Poll highlights concern about 'schoolification' of early years

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Just a third of childcare workers believe that it is very important that children have basic reading, writing and maths before they start school, new research shows.

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The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) has published the results of a survey carried out with its members in response to growing concern about the drive towards more formal learning for young children, and what is being termed as the ‘schoolification’ of early years.

The Government is also proposing that schools should take children from as young as two.

Last month, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said that children should be tested before they start in Reception because the current EYFS Profile is ‘too broad an assessment’.

PACEY said policymakers' views of ‘school readiness’ are at odds with what childcare professionals deem as important for children as they move into school.

The results of the survey, which received 500 responses, reveal that childcare professionals' interpretation of what it means to be ‘school ready’ places less importance on literacy and numeracy skills.

Only a third of those surveyed believe that the definition should include children having a good basic understanding of reading, writing and arithmetic.

In contrast, childcarers rated social and emotional development skills as vitally important for the transition to school.

Ninety-seven per cent of them agreed that the term ‘school ready’ should be defined as children

  • are curious about the world;
  • have a desire to learn;
  • can cope emotionally with being separated from their parents, and;
  • are relatively independent with their personal care.

The research also found that just 4 per cent of childcare professionals would like the Early Years Foundation Stage to include ‘more formal academic elements’, while 40 per cent believe the EYFS should include more play.

The findings of the survey are the first phase of a research project that Pacey is leading with Netmums and the National Union of Teachers over the next two months to find out what parents and teachers think school readiness means.

The findings and recommendations for Government will be published at the end of September.

Liz Bayram, joint chief executive of PACEY, said, ‘Our research with childcare professionals gives a clear message. Learning through play is by far more important than formal learning for pre-school children. This view is backed up by research and is in stark contrast to what is increasingly seen by many in childcare and early years, as Government and Ofsted’s schoolification of their profession.’

She added that plans for the new Early Years Educator and Early Years Teacher qualifications do not emphasise the theory of play.

‘Our research shows that childcare professional working every day with young children strongly disagree. School readiness and the role of play is an issue close to the heart of many PACEY members. We are looking forward to hearing the views of parents and teachers. In doing so, PACEY hopes to build a shared consensus on what matters most for our youngest children.’

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