Reception teachers are often confused about what curriculum they should teach and are given contradictory advice by local authorities and Office for Standards in Education inspectors, according to a University of Durham report.
The study was carried out before and during the introduction of baseline assessment. The 19 teachers surveyed , who answered questionnaires and were interviewed, were chosen for their diversity of experience and outlook.
While some were happy to have the youngest four-year-olds in their classes and believed that they could cope in Reception with an "appropriate" curriculum, others felt such pupils were better off in pre-schools or nurseries.
Reception is the only year of schooling in which the national curriculum is not compulsory. Many classes have children spanning the age range from just four to nearly six, and staff were unclear about whether to follow the Government's targets for children turning five (for nursery classes) or the national curriculum for key stage 1.
Local authority advisers sometimes gave contradictory advice, the teachers said, and OFSTED teams also "displayed variations in approach". While one of the teachers was criticised for organising too much formal maths and literacy work, another was told she allowed too much free play.
This reflects teachers' own differing views of their teaching aims. Just under half of the teachers ranked social aims as the most important, while the others concentrated on academic goals.
Reception Class Teachers: their aims, views and stories by Jane Stout, Peter Tymms and Linda Thompson, School of Education, Durham University. Call 0191 374 2000 for further details