- Justine Greening MPSecretary of State for Education
- Caroline Dinenage MPMinister for Early Years and Childcare
Every child deserves a childhood and an education that is the BEST and not STRESSED!
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We are living in one of the few countries in the world where our children start formal schooling at the age of 4. Our newspapers are full of stories about children's mental health, children failing in basic skills, children behaving anti socially, and teachers leaving in droves.
Our National Curriculum is constantly moving the goalposts with children's heads being filled with knowledge that many adults either never learned, or if they did it was much later, perhaps in secondary or higher education. My own son explained to me what a 'subordinate clause' was. I have written 5 books for teachers, numerous articles and yet have somehow succeeded in writing and actually ENJOYED the process without needing this technical vocabulary.
If we consider what our future generations need, we will see they need strong communication skills, strong personal, social and emotional development, strong physical skills, embedded concrete literacy and maths skills, an understanding of and respect for their world and creativity. They need characteristics such as resilience, perseverance, creative thinking, the ability to solve problems, think outside the box, independence, risk taking, confidence and the ability to learn from mistakes as they grow in a world which is a challenging place to be...and becoming more so by the day.
The irony of all of the above is that we have a curriculum in England that delivers all this and more. The only problem is it ends when children leave Reception classes. Increasingly worryingly, for many children, it is ending in the Reception classes due to pressures to be so called "National Curriculum" ready! Many children even at aged 3 and 4 are spending days at tables, being tested, completing worksheets and being forced to write when all the evidence shows us that they need to be moving, doing, exploring, experiencing, feeling, seeing. These young children are being damaged and as a society we will pay the price in years to come when our world needs inventors, risk takers, entrepreneurs, and LEADERS!
Our current education system of doing more earlier in a bid to catch up with our international counterparts is dangerous, and not preparing children for the world in which they will live as adults.
So please please let's extend the developmentally appropriate, child centred, tried and tested approaches used in Early Years education and the term "Early Years" to encompass children from birth to 7 or even 8...as it did on my teaching degree and in my nursery nursing qualification.
Look abroad at nations like Finland where this is just what happens. Their children are thriving and out performing ours. Our children (and their families and teacher's) are tired, stressed, pressured and fed up. Children as young as 4 are switched off and see learning as boring....
It's time to extend the tried and tested, researched, proven approaches of early education into Key Stage 1. Let's see a focus on areas of real learning AND development, not just abstract subject knowledge AND with a focus on the statutory Characteristics of Effective Learning..those essential learning behaviours which set us up for life and the challenges we face in it daily!
Lets see children's well being and mental health as crucial! Let's put them at the heart of education...otherwise who is it for?
Let's make sure everyone working with children (not just the youngest ones) understand child development, how children learn and the power of play for all!
Let's stop the testing, stop the inappropriate practice and make a change for our children, their families and our educational workforce. Let's make a change for the future.
WB Yeats stated that: "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire". It's time to find the matches...
- Secretary of State for Education
Justine Greening MP
- Minister for Early Years and Childcare
Caroline Dinenage MP
Extend the tried and tested, age old, researched and proven, principles of Early Years education for all children up to the age of 7 years old.
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