SUPPORTING SCIENCE, DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE EARLY YEARS. By John Siraj-Blatchford and Ian McLeod-Brudenell. Open University Press. pound;40 (pound;12.99 pb)
This is a timely book. The return to basics is an increasing source of concern to early years practitioners; science has been effectively relegated to foundation subject status at key stage 1 and design and technology is reported to be the most neglected foundation subject in primary schools.
The authors are experienced practitioners, but their book reveals some of the difficulties of joint authorship. There is some overlap and some tension between the argument for recognising the importance of inducting all young learners into "being a scientist" and "being a technologist" and encouraging practitioners to work within an integrated curriculum framework.
It would have been helpful if the discussion of how science and design and technology support other areas of learning, as framed in the learning outcomes (now goals) curriculum for three to five-year-olds, had come across as more proactive than re-active. The foundation stage, which accounts for the first two crucial years of a child's schooling, above all has the potential for practitioners to plan, implement and evaluate a lively and challenging integrated curriculum.
Yet there is plenty of evidence that early years practitioners lack the confidence to teach science and design and technology and the chapters setting out the knowledge base and craft skills of the subjects will be welcomed. There are useful sections on answering difficult questions about scientific concepts and where to go for further information. There is little on ICT, although the book opens with a description of a new baby's instant immersion in the everyday world of science and technology, much of it IT based. There are clear examples of good practice in other aspects of the subjects, however, comfortingly illustrated by vignettes of real children's drawings and words, and adult responses. The book tackles head-on the difficult area of values, spelling out the concept of winners and losers in advances in scientific and technological knowledge. There is also a useful section on the importance of confronting gender and race differences from start.
Angela Anning is professor of education at the School of Education, Leeds