity to practice their
social skills and be active learners, listeners and talkers.
Establish core skills (above) which would thread
through every area of learning throughout a child's educational
1.3 The emphasis given by the Early Learning
Goals to children's personal, social and emotional development
is welcomed. This area of learning underpins all others and children's
well-being, their positive attitudes and dispositions to learn
and their social skills significantly contribute to their success
as learners in all other domains. These skills are critical throughout
life, where evidence shows that people who are emotionally adept,
who know about and manage their own feelings and who read and
deal effectively with other people's feelings, are at an advantage
in any aspect of life.
Children's personal, social and emotional development
should remain a priority.
1.4 Language and LiteracyBoth early
years and language specialists are concerned about the downward
pressure of the National Literacy Strategy on young children's
language and literacy development. It is important to stress that
this does not mean that early childhood educators do not want
children to achieve high standards of literacy. Rather, our concerns
are that the current emphasis on accurate decoding of print and
correct letter formation can too easily result in static, de-contextualised
experiences which are alienating some children from the richness
and potential of writing and story.
1.5 There is substantial evidence from research
in this country and from overseas that a later start to more formal
aspects of language and literacy learning will lead to quicker
gains in competence in reading and writing, and actually to higher
standards at age nine or ten.
1.6 Representation of their experiences
through drawing, modelling, painting, dancing and making music
are all powerful ways of developing language and expressing ideas.
The development of physical skills are equally critical in giving
children the awareness of space and in developing control of their
gross and fine motor skills, all of which are crucial to the successful
Inappropriate informal strategies for language
and literacy may seriously inhibit children at a time when they
are most susceptible to inappropriate content and methods.
1.7 Mathematical developmentMathematical
development is most effectively achieved through exploration of
number and mathematical concepts in real life situations which
are meaningful to young children. The proliferation of work-sheets
in many early years settings reveals the pressure to produce "evidence"
of learning, but in fact is frequently evidence of how to complete
a worksheet, rather than an accurate reflection of mathematical
knowledge and understanding.
1.8 Knowledge and understanding of the worldThis
area of learning is at the heart of so much of what makes young
children's spontaneous learning so rich and varied. It is so important
that these experiences occur both inside the setting and, particularly,
1.9 Creative developmentCreative
experiences should reflect a rich variety of ways in which they
can express themselves. The content of the creative curriculum
should offer opportunities for children to express and explore
their creativity through drawing, painting, modelling, dancing
and making music. Not only these mediums matter. Play is one of
the most creative mediums there is, where children can be other
people, invent situations, role-play different characters, create
other worlds. Through representing their ideas children also demonstrate
their developing concepts and understandings.
1.10 Physical developmentExperts
in the fields of mental and physical health join the voices of
those in social services and education to alert policy makers
to the inadequacy of children's current physical experiences.
Children have a far more sedentary life-style than their predecessors.
This generation is also one of the most looked after and children
need to "struggle" and come to terms with success and
how to persevere.
2. THE WAY
2.1 The way in which the content of early
education should be taught is actually more important than what
should be taught. It is at this stage that children are acquiring
such a range of skills and understandings that it is the process
of these experiences which will given them the skills, understandings
and positive attitudes to be learners for life. Teaching is about
organising and enabling learning as well as a didactic method.
2.2 Teaching in the early years can involve
the purchase of high quality play resources because it is known
that their use will lead to scientific or mathematical understanding.
Teaching may be the extending of a young child's own ideas as
they play with large blocks or in the sand. Teaching may be selecting
an appropriate book to share with a group of children one of whom
has just lost his grandmother and needs an opportunity to express
and come to understand his emotions.
2.3 Teaching does not ensure learning. For
children to learn effectively the adult must take account of the
young children's own drive and motivation, their own needs and
interests. Children need many and varied opportunities to initiative
learning for themselves as well as respond to experiences and
activities initiated by adults. Children need opportunities to
work and play alone and in small and larger groups. They need
time to be with friends and those they select to cooperate and
collaborate with. They need times to be independent and to be
in an environment that encourages them to be responsible for their
3. THE KIND
3.1 We support the drive towards establishing
a qualified, graduate teacher in every setting, in order for that
setting to be managed by a professional who is sufficiently trained
to understand the complexities of how children learn, how areas
of learning progress and how to respond to individual and collective
learning needs. This is a challenging and complex task and needs
the highest intellectual rigour.
3.2 The ratios in all early years settings
within the Foundation Stage should be 1:10, ie one teacher and
one qualified nursery nurse in each pre-school setting and one
teacher and two qualified nursery nurses in a class of 30.
3.3 The second and other adult(s) in every
setting should be qualified. It is not acceptable that at such
a crucialperhaps the most crucialtime in a child's
educational life, that their learning is planned, taught and managed
by unqualified adults. The vast array of current qualifications
needs to be reduced and clear equivalent qualifications identified.
3.4 As well as initial qualifications it
should be expected of every early years professional that they
engage in on-going professional development and each Early Years
Development and Childcare Partnership should be responsible for
planning and executing such a programme.
4. THE WAY
4.1 It is not the age at which children
begin statutory schooling that is the main issue, but rather the
appropriateness of the educational experiences they have once
4.2 "Formal" is sometimes used
to describe experiences which involve didactic teaching methods,
when children are generally passive as learners and there is a
reliance on paper and pencil recording. Certainly, most people
would see formal education as being the time when children begin
to learn through the eyes and ears of otherstheir teachers,
books, magazines, reference materials, rather than needing first
hand, practical, hands-on experiences of their own. Taking this
definition of "formal", then we believe that formal
schooling should start of the beginning of Year 2 (KS1 = Yr2 +
3 and KS2 = Yr 4, 5, 6).
4.3 The Foundation Stage principles and
aims are appropriate for children to the age of seven. To the
age of seven children need much more concrete, practical, context-rich
experiences which build as much on their own needs and interests
as they do on what adults introduce.
4.4 The interpretation of Literacy Strategy
has done most damage in classes where reception year children
are educated alongside older peers.
Early Years Inspectorate, Worcestershire