MEMORANDUM FROM THE PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION
OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS (TACTYC) (EY 34)
On behalf of the Executive Committee of this
professional association, I am pleased to send you the following
comments for consideration by the Sub-Committee.
1.1 There is a wealth of research and documentation
about what constitutes a sound basis for the content of early
years education (see, for example, Siraj-Blatchford, 1998; Edwards,
et al, 1998). The current research into neuro-science (eg.
Kotulak, 1989; Sylwester, 1998) has informed the debate yet further
and emphasises the need for stimulating, rich and varied activities
for all children in the birth to seven years age range which operates
from the basis of their own understanding of the world and the
things which create meaning for the individual child. The holistic
nature of children's thinking means that the coverage of subjects
must be integrative, children's own interests being nurtured and
furthered rather than thinking being fitted into separate subject
compartments in which depth is sacrificed. It must be acknowledged
that children are competent and capable learners and have an innate
desire and drive to make sense of their world. We do not have
to force young children to learn: we only have to provide meaningful
learning experiences and various levels of support.
1.2 Whilst the Early Learning Goals are
a welcome starting point for considering the curriculum, they
fall short of providing a substantive, all-embracing document
against which a full, broad and balanced curriculum can be provided.
The narrow direction and content, coupled with the lack of relationship
and coherence between its various sections, is destined to mean
that some children have narrower curricular experiences when the
ELGs are put into operation.
1.3 The ELGs do not take sufficient account
of what is known from the disciplines of child development, particularly
in relation to the links between, for example, physical development
and children's capacity to learn and concentrate (Goddard-Blythe
and Hyland, 1998: Bailey, 1999) and the relationship between musical
ability and the development of literacy skills (Silvester, 1999).
Creativity, imagination and flexibility are the keys to our future
lifelong learning society (Beetlestone, 1998) and the ELGs treat
creativity as if it were a matter of developing certain motoric
skills rather than the cognitive activity (which it most certainly
1.4 Creativity and cognitive development
is also known to be linked strongly with play processes in children's
learning (Moyles, 1989; Moyles and Adams, in press). The inclusion
of a section on children's play within the ELGs is welcomed but
there is little relationship made between the sections on the
learning goals in the six areas and the clear statements written
regarding the need for play. The document is currently very disjointed
in this regard and greater cohesion of practice and goals needs
to be established.
1.5 The six areas of curriculum in the ELGs
are too narrow a focus. Knowledge and understanding of the world
is a vast category which could provide the basis for many excellent
learning experiences but it is narrowly conceived within the document
and fails to take account, for example, of the variety of scientific,
historical, geographical and technological processes in which
young children regularly engage, not least of which are predicting,
hypothesising, questioning, decision-making, problem-solving,
reflecting, empathising and so on (de Boo, 1999).
1.6 ICT and design technology are powerful
means to learning and to the future of our society. Young children
are computer-oriented from an early age and the use, processes
and understanding of various forms of ICT must be incorporated
right across the early years curriculum (Cook and Finlayson, 1999).
It is currently and preposterously lacking from the ELGs and must
be fully incorporated so that it becomes an extension and development
of children's natural exploratory and experimental capabilities.
1.7 Whilst language and literacy are in
themselves important, the skills of communication are of greater
magnitude than those indicated within the ELGs. It is vital in
a world which now depends in huge measure on high level communicational
skills that aspects such as oracy are given equal status to literacy
(Whitehead, 1999). Daily life for all children in the western
world is visual, audio and increasingly screen-based: the curriculum
should closely reflect these aspects as they have the greatest
meaning for contemporary children. The abilities to explain, reflect,
critique, compare, relate and so on, using the spoken word must
not be underestimated in the way they currently are within the
literacy strategy. Communities of learners and "learning
cities" will demand this of their members.
1.8 The development of mathematical knowledge
and numeracy skills requires that children engage in real-life
learning situations and a variety of practical experiences involving
weight, measuring, matching, sorting, counting, ordering, categorisingin
fact, generally playing with mathematics as an experience which
is enjoyable and exciting. A diet of worksheets, whilst apparently
offering "evidence" of learning outcomes, will not generate
an enthusiasm and commitment to mathematics so desperately needed
by our future citizens. Accurate reflections of mathematical knowledge
and understanding will only be developed when children operate
mathematically within real life situations which have purpose
and meaning. The national numeracy strategy itself emphasises
that standardised recording should be delayed until around the
age of nine years when children have had ample opportunity to
experiment with their own recording systems. We wholeheartedly
support this philosophy.
1.9 At the age of birth through to seven
years, children are developing as people and as citizens of our
society: all aspects of personal, social and emotional development
must be emphasised at this stage of their education. As family
life in this country continues to change, we cannot assume in
early years settings that all children have been taught a wide
range of relevant skills to enable them to take a full part in
a democracy, particularly in relation to responsibility for one's
own actions and the impact of one's behaviour upon others. Whilst
the inclusion of PSE within the ELGs is to be welcomed, the area
needs greater prominence if children are to learn to understand
and deal with their own and other's expressions of emotion. Values
education, in all its forms, including all aspects of respect
and anti-discriminatory practices are equally capable of being
learnt by young children: indeed the Commission for Racial Equality,
for example, found children as young as three years of age had
already developed prejudices. Spiritual, moral and cultural development
is intertwined with personal, social and emotional learning and
is equally important.
2. WAYS IN
2.1 The processes of children's learning
are far more important than the content of teaching. Observation
of children's developing attitudes, skills and knowledge are vital
as the basis for informing teaching. Developing an appropriate
approach to learning at this stage is vital in the creation of
2.2 Methods of teaching should be as individualised
and learner-centred as possible. There is no one way of teaching
young children: only ways which are appropriate for individuals.
Therein lies the need for a highly skilled body of teachers with
the highest possible qualifications and opportunities for continuing
2.3 Young children need time: time to practise
skills over and over again; time to explore and experiment with
a wide range of materials and contexts; time to talk with adults
and other children; time to be physical; time to take things apart
and put them back together again; and time to relate and integrate
what they learn hourly and daily into their existing schemes and
concepts (Athey, 1998). A curriculum in which pressure of time
is felt so acutely as within, for example, the literacy hour,
reflects wholly inappropriate practice in the early years. Young
children's learning cannot be hurried: otherwise superficiality
and demotivation will result (Elkind, 1988). Key Stage 1 of the
National Curriculum is particularly overloaded for five to seven
year olds and should now be reconsidered in the light of the ELGs.
2.4 All teaching should reflect the way
children learn, that is, through play and first-hand experiences,
in contexts which make "human sense" (Donaldson, 1996)
to the learner. This means that children should learn as individuals
and in small groups using everyday materials and everyday activities
such as cooking (in itself, providing a wealth of science, technology,
language, number, measures and so on). Adults must be given the
skills and knowledge to articulate high-quality practice of this
kind and explain their rationales to others perhaps more familiar
with older children.
2.5 The presentation of the curriculum should
be both physically and mentally "active"it is
not appropriate for young children to sit for extended periods
of time in the day. To a four year old 10 minutes of seated activity
must be followed by activities which involve action of the whole
body. Opportunities for physical expression, through dance, modelling,
and role-play, are as important as expression through talk and
2.6 All those who teach young children should
have in-depth knowledge about children's developmentcognitive,
social, physical, emotional, linguistic and numeric. They must
also fully understand that young children have an enormous capacity
to learn for themselves: the psychological literature concerned
with metacognition offers evidence in plenty (see, for example,
Brown, 1987; McGuiness, 1999).
2.7 The ability to learn through trial and
error and one's own mistakes is also an issue vital in the early
years. If "mistakes" lead to shame and blame-type practices,
then loss of self-esteem and self-worth in young children will
be crippling to their capacity to learn (Roberts, 1995). Both
young children and teachers need to acknowledge that risk-taking
is a major factor in quality, life-long learning for which there
is no substitute.
2.8 In relation to fostering children's
abilities to learn and think for themselves, there is clearly
a need for what has been termed "joined-up thinking"
in the area of educational policy. The Sure Start initiative is
certainly a move forward in an appropriate direction, but we should
be cautious, at present, about its potential outcomes as no evaluation
projects have yet established that, in itself, Sure Start makes
a difference to children's development or parental child-rearing
2.9 Early years practitioners should also
have knowledge of conceptual development and the way children
acquire wide-ranging concepts such as a knowledge of time, space,
shape, relationship, representation and so on (Willig, 1989).
2.10 Young children should be taught with
the highest staff/child ratios possible, Ideally, this should
be in the region of 1:10 and government policy should work towards
this for all children in the three to seven age range. The main
reason for this assertion is in relation to the scaffolding opportunities
which appropriately qualified staff can provide for children of
this age if there is time and opportunity for very small group
and individual engagement.
2.11 Teachers who work with young children
also need to understand the next phase of education and training
should ensure that they have knowledge of child development in
the primary phase. This will enable them to recognise the vital
ingredients in continuity in experiences and practices from the
early to primary years and understand differentiation more thoroughly.
2.12 Space and resources are also key issues
within early years. There must be sufficient physical space for
children to engage in large-motor activity at frequent intervals
and large equipment for exploration of space in different ways.
Too often, young children are inhibited by classrooms and settings
which were not designed for large equipment and active youngsters.
Classroom contexts should reflect the age and needs of the children
and offer playful, active teaching strategies.
3. EARLY YEARS
3.1 There is now ample evidence that fully
qualified early years teachers offer enormous benefits to children's
learning: the works of Pascal (1998), Sylva (1999) and Moyles
and Suschitzky (1998a) in particular show unequivocally that quality
outcomes to children's learning are a result of the involvement
of qualified teachers. Whilst TACTYC recognises the contribution
of other para-professionals such as nursery nurses, these adults
should work under the guidance of of qualified teachers who have
greater knowledge of the learning processes of young children
and significant knowledge of planning for appropriate experiences
(Moyles and Suschitzky, 1998b).
3.2 England should be working towards a
system where all key staff are qualified teachers. Whilst nursery
nurses provide a valuable service to children and their families,
they must work under the guidance of a well-qualified teacher
as their two-year training cannot, in itself, give them the skills
to handle the full range and depth of children's learning and
development, curriculum knowledge, parental and community issues,
team management and the many other issues which must constitute
teacher education in the early years. All para-professionals should
work towards up-grading their skills and a wealth of opportunities
should be given to enable them to do so.
3.3 A chasm still appears to exist between
vocational and academic education and the interface between GNVQ
levels three and four. All attempts to bridge this divide are
welcome but we feel strongly that "practice informing practice"
is no way to operate in terms of early years. It is vital that
there is sufficient academic rigour in those working within early
years education to provide the intellectual, personal and moral
strength to articulate early years practices with a strong ideological
and pedagogical basis (Moyles and Adams, 2,000).
3.4 All staff should have the opportunity
for continuing professional development experiences which are
appropriately government funded and undertaken during the working
day. It is not sufficient that courses are run in the evenings
when participants have already undertaken a full and exhausting
teaching day, leaving little physical, intellectual and emotional
energy for considering the intellectual challenges which should
be presented by such courses.
3.5 It needs also to be strongly stated
that those inspecting early years provision and its delivery across
the birth to seven year old phase must themselves be early years
trained. Too many KS1 inspectors lack the basic knowledge of early
years which is vital to making decisions about the quality of
teaching and learning.
3.6 In similar vein, all government agencies,
including OFSTED, should have high quality early years personnel
in posts of responsibility for making policy and practice decisions
relating to early years education. Frequently it is those without
such knowledge who make decisions regarding curriculum and inspection
and the negative outcomes of such organisational practice are
totally apparent to those who work within the defined (often inappropriate)
3.7 The promotional opportunities of early
years teachers must be maintained through acknowledgement of the
highest quality skills required to teach this age range and to
organise and manage the work of other adults. Skills such as negotiation
and communication with parents are vital across education and
are nowhere developed more effectively than in the early years.
Early years teachers must not be marginalised: too long the early
years has been considered as relating only to lower status, female
workers. Strong efforts must be put into place by policy-makers
to increase salaries and status in early years teaching so that,
for example, male teachers are encouraged to work in this phase.
3.8 Specialism in early childhood educations
needs to be recognised as a discipline in its own right and afforded
parallel conditions of service to all other areas of education.
3.9 Early years teachers should be educated
in the ways and means of observing, analysing and evaluating both
children's learning and their responses to teaching. Similarly,
the classroom or setting and the quality of team work in supporting
curriculum, assessment and children's progression needs to be
continually appraised and reviewed. Any move to encourage self-evaluative
practices in the early years is to be welcomed and the EYDCPs
should and could support this initiative. Section 122 inspections
could then build upon this process to make a more meaningful interpretation
and analysis of practice.
4.1 "Quality" in the vital word
here in relation to learning. It is vital that quality includes
the kinds of assessments which respect and value the child as
a learner. Formal paper-and-pencil tests are inadequate at early
years level and lead to superficial teaching to the test. Children
should be tested through playful, concrete, hands-on processes
in order that they can effectively show what they know and can
do (Drummond, 1993). They must be allowed to perform to their
capabilities rather than to pre-determined outcomes which, in
themselves, have often been devised by those without genuine early
years understanding and knowledge.
4.2 Observation is the key to effective
assessment of quality learning. All planning for high quality
teaching must take into account what has been learned of their
approaches to learning through observing their previous activities,
interests and capabilities closely. The skills of analysing and
interpreting such observations should also be part of initial
teacher training in the early years and of OFSTED inspections.
4.3 Quality of teaching relates as much
to what the adults don't do as to what they do do: practitioners
must respect the child as learner and teach in ways which support
learning rather than offer didactic presentations which marginalise
children's own knowledge and skills. The national literacy and
numeracy strategies, with their timed sessions and prescriptive
input, are not suitable for young children, whose rate of learning
is varied and dependent upon their interests and prior knowledge.
4.4 Baseline assessment of children's learning
on entry to school is currently dependent upon a range of schemes
most of which rely too heavily upon paper-based outcomes, as in
the case of QCA's own scheme. Those which allow teachers to interpret
children's practical experiences as the basis of their learning
4.5 Inappropriate formalised assessment
of children at an early age currently results in too many children
being labelled "failures", when the failure, in fact,
lies with the system. The tail of underachievement in the UK is
more than likely a result of this type of assessment policy. The
variety of achievement and experience in young children must be
recognised and addressed and early formal assessment abandoned.
4.6 Since the work of Vygotsky was translated
in 1973, it has been acknowledged that the role of adults and
more experienced peers is crucial to children's learning (Rogoff,
1990). The Standards which govern the training of early years
teachers take little account of teaching styles through which
adults can support and scaffold children's learning, with their
heavy emphasis on what should be taught, rather than what should
be learned, and ways in which learning is fostered. The TTA Standards
must be amended (and reduced) to allow early years pedagogy to
be included in ITT courses.
4.7 Any assessment of either settings or
children should involve parents. However, this does mean that
parents need in themselves to be kept informed about up-to-date
practices and what is known about young children's learning and
5. FORMAL SCHOOL
5.1 The questions around starting age must
be considered in relation to the term "formal". If the
latter, for example, means compulsory education (rather than the
style in which children's education is implemented) then this
raises different issues. Most other European countries do not
commence compulsory education until the age of six or even seven
years (David, 1993). England is out of step with this only for
historical reasons. It is time that, as Europeans, we came in
line with our neighbours.
5.2 "Formal" education in terms
of didactic teaching style should not occur at all in the early
years. It has been said many times that children are not empty
vessels waiting to be filled (Stenhouse, 1967) but small, albeit
inexperienced people full of ideas, inspirations and the potential
for learning through their own auspices. The type of education
provided and style of teaching undertaken should match young children's
learning processes and this is, essentially, flexible, eclectic
5.3 Whilst Sure Start undoubtedly offers
one of the best chances in several decades of promoting quality
in early years services (and the government should be commended
for its insight), the multiplicity of initiatives will make careful
evaluation of the effectiveness of Sure Start very difficult.
This, in itself, is complicated by multi-agency involvement and
everyone's concern to ensure that their "discipline"
takes priority. Simple quantitative research outcomes will give
information about take-up of initiatives but more complex multi-level
analysis will be needed if the potential benefits of different
initiatives is to be recognised and celebrated. It would also
have been more beneficial in the long run if it at least certain
elements within Sure Start evaluation projects had been rationalised,
thus enabling comparisons of certain aspects across the country.
5.4 The early years of education are those
years in which the child is mainly dependent upon the adults.
The period at which the children become emotionally independent
and rely more on peer support is the point at which children are
likely to be ready to undertake greater formalisation of learning.
It is well known that this period is reached when most children
are around the age of seven or eight years.
5.5 Too early formalisation of learning
is known to affect boys more profoundly than girls and the likely
consequence is boys' alienation from education and learning (Head,
1999). It is vital that the way in which the different sexes learn
is taken into account in making decisions both about entry to
more formalised schooling systems and the type of education implemented.
TACTYC's Executive Committee hope that the Select
Committee will give careful consideration to the points outlined
above. We will be pleased to extend or develop any issues as required.
Athey, C (1990) Extending thought in children,
London: Paul Chapman.
Bailey, R (1999) "Play, health and physical
development". In David, T (ed) Young Children Learning,
London: Paul Chapman.
Beetlestone, F (1998) Imaginative Children:
Creative Teaching. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Brown, A L (1987) Metacognition, executive control,
self-regulation and other more mysterious mechanisms. In F E Weinert
& R H Kluwe (eds) Metacognition, Motivation and Understanding
(pp 65-116) Hillsdale, NJ: Lawerence Eribaum.
Cook, D and Finlayson, H (1999) Interactive
Children: Communicative Teaching, Buckingham: Open University
David, T (1993) (ed) Educating our Youngest
Children: European Perspectives. London: Paul Chapman.
de Boo, M (1999) Enquiring Children: Challenging
Teaching, Buckingham: OUP.
Donaldson, M (1992) Human Minds: An Exploration.
Drummond, M-J (1993) Assessing Children's
Learning. London: David Fulton.
Edwards, C, Gandini, L and Forman, G (1998 2nd
edn) The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach
to Early Childhood Education. NJ: Ablex Publishing.
Elkind, D (1988) The Hurried Child, Reading,
Mass: Addison Wesley.
Goddard-Blythe, S and Hyland, D (1998) "Screening
for Neurological Dysfunction in the Specific Learning Difficult
Child". British Journal of Occupational Therapy. 61(10).
Greenfield, S (1998) The Human Brain: A Guided
Tour. London: Basic Books.
Head, J (1999) Understanding the Boyes: Issues
of Behaviour and Achievement. London: Falmer Press.
Kotulak, R (1996) Inside the Brain: Revolutionary
discoveries of how the mind works. Kansas City. MO: Andrews
McGuinness, C (1999) From Thinking Skills
to Thinking Classrooms: a review and evaluation of approaches
for developing pupils' thinking. Research Report RR115. Nottingham:
Moyles, J (1989) Just Playing? The role and
status of play in early childhood education. Milton Keynes:
Open University Press.
Moyles, J (with Suschitzky, W) (1997a) "The
Buck Stops here...! Nursery Teachers and Nursery Nurses Working
Together". University of Leicester in conjunction with
the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.
Moyles, J (with Suschitzky, W) (1997b) "Jills
of all trades...? Classroom Assistants in KS1 Classes".
London: The Association of Teachers and Lecturers/University of
Moyles, J and Adams, S (in press) "A Tale
of the Unexpected: Early years Practitioners and Play Practices".
Journal of Inservice Education.
Moyles, J Adams, S et al (2000) Too
Busy to Play...?A Framework for Playful Teaching. Buckingham:
Open University Press.
Pascal, C and Bertram, T (1997) Effective
Early Learning. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Roberts, R (1995) Self-esteem and Successful
Early Learning. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Rogoff, B (1990) Apprenticeship in Thinking.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Silvester, M (1999) Music and Literacy:
MA dissertation. University of Leicester.
Siraj-Blatchford, I (ed) (1998) A Curriculum
Development Handbook for Early Childhood Educators. Stoke-on-Trent:
Stenhouse, L (1967) Culture and Education.
Suschitzky, W and Chapman, J (1999) Valued
Children: Informed Teaching. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Sylva, K et al (1999) EPPE Project Reports.
London: University of London Institute of Education/DfEE.
Silvester, M (1999) How primary teachers
use music to support Literacy. MA Dissertation, University
of Leicester. November.
Sylwester, R (1998) Schools Brains. School
Issues. Arlington Heights. Illinois: Skylight Press.
Whitehead, M (1999) Supporting Language and
Literacy Development in the Early Years. Buckingham: OUP.
Willig, C (1990) Children's Concepts and
the Primary Curriculum. London: Paul Chapman.
The Professional Association of Early Childhood Educators