A research report from Royal Holloway, University of London, published on 4 June 2015 has recommend that the government should rewrite the early years’ curriculum to concentrate on developing the oral language skills that many younger children were found to lack. The report led by Professor Courtenay Norbury states that:
“Our results question whether many of the youngest children in the classroom have the language skills to meet the demands of the curriculum, to integrate socially with older peers and to regulate their own emotions and behaviours,”
The report also stated that younger children had behaviour problems relative to older children in the same reception class
So, children have to meet the demands of the curriculum at just 4? What are we doing to our children? Surely we need to ensure that the early experience of “education” meets children’s needs? To my mind children need purposeful play which inspires and builds upon natural curiosity which stimulates development and learning.
To say that summer born children have behaviour problems and language issues compared to their older peers is like saying a new baby has a behaviour problem because he constantly soils himself in comparison with his elder sister! We should be creating environments, both physical and emotional, where children are supported to develop skills and foster a love of learning which is appropriate to their stage of development.
The researchers have recommended rewriting the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) to concentrate on oral language skills. I agree that oral language skills are important however, it would seem that the researchers have not taken into account the following statement in the EYFS “Children develop at their own rates, and in their own ways. The development statements and their order should not be taken as necessary steps for individual children. They should not be used as checklists.
Also there are numerous examples within Development Matters of how adults support children’s oral skills, so urging yet more changes as to how this area of learning is addressed has the potential to create even more bureaucracy.
In my opinion we don’t need to rewrite the EYFS we need to look at the wider system which is constantly putting children in boxes and expecting each of them to do exactly the same at the same time at the same rate. The idea that children who have only become 4 during August will perform as well as other children who may be 5 in September does not take account of the EYFS principles. It’s the system of entry into school which needs to be looked at and brought in line with the needs of children.
The research claims that delaying entry to school did not seem to make a difference and further disadvantaged vulnerable children because more advantaged parents were more able to navigate the system and finance an additional year of nursery provision. I do wonder if there is another factor having an influence. Is it possible that the “postcode lottery” highlighted in a Guardian article last week is having an impact? Local authorities where parents have exercised their legal right to delay their child’s entry to school until the term after they are five are, in many cases being told that their child will go straight into Year One and not have a year in a reception class. Surely, this is just perpetuating the issue?
In recent years there has much talk of personalisation and following the needs of the child during their early years in education, its time to really put this into action rather than expecting children to fit into system shaped holes.