Archive for October, 2009

Is screen-based technology a benefit for children today?

Woman’s Hour slot today with Sue Palmer 10.a.m. Listen (again) here.

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What the government has to say: The Cambridge Primary Schools Review

Couldn’t let this go without reading what the government has to say in today’s Guardian online – see this link. What do you think? Leave a comment at the ‘leave a comment’ link…

The Cambridge Primary Schools Review 2009

Catching up with Professor Robin Alexander of the Cambridge Primary Schools Review on the BBC Today Programme. Listen to the BBC Today Programme yourself at this link. A great deal more to say about this so watch this space…

The Cambridge Primary Review 2009

The Cambridge Primary Review “Children, their World, their Education: final report and recommendations” was published today. It’s the result of several years work and it’s available as a press release, a short version (useful for tired parents and teachers…?) and the full version (608 pages). See these links:

Key findings include the following (of particular interest to blog readers).

Matching Ages, stages and structures.

 “The English insistence on the earliest possible start to formal schooling, against the grain of international evidence and practice, is educationally counterproductive. The Early Years Foundation Stage should be renamed and extended to age six, and early years provision should be strengthened in its quality and staffing so that children are properly prepared – socially, linguistically and experientially for formal learning. The Key Stage 1/2 division should be replaced by a single primary phase, yielding a seamless journey through Foundation (0-6) and Primary (6-11). The feasibility of raising the school starting age in line with these changes should be examined”.

Here are my initial comments:

As the parent of a four year old child who started school this September I encountered the Cambridge Primary Review this morning with interest and anger.

I recently applied for a parental exemption to the sixty-nine compulsory Learning and Development Requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage on ‘moral, educational, spiritual, religious, philosophical and political grounds’ for my child.

The application was refused. The local authority and the school could not argue that we were morally wrong to insist that our child be exempt from these compulsory targets (responses can be viewed on this blog) . In their heart of hearts I believe the people who dealt with this matter knew we were right all along – and as we (as parents), the members of the Cambridge Review team and countless other expert Early Years Practitioners have shown – some of the best educationalists in the land support our position.  

It is significant that there is no right of appeal in this parental exemptions process. I imagine our local authority advised our school on the formulation of the letter which they sent to us regarding the rejection of our exemption request. In their consultation with the school I would also imagine the local authority sought legal advice.

I believe the reason why they did not dispute the moral and philosophical and educational grounds for our exemption request is that they simply couldn’t  and if they had tried to do that as part of a legal challenge they wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on.

But ultimately we’ll never know. If the government does not bring about changes  the only other way to change the law (that is to make the sixty-nine learning and development targets non-compulsory) is to launch a judicial review.

I recently asked an experienced solicitor what this would entail. On the telephone I heard them estimate costs: “between £60-£80,000”  I couldn’t help react accordingly with a raucous and cynical laugh.

 “Democracy?” I said, still laughing “That’s not democracy – it’s beyond the reach of most parents”.

So where does that leave our children? Of course, we’ve seen government foolishness before and no doubt we’ll see it again. What do they think parents are for, exactly…?  Make the tea, do the school-run, generally pick up the fall-out from government incompetence…(as if we didn’t have enough to do).

Are summer-born children at risk of mental illness?

The National Foundation for Education Research’s latest findings on summer-born children are directly relevant to criticisms of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The research shows that children born late in the school year are more likely to be referred to a psychiatrist or assessed as having Special Education Needs. This could be due to younger children experiencing failure or stress or comparing themselves unfavourably to their older classmates.

There’s a discussion on Woman’s Hour about this today. On the way to school I meet many parents with summer-born children like ours so I’m not the only one who will be tuning in. See ‘Woman’s Hour’ at 10.a.m. (If you miss this slot, follow the link and listen again from the archive) see this link:

(With Kim Catcheside and Education Psychologist Kairen Cullen). Would be interested to hear reader comments on this discussion. Do use the ‘comment’ box below.

Beverley Hughes and criticisms of the Early Years Foundation Stage

The Guardian’s ‘Mortarboard’ blog filled up with comments last year. I’m including a link to it here, as this blog clearly shows up the weaknesses of Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes’ position and the sustained and wide ranging criticisms that have been fired in the direction of the Early Years Foundation Learning and Development Requirements.

We need these to be downgraded to recommendations immediately. Of course they are targets. We know they are compulsory – and that’s the problem. The debate has gone on for too long already.

Read the Guardian newspaper’s Mortarboard blog here.

Tories to review Early Years Foundation Stage?

Nursery World reports: “Tories to review Early Years Foundation Stage”. The article is enlightening but what use is this sort of party-political bickering to children and parents who are suffering with this bureaucratic straightjacket in the here and now?

Read the Nursery World piece here.