Foundation cracks need repair

21st May 2004 at 01:00
The TES columnist Ted Wragg, scourge of the Establishment, has been vindicated yet again. Professor Wragg, whose merciless mickey-taking has irked officials over the years, has lately been getting his ever-sharp claws into the foundation stage profile, with its 117 tickboxes for each five-year-old.

The Office for Standards in Education does not go so far as to call it "daft", "crap", or "a grotesque waste of everybody's time" (see page 8), in its report on transition from reception to Year 1. But Chief inspector David Bell states boldly: "It is clear that in its current form, the foundation stage profile does not fit the bill". It is time-consuming, its purpose is unclear, and it does not provide the information Year 1 teachers or parents need, says the report. To its credit, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority immediately agreed to have another look.

But why was it drawn up this way in the first place? Tick-box assessment has long been discredited, as have attempts to assess too much content in formal tests or profiles (the profile covers six learning areas, including "knowledge and understanding of the world" and "creative development" in 13 scales at nine levels). To make things worse, most schools already had better systems in place.

If the Government hoped to measure progress from reception to Y2, it is hard to see how they could do so through two unlike scales. If they hoped the profile would ensure that the foundation stage curriculum was properly taught, then it's time they learned to have greater trust in teachers. The bigger issue is the disconnection between the play-based, foundation stage and the subject-based national curriculum. Policy-makers in England would do well to look toward Wales, where early learning principles are to be extended to age seven. As a Newport infant school head says in our Wales 2004 special supplement (page 7): "We've come on a long journey and learned much on the way ... but we now need to go back to the child being in the centre of it all".

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