Helen Ward

Flip the system

Research suggests the early years could be the most important in a child’s education, but this phase is woefully neglected. Helen Ward asks whether it is time we turned education upside down and shifted our focus from the end of schooling to the beginning

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The youngest children at Barnsole Primary School are still in nappies and arrive with comfort blankets. Today, four of those fledgling pupils have wedged themselves upright into a short fabric tunnel and they are being steered across the room by a fifth – a boy in a space helmet.

“It is education,” says Peter Elliot, the early years professional who leads the class. “But it is embedded in their play.”

Indeed, thanks to sandpits and rocket ships, these children all make good progress.

Barnsole, in Gillingham, Kent, is one of a growing number of schools in England that take two-year-olds. The ...

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