The Oxford University professor who advises ministers on early years education has questioned the emphasis on formal literacy teaching for four to six-year-olds. More play and less teaching for children under the age of six is likely to bring better performance in the long term, she says.
Professor Sylva would have found a sympathetic hearing at last week's European conference in Edinburgh on school-age child care. Children in Scandinavia generally do not enter primary until they are aged six or seven, although virtually all are in pre-school education where the focus is very much on play. Are they worse off?
In Sweden, where pupils begin at the age of seven, we learn classes are broken mid-morning to allow for play. Teachers and "pedagogues" work together, combining lessons and play. Where would that dovetail with the 5-14 curriculum guidelines or HMI investigation?
Play appears more important in the Scandinavian model than in Scotland or the rest of the UK. They do not see such a division when the concern is the skills of young children, the European conference heard.
Professor Sylva and our European friends are making us consider our practice. A pause for reflection is no bad thing, not that we are likely to change.