Four and five-year-olds are not receiving the play-based education they are supposed to because of pressure to prepare for more formal learning in later years, a union has claimed.
A report on the foundation stage curriculum, commissioned by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, has found that it has not had the impact on reception classes that had been hoped since its introduction in 2000.
The study by Mary Jane Drummond, formerly of the faculty of education, Cambridge university, and Professor Janet Moyles of the Anglia Polytechnic university in Chelmsford, found that techniques used to educate three and four-year-olds had not been extended to four and five year-olds in the second year of the foundation stage.
Instead teachers were being pressured by key stage 1 colleagues to prioritise achievements such as numeracy, literacy, and familiarity with routines such as lining up in the playground, which they were not sufficiently confident or articulate to resist.
Nansi Ellis, ATL primary education adviser, said: "The hope for the foundation stage was that this early years curriculum would challenge thinking further up the school. Instead we have carried on with the whole top-down approach where what happens at the top of the school puts pressure on what is being taught further down."
The research, conducted between February 2002 and August 2003, also warned that there was insufficient interaction between foundation stage staff and local early years development and childcare partnerships.