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STAR LETTER - RETURN OF THE SUPERHEROES

Back in March 2009, as a staff group we decided to experiment with role play and to allow the boys in our Foundation Stage setting more freedom with weapons and superhero play, under certain conditions, such as making decisions with the children and allowing them to agree terms and conditions.

This study proved superbly successful and launched a new and improved style of teaching within the setting. However, over the years additional ideas and projects have also come into precedence, taking over somewhat.

But this year has brought a new batch of 'mini superheroes' into the pre-school whose main focus of play is to 'fight' crime (or each other), daily. This has initiated a review among staff on our superhero policy, introduced in 2009. We decided that we would refresh our policy ideas and reinstate our theories, such as 'if we have superhero figures, small world play and so on, will they imaginary play fight rather than physically fight each other?'

We decided we would dig out and dust off the superhero costumes, books, figures and activity plans, and once again put our theory into practice.

We have launched a Superhero Friday, discussed the plan with the children, and run away with lots of new thoughts, plans and ideas. Small superhero figures were left out for the children, including a Smack Down Wrestling game - and the children played superbly.

So this Friday, once again, we will be holding a Superhero Friday, safe in the knowledge that our boys, and of course our Superhero girls are encouraged to create and imagine.

Recognising the important role of this kind of play in the healthy development of children is so beneficial. Properly supervised, superhero play can be a great outlet for energy and a wonderful stimulus for the imagination.

Cathy Carley, The Parade Community Preschool

Our star letter wins £30 worth of books

THE VALUE OF EARLY YEARS TEACHING

Your article on the recent interim report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility ('Early years key to closing gap between rich and poor', online 1 May) underlines the importance of high quality provision from the earliest years.

It is to be hoped that when members of the APPG follow up their findings, they will warn of the potential danger of early identification leading to labelling young children as failures, and of the counter-productive nature of checks if they restrict young children's opportunities to develop conceptual understanding.

As well as knowledge of the variable nature of normal child development, this requires insight into the need for broad, playful experience and of consolidation of a range of experience over time. It should be clearly stated that school readiness has implications for schools as much as for children and that reading involves more than phonics.

TACTYC commends the emphasis on the need for well qualified teachers in the early and primary years, and for committed investment in their training and professional development, as we know that countries with the highest rates of social mobility have the best trained early years staff. The APPG rightly points out the importance of children developing 'personal resilience', 'emotional well-being', 'self-esteem' and 'self-belief', which are key aspects of the foundation years.

This emphasis on the value of high quality education and care in the Early Years Foundation Stage has implications for the Education Select Committee's views on teaching, expressed in its current report on attracting, training and retaining the best teachers. Its report would have been strengthened by a recognition of the specialist nature of early years work: the only direct reference to this, as distinct from primary teaching, was an acknowledgement that personal qualities might be as important as academic excellence for nursery teachers.

Early years teaching is a distinct specialism, involving learner-centred pedagogy, including deep knowledge of child development, an awareness of the role of play in learning, and the ability to work with parents and multi-professional teams.

Good teaching in the early years gives double value in that it can influence parents, carers and staff as well as children.

Professor Emerita Janet Moyles, On behalf of TACTYC (Association for the Professional Development of Early Years Educators)

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