Welsh point missed the mark

27th May 2011 at 01:00

Oh dear. I clearly didn't get my point over to Bill Boyd in the opinion piece about Scottish and Welsh education policy since devolution (6 and 13 May).

It was that Wales has bravely taken a much more developmental approach to primary education. Its Assembly has introduced a foundation phase to the age of seven, based on the successful Nordic model, so children are not pushed into formal learning too soon. They've also legislated to provide opportunities for outdoor play around the edges of the school day.

Such clearly-stated commitment sends a strong message to teachers, parents and the public about the significance of child development in learning, and the huge importance of play throughout childhood. But Scottish politicians still think it's better to crack on with a "schoolified" approach as early as possible. So we're still setting up our less advantaged children for educational failure from the day they arrive in P1, and teaching the "advantaged" ones that tests, targets and paper words are what matter.

Professor Boyd is also mistaken that I was just visiting Scotland for the Learning and Teaching Scotland conference. I returned four years ago, so have had the chance to talk to many Scottish primary teachers, and they appear to be drowning in reams of academicised verbiage.

They want to know how Curriculum for Excellence's paper commitment to child development can be reconciled with the requirement to push a certain number of their classes to a certain level by a certain age. And since they're struggling to teach in a 21st-century culture utterly antipathetic to healthy physical and psychological development, it's a very good question.

Sue Palmer, independent literacy specialist, Edinburgh.

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