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LETTER OF THE WEEK

HOW DOES IT MATTER?

I wholeheartedly agree with Margaret Edgington's open letter to Beverley Hughes (Opinion, 28 May). I felt an identical disturbing reaction to Progress Matters. I believe the tick-box method emphasises perceived levels of under-attainment - what a child has not yet been assessed as achieving, rather than the more positive approach of celebrating each individual's achievements. Is it helpful to parents or practitioners to share children's records of 'progress' where a child has been assessed at a level below that described for their age, in the Development Matters guidance?

Before Progress Matters I wondered why OpenEye was making such a fuss over the EYFS, as we have found it not to be over-prescriptive and actually a helpful and supportive framework. Progress Matters adds a deeply worrying, Orwellian dimension to it. In this context, what is the meaning of 'Matters', that extremely overused term? I am left with several questions. What is Progress? How on earth do we measure it objectively against the Development Matters (that word again) targets, goals or aspirations? Who does this progress matter to - children, parents, practitioners, local authorities, the government? What is anyone going to do with this information? I start to imagine league tables for nurseries, training in how to base-line a three-month-old and initiatives to improve progress. Where will it all end?

I agree with Ms Edgington that we need some reassurance that the integrity and professionalism of our practitioners is not further undermined by the imposition of this unnecessary, unhelpful and bureaucratic regime of recording meaningless statistics.

David Wright, owner, Paint Pots Nurseries, Southampton

GOALS FOR FAILURE

Former children's minister Beverley Hughes insists that the EYFS early writing goals can be met entirely through play without need for formal teaching (Minister's View, 4 June).

It could be argued that my daughter has developed all her writing skills so far through play - she's never had any formal teaching and knows her letters only because she's asked us questions like, 'How do you write hello?' (to which we would reply, 'First you write an H', to which she would ask, 'What does an H look like?' and so on).

Recently she did her first piece of independent writing, putting together the words from her own understanding of letter sounds. However, my daughter is a bright child with parents educated to postgraduate level who place a high value on literacy skills, and her socio-economic background, according to research, puts her at an academic advantage. Her play has not yet led her to a discovery of punctuation, as required by one of the EYFS goals. She will be seven in September. Were she just ten days younger she should have achieved these goals, according to the EYFS, at least two years ago. In fact, she'd still have failed to reach them even six months ago, and would partly fail one even now.

How can anyone who knows anything at all about children believe they can learn to read and write to the level aspired to in the EYFS requirements by the age of four or five without a more formal approach, or that imposing such 'aspirational' targets is a good idea?

John Dougherty, former teacher, Stroud, Gloucestershire

AT A DISADVANTAGE

Beverley Hughes, far from calming practitioners' fears, should have admitted long ago that it was an error to establish a Statutory Framework for learning and development for the early years. Instead she and others have drip-fed into the equation a softer rhetoric in order to beguile practitioners into believing the EYFS is really child-friendly, aspirations-only, target-free, absent of paperwork and all can be 'delivered' through play.

What would be really helpful is some justification for the legal framework which has been 'that it helps disadvantaged children'. What actually helps disadvantaged children is adequate time in quality nurseries where a real disposition for learning can be fostered, free of learning requirements. This is where they can establish a core of self-esteem - a pre-requisite for any successful outcomes.

Kim Simpson, Montessorian, counsellor and parent coach

- Send your letters to ...

The Editor, Nursery World, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP letter.nw@haymarket.com 020 8267 8401

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