Memorandum from Training, Advancement
and Co-operation in Teaching Young Children (TACTYC) (SQ03)
TACTYC is pleased to offer the following points
regarding this Report which it considered at its meeting on the
26 February 2002. The points are brief, given the need to submit
the comments by 4 March 2002. They are also selective, in that
TACTYC's remit is to respond to those aspects which mainly affect
practitioners who teach children up to the age of seven years.
1. The Report represents a general description
and from an "evidence-informed" basis we find it quite
thin on analysis.
2. Overall, we are concerned that the differences
in the inspection processes for nursery schools, foundation stage
settings and Key Stage 1 contexts are not sufficiently spelled
out in the Report. This is particularly important given that OFSTED's
judgements are inevitably subjective and liable to differing interpretations
particularly where inspectors are differently trained.
3. We feel that HMCI should have made more
explicit at the start of the Report the values under which it
operates. It is our experience that these are substantially different
between the various sectors of the education system, particularly
in the early years (three to seven years).
4. Whilst it is appropriate that the Chief
Inspector points out "improvements" in the education
system, we would raise the question "Improvements against
what standards?" SATs data gathering processes, for example,
have changed year-on-year so there is no normatised data per
sé on which to establish "improvement". We
also find inconsistency in the way data are presented.
5. In general, it is difficult to interpret
clearly HMCI's comments, in that those on standards, for example,
fail to recognise the difference between reporting on standards
and reporting on schools' or pupils' performances in relation
to those standards. This is particularly pertinent, given the
differences between Section 5, Section 122 and Section 10 inspections.
6. This is also an issue when it comes to
whether the curriculum is the vehicle for children's learning
or the pedagogy through which it is implemented. Again, comments
on both of these are not separated within the report effectively
and sufficiently to allow judgements to be made.
7. There are times in the Report when it
seems clear that the differences between the various inspections
(Sections 5, 10 and 122) are not only ignored but perhaps not
fully understood in terms of their impact upon the inspection
content and process. With the appointment of Maggie Smith, we
hoped to read indications that these were being addressed. At
present, the divisions are great and inequalities abound, a factor
omitted in HMCI's Report.
8. We would question why no nursery schools
are included in the "star schools" listing, even though
there are a number of beacon nursery schools and early excellence
centres which are known to have very high quality practices and
outcomes. Once again, the differentiation made between the different
forms of inspection is unclear yet they operate from different
9. We, like HMCI, are concerned that reported
achievements in English and numeracy (paragraph 37), particularly
at KS1, are gained at the expense of other foundation subjects,
which are arguably more important for young children, especially
the arts through which many young children express themselves.
We would have welcomed an even stronger statement on this, particularly
given the extra Literacy Strategy activities to which some young
children are subjected. We know that these often represent "disembedded"
learning for young children which lacks meaning and relevance
and is a "short-term fix" rather than achieving long
term gains in learning and dispositions to learning.
10. It has also become clear recently that
both the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy co-ordinators
as well as OFSTED, are promoting the Literacy and Numeracy Hours
within the Foundation Stage. We feel strongly (and know from other
research evidence, eg Moyles et al 2002) that this is a retrograde
step for young children to be taking as it has adverse effects
upon the development of higher-order thinking and questioning
skills. There is no evidence that earlier exposure to literacy
and numeracy delivered in a fast paced and prescribed manner has
any positive effects on children's learning in these two areas.
We feel that OFSTED and HMCI in particular should be taking a
lead in commenting on the effects of too early exposure and appropriacy
for children rather than applying similar standards to early years
as those for older children. As Baroness Susan Greenfield has
As you grow, everything is filtered through the
checks and balances of pre-existing experiences. We each evaluate
the world in a different way, through our own individual experiences.
So that means we should think about educating someone who's small
in a different way to someone who is older. (2002)
11. The Foundation Stage curriculum was
very new at the point at which HMCI's report was written (paragraph
50) and we would hope in future reports to see much more of its
intentions reflected. We don't find the current Report very reassuring
at present in terms of the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation
Stage having its intended impact upon curriculum and pedagogy.
12. We are pleased to note that the quality
of teaching is said to be highest in Nursery, Reception and Year
six classes. Perhaps it is worth pointing out that children in
these age-groups have traditionally been associated with more
independent and autonomous ways of learning. It would be worth
analysing the OFSTED reports from the basis of whether this has
an effect on the higher quality.
13. We are concerned that the quality of
teaching is reported as being lower in schools with higher numbers
of free meals. We feel is this worthy of greater analysis and
comment than it previously receives.
14. (Paragraph 2) We are unsurprised that
girls and boys are achieving differentially. Something of the
nature of the differences in learning styles needs to be taken
into account by OFSTED. Over-insistence on formal methods are
now known not to support the more physical ways in which young
15. (Paragraph 3) With the heavy focus on
writing, the "halo" effect inevitably means that some
"improvement" will be found but we would question whether
this necessarily means that the quality of KS1 children's learning
16. (Paragraph 4) We note that recognition
of the importance of phonics at KS1 and Reception has "not
yet reflected in significantly higher standards of writing and
spelling". This is equally unsurprising given that phonics,
when disembedded from a meaningful learning contexthowever
well taughtis unlikely to impact upon children's learning
in any significant way. The appropriacy of the pedagogy MUST be
matched to the curriculum and its intended outcomes and HMCI must
17. (Paragraph 14 and others) We would strongly
agree with HMCI that the role of head teachers is critical in
the continuing professional development of the staff and, perhaps
less clearly, in raising standards. However, in the Foundation
Stage it seems that few Heads fully understand the need to implement
CGFS in full which would inevitably be one factor in raising standards
in the early years. This needs more attention in future reports.
18. (Paragraph 23) Once again, the emphasis
on subject knowledge is misplaced when it comes to the Foundation
Stage. Evidence is now available that child development knowledge
is more important to those teaching within CGFS.
19. We share HMCI's concerns (paragraphs
34-35) about the problems of recruiting and retaining teaching
staff. Some attention must be paid, however, to the significant
overload which teachers feel they are facing in meeting OFSTED
and other accountability demands and the reasons for which makes
young, able teachers leave the profession after only a few years.
The pressures of the curriculum and assessment are key factors
20. (Paragraph 50) There are no "standards"
yet established against which the Foundation Stage can be evaluated.
We would urge OFSTED and the government to ensure that these are
more qualitatively oriented than quantitative as it is extremely
difficult to quantify young children's learning in any sensible
and consistent way. The same argument applies to KS1 children
and we would also urge OFSTED to consider why the Welsh Assembly
has now dropped the requirement for KS1 standard tests.
21. In future (and whilst we appreciate
that a separate U-5s report has been produced) we would like HMCI
to address the issues about under-fives in nursery settings (paragraphs
58-59) in more detail, particularly paying attention to the transition
between one phase and another in terms of quality and equality
of children's experiences. It seems to us that KS1 now sits very
uncomfortably between the Foundation Stage and KS2 without a clear
role in continuing the development of children's dispositions
to learning as well as their curriculum-related knowledge and
22. (Paragraphs 32, 51) The role of "other
adults" in the classroom is very important to effective early
years provision and we agree wholeheartedly with HMCI that more
attention needs to be paid to the management of such staff. More
attention also needs to be paid to identifying the effects of
their roles upon children's experiences and learning. We are concerned
that the professionalism of teachers is being undermined by such
statements as children being "taught" by Teaching Assistants.
We feel that OFSTED (and the government in general) need to take
a stance on WHO is a teacher, affording proper recognition to
the differences between the teaching and the assistant role. The
role of TAs is clearly changing and we need evidence on how the
role is to develop and who is directing it.
23. (Paragraph 59) The variation in types
of Foundation Stage is also matched by the wide variation in education
and training of the staff employed in those settings. This must
be accounted for in any discussion about "quality" and
"standards"we cannot expect consistency from
an inconsistent basis!
24. (Paragraph 358) In the Foundation Stage,
we are concerned that induction across the wide variety of settings
(see previous point) should be as effective as possible and that
inspectors must be adequately qualified and trained to make judgements
and decisions about early years. OFSTED should be monitoring the
mentoring of newly-qualified teachers which MUST be undertaken
BY qualified teachers and this is not easy to achieve in the current
climate. Similarly, whilst it is vital that teachers in training
at initial an in-service levels experience teaching in different
types of setting, the relationship between ITT standards and the
Foundation Stage are still now established.
25. (Paragraph 361) Linked with previous
comments about Teaching Assistants, we feel it vital that OfSTED
take up not only the initial and continuing education of teachers
as an issue but that this should be done in relation to the on-going
training of TAs. Increasingly those in HE and LEA contexts are
using training opportunities to bring the two groups of practitioners
together to gain a joint understanding of practice intended to
benefit children. This makes even more necessary the appropriate
differentiation of roles more vital as indicated above.
We are sorry that limited time to respond does
not permit a fuller examination of HMCI's Report which, whilst
having some strengths, does not, in TACTYC's opinion, address
clearly some of the major issues which face Foundation Stage settings
and providers. As this is the base for all future learning and
development for children and teachers, then we feel it deserves
better attention in future HMCI Reports. We will ensure that these
messages are conveyed to the in-coming Chief Inspector.
Professor Janet Moyles
on behalf of TACTYC
Greenfield, S. (2002) Interview with Professor
Janet Moyles for InterPlay Journal, Chelmsford/London:
Moyles, J., Hargreaves, L., Merry, R., Paterson,
A. and Esarte-Sarries, V. (in press) Interactive Teaching in
the Primary Years: Digging Deeper into Meanings. Buckingham:
Open University Press.