Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Good foundations

Good news from the Government's much-maligned 'nappy curriculum' today - or more properly, the Early Years Foundation Stage - which seeks to ensure that toddlers know their ABC, can count and have gained a range of important social skills by the age of six.

Critics who believe that only middle class children have the right to these skills at an early age - before it is too late - argue that it is far too early to expect (working class) children to learn the alphabet or count: far better to wait until they are seven or eight, and illiterate. Their own kids have already learnt these skills at home, of course.

So I was riveted to read an account in the Daily Telegraph which mentions in passing the fact that 23,000 more children are reaching a good level of development than prior to the introduction of the EYFS in September 2008 but complains instead that
More than one-in-six boys cannot write their own name or other simple words such as “mum”, “dad” and “cat” after a year of school – double the number among girls.
They are also much less likely to know the alphabet, count to 10, sing simple nursery rhymes from memory, dress themselves and work well with other children in class.

An explanation is then offered by Sue Palmer, who doesn't think children should do anything but play until well into primary school:
[She] said boys were developmentally behind at birth and needed time to “run
about and play, which is what they need to catch up”.

So, let me get this clear. Some boys don't know their alphabet or can't count because they aren't in the playground enough and are being forced to recite the alphabet by nasty nursery teachers. And the fact that despite the gap, a growing number of boys as well as girls can do these things satisfactorily hasn't anything at all to do with the fact that they are now being taught them more effectively in nursery school.

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