Don't listen to 'experts' on early years

28th October 2011 at 01:00

Do we really need yet more supposed experts pontificating on the early years foundation stage (EYFS) ("Ministers' early-years changes meet with hostility", 21 October). The continuing controversy and disquiet indicates how "experts" wrongly advised the previous government on subjecting children under five to assessment within a mandatory framework for learning and development.

It initially appears that the Pen Green Research Base is calling for a more child-friendly EYFS, focusing on a play-based approach. Yet look more closely and it seems to be advocating the unproven benefits of copious written-down observations of children at play, rather than leaving this to the coal-face expertise of those actually working with the children. Pen Green regrets the omission in the revised document of the words "characteristics of effective teaching and learning", but at this age are we really "teaching"? Young children learn best when in charge of their own learning in a favourable environment, and any attempts to "teach" the under-fives are usually a waste of effort.

Pen Green is concerned about "weak practitioners not striving for a greater understanding of child development and learning" in a scaled-down EYFS. But as we've seen repeatedly since 2008, whipping practitioners into shape through inflated statutory requirements generates anxiety-driven targeting and is far less likely to produce inspirational practitioners.

Kim Simpson, Nursery proprietorheadteacher, Richmond, Surrey.

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