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Childcare sector warns against 'schoolification' of the early years

Article By: Richard Howard, News Editor

Day nursery practitioners want to see learning through play prioritised within the pre-school curriculum and are opposed to the embracing of a more academic focus, according to research from PACEY (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years).

A ‘What is “school ready?” survey’, to be published in full this September, finds that 40 per cent of childcare professionals want the Early Years Foundation Stage to include more play elements, whereas only four per cent favour more academic tests.

The findings have led PACEY to define ‘school ready’ as being children who ‘are curious about the world, have a desire to learn, can cope emotionally with being separated by their parents, and are relatively independent with their personal care’, terms which 97 per cent of parent agree with.

Joint chief executive Liz Bayram comments: “Our research with childcare professionals gives a clear message, learning through play is by far more important than formal learning for pre-school children. This view is backed up by research and is in stark contrast to what is increasingly seen by many in childcare and early years as Government and Ofsted’s schoolification of their profession.”

With signs from Government that Education Minister Michael Gove favours the opposite approach, Ms Bayram is keen to make sure the opinion of the sector is not overlooked.

She continues: “Recent proposals for the new entry qualification for anyone working in a nursery and for the new leadership qualification include no emphasis on understanding the theory of play. Ofsted is proposing children should be tested even before they start in Reception and has said the current EYFS Profile is ‘too broad an assessment’. The Childcare Minister has praised the more formal French system of ecole maternelle and in ‘More Great Childcare’ has proposed schools take children from as young as two.

“Our research shows that childcare professionals working every day with young children strongly disagree. School readiness and the role of play is an issue close to the heart of many PACEY members. We are looking forward to hearing the views of parents and teachers. In doing so PACEY hopes to build a shared consensus on what matters most for our youngest children and, through this, make recommendations to government on this and how to improve collaboration between teachers, childcare professionals and parents at this important point in every child’s life.”

The survey will now be shared with primary school teachers via the National Union of Teachers (NUT) to get their views on the subject, while parents are also welcome to contribute via Netmums.

Further key findings show that 51 per cent of childcare professionals see problems of communication with schools as a significant barrier in preparing children, while 49 per cent believe there to be a ‘lack of common expectations’ across different childcare professions.


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