Targets cannot create little angels;Letter

28th May 1999 at 01:00
WITH reference to the consultation review of desirable outcomes for children's learning there has been concern expressed, rightly, that "we are pushing our youngest children harder and harder, and it isn't right." (TES, May 7). However, even more serious than the targets set for language, literacy and mathematics are the idealisticunrealistic targets set for personal and social development.

These young children are expected to be "sensitive to the needs and feelings of others and to show respect for people of other cultures and beliefs." Standards often not achieved by adults.

They are expected to "express their feelings and behave in appropriate ways ... to show a range of feelings, such as wonder, joy or sorrow". There is lack of recognition that feelings, at this stage, can involve strong negative, almost uncontrollable, emotions arising from their experiences of the world which inevitably are not always good and reassuring.

Further, under the section headed creative development there is again no recognition that children at times experience powerful negative feelings such as anxiety, fear and aggression. Unless this is understood the children may suffer in terms of weakened sense of identity and self-esteem.

The question arises: What is nursery education for? Unfortunately while these young children appear to conform to the "desirable outcomes", less desirable behaviour may show up later causing serious problems for the children, teachers, parents and society.

Are we not kidding ourselves into believing it is possible to perform miracles and produce "little angels" by the age of five?

Margaret Roberts, Senior lecturer in child development, Institute of Education, University of London

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