Writing targets at five are 'too high'

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Writing goals that will become statutory for all five-year-olds from September have been criticised by both opponents and supporters of the new curriculum

Writing goals that will become statutory for all five-year-olds from September have been criticised by both opponents and supporters of the new curriculum.

MPs heard evidence this week on the new early years foundation stage from academics, teachers and members of the Open Eye campaign, which criticises it.

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, told the House of Commons select committee for children, schools and families that the writing goals skewed the whole curriculum - they were "schoolifying" the early years.

"In a driven country like the UK," she said, "we feel we have to press on earlier and younger, and in the long run I think this is one of the major things holding us back in terms of literacy standards improving. We are trying to start them too soon."

Bernadette Duffy, head of the Thomas Coram Early Childhood Centre and chair of the British Association for Early Childhood Education, has tried the new framework.

She told the MPs it was sound and was helping to close the gaps in achievement between disadvantaged children and others. But she agreed that the writing goals were too high; she suggested they be moved to Year 1.

Professor Ted Melhuish, of Birkbeck College, London, who oversees the evaluation of the Sure Start programme, argued that statutory guidance was needed because the workforce in England is not highly qualified. But he suggested that the three highest writing goals could be optional rather than statutory.

Assessment statistics show that writing is more difficult for five-year- olds than any of the other 12 areas of learning on which they are assessed.

Last year, 15 per cent of children were unable to write their name, something the Government deems they should be able to do by about the age of four.

Ministers have previously said that the early learning goals are there to serve as a guide for the practitioner to assess, through observation alone, each child's progress, and then plan appropriate support.

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