Do you know what your child (aged four) needs to do to improve?

Form Filling. Do you know what your child (aged four) needs to do to improve?
Sunday afternoon. I’m tackling that familiar set of tasks befalling parents on a regular basis: making sure school uniform is clean and checking the school bag for forms and notices…in preparation for another busy week. 

I’ve got something to say about this form, readers,  as you can imagine.  I’m sharing the answers we’re  sending to our local authority. It may be useful to other parents – and relevant to an understanding of  the ways in which the sixty- nine compulsory Learning and Development Requirements are negatively influencing our learning culture.

In case the text on the photograph is a little small, here is what the form (on Cheshire West and Chester local authority notepaper) says: 

“Dear Parent…As part of our routine monitoring of schools programme Cheshire West and Chester Primary School Improvement Team are carrying out a ‘Focused Review’ of provision at xxx school during the week of November 30th.

I would like to give you this opportunity to submit any information that you wish to be considered. Replies will be treated in confidence and should be returned to the school office on the morning of Monday 30th. November 2009 marked for my attention. (signed a local authority representative – who asks…

1 . Are you adequately informed about developments and events at school?

2. Does the school take account of your suggestions and concerns?

3. Do you know how well your child is getting on at school?

4. Do you know what your child needs to do to improve?

If the answer to any of the above is no, how could communication be improved?

5. Any other information you would like the team to consider not previously raised?

Here is the text of our reply:

Firstly I offer a small observation. This ‘review’ is truly very ‘focused’ indeed.  The enclosed form appeared in our daughter’s school bag on Friday afternoon and is due back on Monday morning. I doubt that the local authority will be receiving many lengthy (and dare, I say considered) responses. By Friday, many of the parents I know are, (like me) quite frankly shattered and glad to knock off for a while from the demands of school.

However perhaps one word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers are suited to your purposes.. They will provide you with statistics of a kind. Personally at this point I do not know what purpose is served by  a confidential, routine monitoring of schools programme carried out like this.

At any rate, our answers to these questions do not fit into your (mostly very small yes, or no) boxes. However, we would not like what we have to say to be excluded from your monitoring programme so we’re hoping you will take our views into account regardless.

We prefer to respond to some of your questions in reverse order: 

Q. Any other information you would like the  team to consider not previously raised?

A. We would like to praise our child’s teacher. For the first six weeks of term, our daughter did not leave school without giving her a big hug.  Our daughter is very fond of her teacher, who in turn tries to facilitate learning in the best way she can with a great deal of patience and imagination.

 For small children (our daughter is four years and three months old) – this bond is very special indeed. In fact, many would say, this is the most important thing. So thank you – Teacher (I’ve placed a copy of this blog post in my daughter’s school bag for her teacher’s information).

Local monitoring team please take note: look after this teacher carefully. Good teachers like this are continuing to hold schools and classes together across the country – despite the nonsense our government is currently engaging in (meaning it’s insistence on the sixty- nine compulsory Learning and Development requirements imposed on every child). Which brings us to question 4.

Q.4. Do you know what your child needs to do to improve?

A. We will not answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question. Our child is aged four years and three months. She does not need ‘to improve’ . She is fine as she is, we know each child develops differently and she will do this in her own time. We have no intention of measuring anything she does in terms of the sixty-nine compulsory learning and development targets (requirements) imposed by government. The compulsory nature and imposition of these targets does not correspond to best educational practice. 

We focus on encouraging our daughter to learn and enjoy her learning. At this stage in her life, along with good food, security, love and care from those around her, this is enough.

Question Three. (Please refer to our answer for Question Four)

Question Two Q. Does the school take into account your questions and concerns?

A. Since the school has refused to allow our parental exemption from the sixty-nine learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage programme, and since this is the most important educational concern we have, I’m afraid we have to answer ‘no’ to this question.  But since, as we have said, these targets are statutory and compulsory ones, we know we would be faced with this situation at other schools too. The ‘solution’ presented by the local authority in the past (i.e. you can go elsewhere…) is presently  unworkable and unrealistic as you know.  Since the EYFS Learning and Development Requirements are imposed well-nigh across the board we would not be able to find another school or nursery setting where the targets do not apply – and certainly not within a fifty mile radius of where we live. 

Question Five. Any other information?

Yes, indeed. To stress the positive, move matters forward (and to assist learning) I enclose the link to a new parliamentary e-petition I have launched which calls for the government to change the Learning and Development Requirements to recommendations only with immediate effect. As part of the reflective learning process which educationalists are expected to engage in, perhaps you would consider joining us with your signature in support. That would certainly go some way to improving communication all round.

We would welcome your support in this matter and you would certainly be in good company. I was very proud and pleased to see Dr. Richard House was the very first person to join me in this petition and we expect not a small number of early years practitioners, concerned citizens and parents will follow his lead.

Here’s the link to that Parliamentary Petition again, I have kept it brief and it  reads as follows:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to change the sixty-nine compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements (targets applied to children from birth to five in nurseries, schools and other early years settings) to recommendations and guidelines only”. More details

Submitted by Frances Laing of Mother of one child aged four years and three months, writer, blogger, journalist

To sign the petition click on this link:

Yours faithfully,

Frances Laing


One response to this post.

  1. Keep at it! Your refusal to lie down and let things happen without a fight is an inspiration. Loved your responses to that questionnaire.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: