Early-years paper load may shrink

5th August 2005 at 01:00
A new birth to five document is to replace a bewildering pile of strategies and assessments. Helen Ward reports

The foundation stage - famous for its 117-box ticklist - and its sister strategy for babies to three year olds, together with an array of guidance and goals for young children are to be reborn as a single framework.

It was five years ago that the guidance for teaching three to five-year-olds was published and three years since the principles for working with under-threes were introduced.

Now ministers want to find out from early-years teachers what works best in nurseries and how the frameworks can better dovetail with key stage 1.

The 117-box ticklist will stay. Lesley Staggs, director of the foundation stage in the primary national strategy team, said existing guidance will not be ripped up, but did need to be simplified.

She said: "We want to make clearer the links between the two core documents: Birth to Three Matters and the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage.

"We do not think it is a good idea to start all over again, but what does make sense is to help people see more clearly how those two documents work together, particularly in early-years settings which cater for children from birth to four or five, where there is an overlap."

Ministers want the two documents brought together under a new birth to five framework.

Ms Staggs, who, in her former role at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, was lead author of the curriculum guidance for the foundation stage, said: "Whatever we produce has to promote a play-based approach matching each child's needs at each stage and must support practitioners in doing that."

As well as ideas on practice, ideas on how the guidance should look are welcomed.

Ms Staggs's recommendations will go to the Department for Education and Skills' Sure Start Unit, next year. The unit is due to launch a formal consultation next spring.

Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, said:

"Before anything else, they should scrap the foundation stage profile. It is a waste of time."

He praised the experiment in Wales of extending the foundation stage curriculum until age seven.

Professor Wragg said: "It is much more logical to look at developing a coherent strategy from birth to seven and then look at how to merge key stage 1 and key stage 2."

Chris Davis, spokesman for the National Primary Headteachers' Association, welcomed the change, but said it would be difficult to get various settings to work together in partnership.

He said: " The spread of provision can be vastly different so to write a curriculum or a set of targets that applies to all circumstances is exceedingly difficult but it is a very good idea."

Focus on Childhood 18 Send your comments to: foundationstage@capita.co.uk

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