The early years are crucial - let's not accelerate children's learning

19th March 2010 at 00:00

Your report on the new Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) research into the impact of the early years foundation stage ("Foundation stage hits reception teachers hard", March 12) confirms many of the long-held concerns of critics.

No longer can our campaign be accused of "scaremongering", when a QCDA survey discovers mounting paperwork, particular pressures to teach the 3Rs, major concerns about problem-solving, reasoning and numeracy, and with substantial numbers of reception teachers "not supporting the content or the demands" of the communication, language and literacy goals.

The error that is repeatedly made is in assuming it is developmentally appropriate for young children under five to begin quasi-formal literacy learning.

Dr Sebastian Suggate's research at Otago University, New Zealand, shows children gain little, if any, long-term educational advantage from early reading - a finding consistent with the Scandinavian experience, where later formal literacy does not stop these countries topping the international educational league tables. Those who start later avoid the negative side-effects (anxiety and reduced self-esteem due to early experiences of failure, a compromised love of learning, and so on).

How much more damning research will need to cross the schools minister's desk before pedagogical sanity prevails?

Dr Richard House and Kim Simpson, OpenEYE campaign.

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