This is a guest post submitted by Diane Wilkinson from The Creation Station, Northumberland. Diane provides arts and crafts classes, parties and events for children. She is a qualified early years teacher and has worked with children and families for over 25 years in homes, early years settings and schools. She is also a mum to Kimberley who just turned 8 🙂
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about how the Government is trying to improve the education of our youngest children and it stirs up a lot of emotions for me. As a former nursery manager and early years teacher it angers me that those in power often have no direct experience of working within the Early Years sector, let alone any relevant qualifications. As a parent it makes me sad that our children are being cared for and educated by a workforce pressurised by constant change, demands to meet arbitrary targets, mountains of paperwork and very little financial reward for what is arguably one of the most important roles in our society.
In the latest reports from Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education who inspect and regulate childcare as well as schools) it seems that early years workers are again at fault for failing to prepare children properly for school. But I would argue that it is not our early years settings who are at fault, rather our whole education system which is built on the premise of “the earlier the better” for the teaching of formal skills such as reading and writing.
There are innumerable studies and reports on the education systems of other countries in Europe where children attend early years settings with PLAY at their heart. Governments of these countries employ specialists whom they trust to get on with the business of caring for young children without interference and expectations for constant assessment of whether or not the children can hold a pencil or count to 10. Children learn much more important skills such as communication, handling emotions, sharing and collaborating, experimenting and evaluating, perseverance, resilience, creativity and critical thinking. Formal education then starts at 6 or 7 and because the children have had the chance just to BE children up to that point they are mentally and physically ready to learn and quickly master the skills of reading writing, mathematics and everything else. It has been shown time and time again that children who have had this type of education outperform British children at 11 and 16, so why do we continue to believe that forcing our 3-year olds to sit still and write with a pencil will help them achieve later in life?
Certainly my own daughter would benefit from a more play-based curriculum, and educators who are willing to teach at the pace she learns. She is operating about 2 years behind the average for her age and does not do well in formal learning situations. I don’t care that she isn’t meeting government targets – she is not a robot and nor do I want her to be. She is making progress at her own pace, has talents not recognised by our education system, and as long as she is happy and willing to persevere to meet the challenges of learning and growing-up then that is enough. Shouldn’t that be the cases for all our children?
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