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LETTER OF THE WEEK - TEACHING PLAY

Like Julian Grenier (To the Point, 12 November), I was dismayed by the general response to the Cambridge Primary Review and furious at some of the comments made on Radio 4's Question Time by uninformed members of the public and ill-informed politicians.

I have begun to wonder aloud to colleagues, peers and friends whether it is the word 'play' that is the root cause of the seemingly negative English attitude to early years education. There seems to be a stubborn refusal to look at European models of early education where children beginning 'formal' education aged six or seven have successful academic outcomes.

Maybe if 'play' were removed from the early years curriculum vocabulary and replaced with 'carefully tailored learning opportunities', it might be easier to sell the idea of an extended Foundation Stage to the ignorant masses.

To that end, in our village pre-school we do our bit to 'spread the word' by giving our parents and carers a weekly copy of our activities. In it, we explain what we're doing, how it came about (ie, from observing and assessing the children) and some of the many ways that the children might be learning from the activities. Through this weekly round-up, we aim not just to tell parents what's happening but also to inform them about how children learn through child-initiated, child-led and adult-supported activities.

I think Julian Grenier is right. There does need to be a national discussion about early years education, and it desperately needs to involve primary teachers who are delivering the EYFS effectively and who could endorse its continuation into Year 1. Unfortunately, many EYFS teachers are not nursery trained, are short of the support staff needed to deliver rich adult participation and, at clearing-up time, might be feeling less positive about the EYFS than many of us within the early years sector.

Clare Bush, Rowhedge, Colchester

- Letter of the Week wins £30 worth of books

APPLYING FOR GRANTS

In response to the letter from Smart Tots in Banbury (12 November), we offer the following:

We continue to support a mixed market of provision in Oxfordshire to ensure that parents have a choice, and our Capital Grants programme is no exception. We have so far awarded £632,393 to 147 early years providers in the private, voluntary and independent sector under our small grants programme, and have committed £2,405,000 to 24 PVI providers under our large grants programme. A further 25 projects totalling circa £1.5m have been shortlisted.

We are encouraging every setting to apply and assess each grant against priorities set out in our Early Years Capital plan - namely, projects to enhance learning and play, make provision for the extended entitlement and projects to enhance accessibility.

We do, however, reject some applications which are ill thought-out, incomplete or not thoroughly costed. Settings are asked to re-submit during the next round. Smart Tots in Banbury has now been awarded a grant, having re-submitted its project.

Debbie Rouget, early education development officer, Oxfordshire County Council

MEN IN CHILDCARE

I wanted to write in praise of the recent contribution from Andrew Savva (In My View, 19 November).

I believe Andrew has highlighted some of the really important reasons for men to work in the early years and the benefits that this brings to both children and practitioners. I would echo his views, which certainly reflect my experience of the rewards from working with young children.

Your readers may be interested to know that there is now a website at http://miecuk.wetpaint.com for anyone interested in joining Men in Early Childhood England, a new national network working to encourage and support more men into our sector.

Our vision is in the shared belief that it is normal for children to be cared for by both men and women. I would encourage anyone who is interested to visit the site, register as a member and support the move towards a more balanced workforce for the benefit of our children.

David Wright, owner, Paint Pots Nurseries, Southampton

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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