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LETTER OF THE WEEK

SUPPORTING SCHEMA

I was really surprised by the comments made in 'Too intellectual?' (Letters, 8 April), in which a practitioner voiced her doubts about the value of planning around children's schema.

I work as a childminder and first read about schema a year ago. I have found it to be a fascinating insight into how children learn about the world and have been able to apply this knowledge in my own practice.

I have in my setting a child with a rotational schema who would have quite happily spent his day spinning the wheels on cars. Being able to extend his play and interests by introducing rollers to the painting table, waterwheels to the water and sand play, circular train tracks, ring-a-roses, etc, has been a very positive experience for us all.

Knowledge of schema has also given me a better understanding of my own children. I now recognise that my son wasn't really being that 'eccentric' when, aged three, he insisted on lining up cars on the carpet. Today, aged eight, he still explores this connecting schema through construction materials and circuit boards.

Through this play he has developed a good understanding of symmetry and is able to follow written instructions beyond his years when building objects. He has expressed an interest in studying robotics when he is older.

The Early Years Foundation Stage framework is based around supporting children's learning through their interests. Seeing how children each explore their different schema acts as a reminder of their individuality. Under the EYFS theme of Enabling Environments, we should be making sure our settings cater for all the children in our care through effective observation, planning and provision. Supporting a child's schema effectively should not restrict their learning but broaden the opportunities for exploring different areas of play. If you can involve the parents in observing these patterns of behaviour, even better!

I would only ask that you don't dismiss it until you have tried it. If anyone wants to explore schema further, there is an excellent spreadsheet detailing how to support schema in different areas of play at http://susan.sean.geek.nz/Schemas in Areas of Play.pdf

Alison Turner, childminder, Tilehurst, Berkshire

Letter of the Week wins £30 worth of books

FORCES FAMILIES

It was lovely to read the article on armed forces families (Analysis, 11 February). My setting is also adjacent to a military base, with mainly naval personnel. We work closely with our families, offering them the support that they cannot get from their immediate families who often live far away. Parents know that they can call in for a chat when needed and that staff will understand their needs, as many of the staff have experienced military life.

Setting staff ensure that they are involved with forces families and the related agencies and organisations, such as holding groups and fundraising events in the local naval community centre.

We encourage our children to be proud of their parents' jobs - which included creating a sensitive gun and superhero policy - and have had some wonderful days as a result, including a Superhero Day, an Invite Your Dad/Mum to Pre-school Week and Armed Forces Day. All have been hugely positive and have resulted in more parents, especially fathers, becoming involved in the setting's parent committee.

The setting also became acutely aware how difficult it is to source relevant and age-appropriate resources such as children's books, because it isn't only the army fathers who go away for long periods; it affects all the military. The setting, therefore, made a book with the assistance of the children and including their thoughts and feelings, so making it more personal to them and their family.

We called the book 'A Special Person Goes Away' and have offered it to tri-service families who have that special person who does go away. We hope to be able to personalise the book for these families and make it a project that we do together during this difficult time.

Cathy Coles, manager/EYP, The Parade Community Pre-school, Portsmouth Send youR letters to ...

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