ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary Education

ChildForum Office of Pre-Primary EducationLead advisor on early childhood care and education 
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Publisher of the New Zealand-International Research in Early Childhood Journal


News - World Headlines

Concern about Compulsory Targets and Assessing Children's Achievement in Early Childhood Education



London, May 2012 - Children’s natural development is being undermined by a relentless focus on formal assessments and targets in nurseries, childcare experts warn.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, academics and authors said that controversial education reforms are robbing under-fives of the ability to play and leading to the “schoolification” of the early years.

They claim that compulsory “nappy curriculum” that all nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are supposed to follow puts too much emphasis on formal learning in areas such as the three-Rs.

The Coalition has already unveiled a radical overhaul of the so-called Early Years Foundation Stage – introduced under Labour – including a significant cut in the number of targets all children are supposed to hit by the age of five.

However, the letter, which was signed by Philip Pullman, the author, Baroness Greenfield, the Oxford University neuroscientist, and Dr Penelope Leach, the childcare expert, warned of “widespread concern about the direction of the current revision”.

It is feared that ministers are ratcheting up the curriculum by proposing that children learn to spell irregular common words as well as just simple ones.

Concerns have also been raised over compulsory progress checks that all children will be subjected to before their third birthday to find out whether they can use basic words, respond to familiar sounds, communicate their needs and play with friends.

The experts welcome attempts to simplify the curriculum but suggested the system was “too inflexible to cater for the highly diverse developmental needs of young children”.

They are now creating a new group – Early Childhood Action – with the support of around 50 leading academics, authors and childcare organisations to push for an alternative curriculum.

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