Too much too young is false start

10th September 2004 at 01:00
A few months ago, while mooching about on the web, I discovered foundation stage forum (

Among the many interesting debates, there was one sad message from a reception teacher. She was distraught because her headteacher expected her to do formal work with children who were nowhere near ready for it: reading instruction, handwriting, sight words. Presumably he believed an early start would mean better results in the key stage 1 tests.

He is wrong, of course - a too-early start is more likely to cause problems. Unfortunately, many foundation-stage teachers have difficulty arguing their case, partly because early-years staff tend not to be argumentative, and partly because they are highly intuitive - they know what works and what doesn't, but find it difficult to explain. Heads, on the other hand, can usually argue for Britain. And they are often key-stage-2-trained, so may well have scant understanding of the under-fives.

Other people on the website's forum were supportive, but it didn't seem to help. The teacher eventually resigned, unable to live with the knowledge that this regime was damaging the children.

Well, I hope her school gets inspected soon. And I hope the head gets hauled over the coals for pushing children into KS1 work before they have achieved the foundation stage's early-learning goals.

I have heard of this happening several times lately, and transition is clearly a major focus of inspections. It is strange to be cheering the Office for Standards in Education, but in this respect they seem to be doing a grand job. When the word gets around, perhaps it will knock some sense into other misinformed senior managers.

Sue Palmer is an independent literacy consultant and writer

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