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).


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