In My View - Why it's worth checking

Sally Goddard Blythe, consultant in neuro-developmental education
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dame Clare Tickell's recommendations in the EYFS review are welcome, particularly the ones relating to universal early years checks.

Observations of children in primary schools over the past ten years have revealed a consistent picture - a significant percentage of children entering formal school without the physical skills necessary to sit still, manipulate a writing instrument and support reading, writing and concentration. These skills are nurtured in the early years in an environment that provides space and opportunity for physical play, conversation, singing, dancing, and being read to daily. I agree that developing these skills and working on literacy are not mutually exclusive, but a love of literacy arises from having the tools in terms of physical competency and the language ability to use it.

This week I received a report from a teacher in Hungary using a screening test for physical development and a physical intervention programme designed and used in the UK: 'It was an amazing experience for us to see that even children who were apparently coping with school very well, showed a very immature nervous system. We had no idea that they had traces of primitive (infant) reflexes and were surprised by the high scores that were found of those reflexes.

'As their form teacher, I started to observe the signs of their compensatory mechanisms. I found they were adept at compensating for their physical shortcomings. After ending the programme I re-tested them. I could not believe my eyes: these were not the same children in front of me as the ones 15-16 months ago. They didn't stumble across their own feet, were not suffering from dizziness any more, their laterality had been established, and while waiting they lined up quietly in a row.

'They can read much more fluently, their handwriting shows a dramatic improvement, they "got wings" in mathematics, their attention and concentration span is excellent and they are motivated to want to tackle more difficult challenges.'

In other words, if the physical basis for learning is secure, good teaching becomes effective.

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