Nurseries need help to play ball

OBSERVING whether children can roll, throw, catch and kick using balls, bats, hoops and bean bags is an important part of compiling the new foundation stage profile.

Nurseries will be expected to use these skills to sum up five-year-olds'

progress next year.

But Dr Christine Merrell, of the Curriculum Evaluation and Management Centre at Durham University, points out there is no guidance on how far they should be able to throw a ball. It is one example, she says, of the woolly wording that could make the profile time-consuming for early-years workers and distort results.

Dr Merrell told the European Educational Research Association conference last week that, while the foundation stage profile is likely to give an accurate indication of mental skills, such as counting three objects, the guidance for assessing physical skills was vague.

She said: "Observations of activities can be reliable, but the items observed must not be ambiguous."

The foundation stage profile becomes statutory in January 2003 and must be carried out at the end of the final year of pre-school.

The CEM centre at Durham has developed a baseline assessment, Aspects, which has been in use for three years.

Dr Merrell explained that, to get around the difficulties of assessing skills such as catching a ball, their scheme describes a detailed task which early-years workers can use for such an assessment.

Contact Christine.Merrell@cem.dur.ac.uk or visit www.cem.dur.ac.uk

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