Early years teachers call on Ofsted to publish Bold Beginnings clarification

Reassurance for delegates at early years conference, but concerns that published document is still open to misinterpretation

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Early years teachers attending a briefing on the controversial Bold Beginnings report in London have been reassured that four and five-five-year-old children will not be expected to spend more time sitting at desks. 

But although many teachers said they were happy to hear such clarification from Gill Jones, Ofsted’s deputy director for early education and co-author of the report, there were several calls for written clarification to be published by Ofsted.

The Bold Beginnings report, published in November said that Reception year was a “false start” for many children. It caused great concern in the early years sector as it was seen as pushing for more formal education in Reception.

Ofsted has since held a number of meetings with organisations and individuals in an attempt to build bridges - including the briefing hosted by training organization Early Excellence on Thursday.

“Why did we focus so much on literacy, reading and maths in the report?” Ms Jones told delegates at Early Excellence’s London centre. “Well because those are the weakest areas later on, in terms of development and there are some elements there that we think are really important to get to grips with.

“If we were doing this again I might reconsider how I landed this report because really essentially what this is about is about getting children on the road to reading and becoming really good readers. Because if you create a reader, you create a child that has access to absolutely everything and if you can’t create a reader then they find all sorts of mechanisms for hiding that.”

She added that the report did not call for children to spend more time sitting at desks.

“When I taught there was no way I would have had some of my children able to sit for very long at all,” Ms Jones said. “So let’s be realistic, we are not saying that and I don’t know why people thought we were.”

Jan Dubiel, head of international development at Early Excellence, said: “The real crux is that at the moment nothing has changed. The Early years foundation stage (EYFS) is still statutory, we still have the EYFS profile, the Ofsted criteria for reception year teaching is still there. We would be concerned if there were dramatic changes to any of those.”

Fiona Corfield, school improvement lead for Celtic Cross education in Cornwall, said she was reassured. “I think the way it was written left it open to interpretation and created a lot of anxiety. Having heard this today, it’s not that different to what we’re already doing.”

But while delegates at the conference were reassured, they wanted to know what Ofsted would do to spread the word further. Ms Jones said that the inspectorate’s regional directors would work with local headteachers, but teachers attending the conference wanted to see a written statement.

Binks Neate-Evans, head of West Earlham Infant and Nursery in Norwich, said: “I think it was important for Ofsted that Gill Jones came here, but there is not consistency in the messages coming from Ofsted.

“If they published a short clarification of some of the issues raised by the profession. I think that would reassure headteachers and other professionals.”

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