Research shows growing concerns over 'schoolification' of early years

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The Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) is calling for a stronger focus on developing childrens social skills and emotional resilience to prepare them for school.

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Their call comes after research carried out in partnership with Netmums and the National Union of Teachers (NUT), revealed that 95 per cent of childcare professionals believe that developing social skills and independence are the most important factors in helping children to be 'school ready'.

The majority of the 660 childcare professionals and teachers and 1,474 parents questioned felt it was important that children felt confident enough to be away from their parent/carer for a number of hours, and make themselves understood clearly.

Childcare professionals and teachers also cited curiosity and the desire to learn as essential qualities children should have before starting school. 

In contrast, parents placed more emphasis on their child’s ability to be independent with personal care, such as the ability to use the toilet without assistance.

A third of parents and a fifth of teachers said a barrier for preparing children for school is too much early focus on reading and writing for pre-school children.

A lack of time due to work and other responsibilities was also cited as another barrier by parents.

More than 60 per cent of parents felt it was necessary for children to attend formal childcare settings to prepare them for school.

More than half of the teachers questioned thought children should start school later.

The survey follows on from previous findings from the first phase of the research project in July.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, said, ‘It is clear that childcare professionals, parents and teachers have a shared understanding that supporting young children to develop socially and emotionally is critical not just to them being school ready but life ready too.

‘Our research shows there is growing concern about the "schoolification" of the early years. While no-one would deny that supporting all children to achieve their full potential is critical, PACEY is concerned that educational attainment is becoming the dominant force in early years.

‘Teachers and childcare professionals are concerned that the importance of play and how it supports children to be confident, communicative, sociable and curious individuals is being lost.

‘We want policy makers in England to look to other countries, not just Nordic countries, but closer to home in Wales, to see how a truly play-based approach not only supports children to achieve in their early years but throughout their school life and beyond.’

Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said, ‘Teachers oppose the introduction of more ‘academic’ activities for pre-school children because a focus on reading, arithmetic and writing will not result in confident and curious pupils who will have a firm foundation for future learning.’

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