Teachers hail 'nappy' plan

1st August 2008 at 01:00
New early years curriculum receives support, but critics warn of `toxic cocktail of effects' on staff

Almost nine out of 10 teachers support the controversial new curriculum for under-fives that is being introduced next term.

The early years foundation stage (EYFS) profile has faced heavy criticism from a range of high-profile authors and educationists, who have warned that the "nappy curriculum" will be too prescriptive.

But an exclusive poll of 1,480 teachers by The TES has found that 88 per cent backed it in principle.

Many teachers agreed with critics that certain foundation stage goals were too high, particularly those that said children should be able to form simple sentences by the age of five and use phonics to try writing. Both goals are now under review.

But the vast majority of teachers felt that the benefits of the foundation stage outweighed its disadvantages, with two-thirds feeling it would improve pupils' overall experience and many commenting that it might lead to more play-based and outdoor activities for children in nursery and reception.

One nursery teacher in Trafford said she was glad that "a much more child- centred approach has finally been recognised". "Why has it taken so long?" she said.

Edward Melhuish, an expert on early years education at Birkbeck, University of London, said that the teaching profession's support for the foundation stage was crucial.

"What I have found fits with the survey very closely - that, by and large, the profession is very supportive," he said. "The objectors are those who aren't dealing with the run-of-the-mill provision. EYFS is modelled on current best practice."

But many teachers were concerned that the new curriculum would add to their workload, saying on average it would increase by an hour and a half a week. Much of this would be down to the assessment of pupils they have to make at the end of the foundation stage.

Teachers were also concerned about the detailed nature of the targets. One Lincolnshire head said: "How old are these children? Does every move they make have to be qualified and quantified?"

A petition by Open EYE, which has been campaigning against the foundation stage since last year, has gained more than 7,500 signatures.

Dr Richard House, of the campaign's steering group, said many of the foundation stage requirements were of the "mom and apple pie nature", which no one would criticise.

"It is one thing to support the idea or the principle of some kind of organising framework for early years work," he said, "but the actual content of the framework is an entirely different matter."

"What we continue strongly to challenge is the unquestioned assumption that it is both normal and desirable to encourage complex and demanding literacy experiences for all four to five-year-olds - and that it is appropriate to make such learning compulsory."

Dr House said the pressure to meet targets would have a "truly toxic cocktail of effects" and create a "tidal wave of anxiety" for those working with early years children.

Curriculum in detail, pages 12-15

Leading article, page 20.

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