Gender gap not the real early issue

9th July 2004 at 01:00
It is interesting that following the release by the Department for Education and Skills of the first-ever results of the new foundation stage profile assessments, the press have focused their attention on the gender gap:

* "In every single case, a higher percentage of girls than boys were meeting or working beyond the goal, according to the DfES figures" (PA news, June 24, reported in TES Online, June 25)

* "In what is described as an 'alarming' gender divide, it turns out that at this age, according to the foundation stage profile, girls are better than boys at absolutely everything" (Independent, June 26).

However newsworthy the gender issue might be, this is not the most important message to come out of the figures. It is that there are significant proportions of children who have not yet achieved the early learning goals. In 12 of the 13 assessments, more than 40 per cent of the children are reported as not having done so. In six of the 13 assessments the figure is more than 50 per cent and in three of them, it is more than 60 per cent. For these children the national curriculum at key stage 1 may not be appropriate.

The national figures correspond to those for Worcestershire education authority which I reported at the British Educational Research Association national conference in September 2003 (www.leeds.ac.

ukeducoldocuments00003154.doc).

It states in the introduction to the foundation stage profile figures that "improvements will include the production of new profile materials to develop the skills of reception teachers and bring together reception and Year 1 teachers to build more appropriate learning for children as they move to key stage 1".

What is meant by "appropriate learning"?

Will children be given time and space to develop or will they be forced to develop?

Danny Durant

Teacher adviser

Worcestershire education authority, Worcester

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