'Delay formal classes until 6'

4th July 2008 at 01:00
Advisers also call for all early years teachers to be specialists
Advisers also call for all early years teachers to be specialists

Children should not start formal learning until they are six, according to the early years experts who helped formulate the "nappy curriculum".

The TES obtained papers, under freedom of information rules, on discussions about the early years foundation stage (EYFS), which is to be introduced in September.

The papers show that the Early Education Advisory Group told the Government last month that "to meet Early Years Foundation Stage principals and commitments ... the EYFS should be extended until the age of six or the end of Year 1".

The group had earlier criticised two goals that the new foundation stage states youngsters should reach by the age of five: to write their names and form simple sentences, and to use phonics to write more complex words. Since 2005, only about a third of children have attained these writing goals.

The group said: "Many reception teachers are demoralised for themselves in their lack of success in getting children to attain these goals, and they are aware that this situation helps to develop a culture of deficiency for young children, identifying what they can't do."

Beverley Hughes, the children's minister, this week announced that the two goals would now be reviewed as part of Sir Jim Rose's inquiry into the primary curriculum. But they will remain in place at least until after the review has concluded in March next year.

Dame Gillian Pugh, a member of the advisory group and chair of the National Children's Bureau, said: "Those of us advising ministers have consistently made the same points over the past six months. For whatever reason, the decision has been not to make the change yet."

The group also recommends employing qualified early years teachers in all early years settings, and says ministers should state that phonics guidance is non-statutory.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, told The TES that the proposal to employ qualified early years teachers in all early years settings was "feasible and right". He said: "Parents want the same investment in teaching and learning in the early years as they do in primary and secondary years." But he could not say when it would happen because of capacity and resource issues.

A TES poll last year found that 72 per cent of teachers backed extending a foundation-style curriculum into primary education.

Westbourne Primary in Bradford has seen improvements in writing since less formal methods of teaching were adopted and reception pupils began acting out stories before sitting down to write. Belinda Wardle, the head, said: "Children need to want to write. Drilling them just switches them off."

A very English tremor, page 28.

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