Ticked off by early-years myth

10th October 2003 at 01:00
For several years I have been attempting to share information about what actually goes on in an average English pre-school, particularly since the arrival of the inspectors.

However, this has largely fallen on deaf ears in the mainstream educational media. Instead letters and articles about how improved and "exciting" it all is have dominated (with notable exceptions such as Ted Wragg).

The facts are that, despite the rhetoric, two to four-year-old children are not "learning through play". I have sat in at 14 pre-schools in the South - all run by very nice people - where 90 per cent of the children are not suited to the expectations being put upon them and are being stifled. Many previously good pre-school teachers have become blind to their own good sense and wisdom. They now view children differently and interpret what is "good" against different criteria.

As for the issue of delaying formal education until age seven, the advantages of this have been known and proven for decades.

The TES ran a campaign to get creativity back into schools - for this I congratulate you. Surely, though, it is of equal importance to "get the childhood back into childhood". It can be done - my four-year-old son attends a wonderful pre-school. However, it has not yet been inspected and, alas, he must still have 117 boxes ticked about him before the school year is out. The "drip drip" effect upon the talented, genuinely child-centred staff could well be imminent - though they are determined to resist.

The formalised "preparation" and lessons that await my son and his peers next year at infant school are likely to turn them off education. Yet it need not be that way - parents should have genuine options beyond the stark choice of formal schooling or home schooling - with the facts about the many long-term studies from around the world made easily available to them.

Kate White

9 Stourvale Road, Bournemouth

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