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Foundations firm up

Even the less able are improving, says Ofsted

YOUNG CHILDREN may be doing better in education than previous end-of-year reports suggested.

Ofsted warned this week that, in one in three of the 144 nurseries and other early education providers they surveyed, three and four-year-olds were underachieving in communication, language and literacy. Linking sounds to letters and writing were the areas of most concern. ` However, Ofsted's findings are more positive than national figures from last year which showed that 39 per cent of five-year-olds had not reached the minimum level expected in linking sounds to letters or being able to read simple three-letter words, and that 42 per cent had not reached the minimum level in writing.

Ofsted's survey also found that boys did worse than girls in every aspect of learning. But Lesley Staggs, an early years consultant, challenged the findings. "From my experience boys do best and do as well as girls where they have a lot of active learning and a lot of outdoor provision," she said.

Inspectors warned that some able pupils were being let down. The report said the quality of the curriculum was most successful in special schools and those that dealt exclusively with foundation stage.

Teaching was at least good in seven out of 10 institutions. But in half the primaries visited, the curriculum had weaknesses. Staff gave too little attention to linking sounds to letters and writing .

But Ms Staggs said: "I do not believe there are many reception classes in this country that do not explicitly teach linking sounds and letters. I struggle to believe that."

Ofsted's own inspection of 4,468 primaries in its 200506 report said 72 per cent had a good or outstanding foundation stage. Only 1 per cent were deemed inadequate. Nursery schools did even better - 89 per cent had good or outstanding pupil achievement.

John Bangs, of the NUT, said: "All the evidence points to a moratorium on nursery school closures. It is a strong argument against early entry to reception, and for a coherent foundation stage."

The Foundation Stage: A Survey of 144 Settings can be found at www.ofsted.gov.uk

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