All Work and Little Play; Early Learning: Much Stress Is Placed on Literacy Skills and Not Enough on Physical Development

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Harris

MOST people agree children need time to play. It helps them makefriendships, learn vital skills and develop physically and emotionally.

But as the pressure to achieve at school increases, are the chances for playbeing reduced? Many teachers and child experts believe so.

The Government is introducing a 'nappy curriculum' for all 25,000 private andstate nurseries and 70,000 childminders in England from September.

It sets out up to 500 developmental milestones between birth and primary schooland also requires five-year-olds to be assessed on 69 writing, problemsolvingand numeracy skills.

These include the requirement that they should 'use their phonic knowledge towrite regular words and make phonetically plausible attempts at more complexwords' and 'write their own names and other things such as labels'.

At the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers in Manchester,delegates warned that the curriculum will become a boxticking exercise, withnursery staff and childminders pressured to follow it to the letter.

Childminders are reported to be quitting as they fear the regulations in theEarly Years Foundation Stage framework (EYFS) will be too onerous.

And last week, a powerful coalition of England's leading independent schoolsadded their voices to the opposition and demanded that the Government scaleback the new curriculum.

The Independent Schools Council wrote to Children's Minister, Beverley Hughes,claiming that it violates parents' human rights by denying them the freedom tochoose how they educate their children.

'This clumsy intrusion into the early year's curriculum of independent schoolsis unjustified and unnecessary,' said the ISC.

'More importantly, this interference conflicts with the rights of parents toprivacy in their home life, which includes the freedom to choose how theyeducate their children, and to educate them free from the control of thestate.' The Government has hit back, claiming that it is 'nonsense' that theEYFS breaches human rights. …