Early years experts warn Sir Michael not to lose sight of the EYFS

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Early years organisations have written a joint letter to Sir Michael Wilshaw to air their concerns ahead of Ofsted’s early years annual report on Thursday, which will be published alongside a report on school readiness.


Beatrice Merrick, chief executive fo Early Education, has written a joint letter to Sir Michael Wilshaw

Early Education, TACTYC and the Centre for Research in Early Childhood say that the chief inspector’s own letter to early years inspectors gives ‘confusing messages’ and that some aspects are ‘not in line’ with the EYFS.

Sir Michael’s letter, published last month, sets out how inspectors should report on the effectiveness of teaching and assessment.

The early years leaders say they that there are statements in the letter, ‘which although meant to impact positively on children’s learning may have an adverse effect.’

This includes the reference in the chief inspector’s letter to Ofsted’s expectation that ‘adults must teach young children’.

In their letter, the organisations write that ‘the use of the word “teach” can give rise to expectations of overly formal approaches’ and ‘a pedagogy that is not suited to the needs of babies and very young children.’

They tell Sir Michael that ‘rather than asking inspectors to focus only on what makes teaching and assessment effective, you should focus on the evidence that children’s care, learning and development is being effectively supported and monitored.’

The letter warns against pressurising children too early to behave in ways for which they are not yet developmentally ready such as ‘sitting still to engage in formal literacy and numeracy activity’, which rsearch shows is detrimental to their progress.

The joint letter  - signed by Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, Dr Jane Payler, chair of TACTYC, and Professors Chris Pascal and Tony Bertram from the Centre for Research in Early Childhood (CREC) – concludes, ‘Inspectors need to understand, for example, the value of children engaging in physical activity which supports their health, welfare and capacity to concentrate, building learning dispositions which create an enthusiasm for learning, developing the gross and fine motor skills which are the foundation of writing, and so on. Children who are being taught to sit still and perform the three Rs before they are ready are being given the worst rather that the best preparation for later learning.

‘We hope that you will be able to convey these messages to all Early Years inspectors and ensure that they are able to engage positively in helping all settings and practitioners deliver the EYFS as effectively as possible.’

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