Find the right balance early on;Letter

13th August 1999 at 01:00
Your leader ("Play with purpose," TES, August 6) reinforces important points about care and education in the early years; that the best parents, childminders and nursery staff understand how to mesh the two - to match the way that children develop and learn.

It requires considerable insight to be able to achieve the right balance for individual children, taking account of their variable interests and their preferences. To do this successfully with groups of young children is a higher level skill than is commonly supposed. When it is well done it looks easy.

To that extent, the chief inspector of schools can be forgiven for failing to appreciate the rigorous planning, monitoring and evaluation that lies behind successful practice in the early years.

His advocacy of a formal approach, particularly to early literacy, is nevertheless potentially damaging. His charge of elitism is offensive, especially in the light of his recent report on the quality of nursery education which suggests that the private sector could well allow more scope for children to use their imagination.

Incidentally, this report does not address provision in maintained nursery schools and classes at all. Chris Woodhead should make time to visit high-quality nursery schools and early excellence centres to see early literacy flourishing. He should also familiarise himself with the research which endorses a learner-centred approach, including the growing knowledge of brain development referred to in your leader.

Now that the Office for Standards in Education is to have the central responsibility for the regulation of early education and daycare, his refusal to enter an informed debate on these crucial issues is even more worrying. Our association therefore is calling for the appointment of an early years expert to lead the new arm of OFSTED.

Wendy Scott Chief executive The British Association for Early Education London E2

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