Select Committee on Education and Skills Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Training, Advancement and Co-operation in Teaching Young Children (TACTYC) (SQ03)

  TACTYC is pleased to offer the following points regarding this Report which it considered at its meeting on the 26 February 2002. The points are brief, given the need to submit the comments by 4 March 2002. They are also selective, in that TACTYC's remit is to respond to those aspects which mainly affect practitioners who teach children up to the age of seven years.


  1.  The Report represents a general description and from an "evidence-informed" basis we find it quite thin on analysis.

  2.  Overall, we are concerned that the differences in the inspection processes for nursery schools, foundation stage settings and Key Stage 1 contexts are not sufficiently spelled out in the Report. This is particularly important given that OFSTED's judgements are inevitably subjective and liable to differing interpretations particularly where inspectors are differently trained.

  3.  We feel that HMCI should have made more explicit at the start of the Report the values under which it operates. It is our experience that these are substantially different between the various sectors of the education system, particularly in the early years (three to seven years).

  4.  Whilst it is appropriate that the Chief Inspector points out "improvements" in the education system, we would raise the question "Improvements against what standards?" SATs data gathering processes, for example, have changed year-on-year so there is no normatised data per sé on which to establish "improvement". We also find inconsistency in the way data are presented.

  5.  In general, it is difficult to interpret clearly HMCI's comments, in that those on standards, for example, fail to recognise the difference between reporting on standards and reporting on schools' or pupils' performances in relation to those standards. This is particularly pertinent, given the differences between Section 5, Section 122 and Section 10 inspections.

  6.  This is also an issue when it comes to whether the curriculum is the vehicle for children's learning or the pedagogy through which it is implemented. Again, comments on both of these are not separated within the report effectively and sufficiently to allow judgements to be made.

  7.  There are times in the Report when it seems clear that the differences between the various inspections (Sections 5, 10 and 122) are not only ignored but perhaps not fully understood in terms of their impact upon the inspection content and process. With the appointment of Maggie Smith, we hoped to read indications that these were being addressed. At present, the divisions are great and inequalities abound, a factor omitted in HMCI's Report.

  8.  We would question why no nursery schools are included in the "star schools" listing, even though there are a number of beacon nursery schools and early excellence centres which are known to have very high quality practices and outcomes. Once again, the differentiation made between the different forms of inspection is unclear yet they operate from different standards.

  9.  We, like HMCI, are concerned that reported achievements in English and numeracy (paragraph 37), particularly at KS1, are gained at the expense of other foundation subjects, which are arguably more important for young children, especially the arts through which many young children express themselves. We would have welcomed an even stronger statement on this, particularly given the extra Literacy Strategy activities to which some young children are subjected. We know that these often represent "disembedded" learning for young children which lacks meaning and relevance and is a "short-term fix" rather than achieving long term gains in learning and dispositions to learning.

  10.  It has also become clear recently that both the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy co-ordinators as well as OFSTED, are promoting the Literacy and Numeracy Hours within the Foundation Stage. We feel strongly (and know from other research evidence, eg Moyles et al 2002) that this is a retrograde step for young children to be taking as it has adverse effects upon the development of higher-order thinking and questioning skills. There is no evidence that earlier exposure to literacy and numeracy delivered in a fast paced and prescribed manner has any positive effects on children's learning in these two areas. We feel that OFSTED and HMCI in particular should be taking a lead in commenting on the effects of too early exposure and appropriacy for children rather than applying similar standards to early years as those for older children. As Baroness Susan Greenfield has recently commented:

    As you grow, everything is filtered through the checks and balances of pre-existing experiences. We each evaluate the world in a different way, through our own individual experiences. So that means we should think about educating someone who's small in a different way to someone who is older. (2002)

  11.  The Foundation Stage curriculum was very new at the point at which HMCI's report was written (paragraph 50) and we would hope in future reports to see much more of its intentions reflected. We don't find the current Report very reassuring at present in terms of the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage having its intended impact upon curriculum and pedagogy.

  12.  We are pleased to note that the quality of teaching is said to be highest in Nursery, Reception and Year six classes. Perhaps it is worth pointing out that children in these age-groups have traditionally been associated with more independent and autonomous ways of learning. It would be worth analysing the OFSTED reports from the basis of whether this has an effect on the higher quality.

  13.  We are concerned that the quality of teaching is reported as being lower in schools with higher numbers of free meals. We feel is this worthy of greater analysis and comment than it previously receives.


  14.  (Paragraph 2) We are unsurprised that girls and boys are achieving differentially. Something of the nature of the differences in learning styles needs to be taken into account by OFSTED. Over-insistence on formal methods are now known not to support the more physical ways in which young boys learn.

  15.  (Paragraph 3) With the heavy focus on writing, the "halo" effect inevitably means that some "improvement" will be found but we would question whether this necessarily means that the quality of KS1 children's learning has improved.

  16.  (Paragraph 4) We note that recognition of the importance of phonics at KS1 and Reception has "not yet reflected in significantly higher standards of writing and spelling". This is equally unsurprising given that phonics, when disembedded from a meaningful learning context—however well taught—is unlikely to impact upon children's learning in any significant way. The appropriacy of the pedagogy MUST be matched to the curriculum and its intended outcomes and HMCI must recognise this.

  17.  (Paragraph 14 and others) We would strongly agree with HMCI that the role of head teachers is critical in the continuing professional development of the staff and, perhaps less clearly, in raising standards. However, in the Foundation Stage it seems that few Heads fully understand the need to implement CGFS in full which would inevitably be one factor in raising standards in the early years. This needs more attention in future reports.

  18.  (Paragraph 23) Once again, the emphasis on subject knowledge is misplaced when it comes to the Foundation Stage. Evidence is now available that child development knowledge is more important to those teaching within CGFS.

  19.  We share HMCI's concerns (paragraphs 34-35) about the problems of recruiting and retaining teaching staff. Some attention must be paid, however, to the significant overload which teachers feel they are facing in meeting OFSTED and other accountability demands and the reasons for which makes young, able teachers leave the profession after only a few years. The pressures of the curriculum and assessment are key factors here.

  20.  (Paragraph 50) There are no "standards" yet established against which the Foundation Stage can be evaluated. We would urge OFSTED and the government to ensure that these are more qualitatively oriented than quantitative as it is extremely difficult to quantify young children's learning in any sensible and consistent way. The same argument applies to KS1 children and we would also urge OFSTED to consider why the Welsh Assembly has now dropped the requirement for KS1 standard tests.

  21.  In future (and whilst we appreciate that a separate U-5s report has been produced) we would like HMCI to address the issues about under-fives in nursery settings (paragraphs 58-59) in more detail, particularly paying attention to the transition between one phase and another in terms of quality and equality of children's experiences. It seems to us that KS1 now sits very uncomfortably between the Foundation Stage and KS2 without a clear role in continuing the development of children's dispositions to learning as well as their curriculum-related knowledge and skills.

  22.  (Paragraphs 32, 51) The role of "other adults" in the classroom is very important to effective early years provision and we agree wholeheartedly with HMCI that more attention needs to be paid to the management of such staff. More attention also needs to be paid to identifying the effects of their roles upon children's experiences and learning. We are concerned that the professionalism of teachers is being undermined by such statements as children being "taught" by Teaching Assistants. We feel that OFSTED (and the government in general) need to take a stance on WHO is a teacher, affording proper recognition to the differences between the teaching and the assistant role. The role of TAs is clearly changing and we need evidence on how the role is to develop and who is directing it.

  23.  (Paragraph 59) The variation in types of Foundation Stage is also matched by the wide variation in education and training of the staff employed in those settings. This must be accounted for in any discussion about "quality" and "standards"—we cannot expect consistency from an inconsistent basis!

  24.  (Paragraph 358) In the Foundation Stage, we are concerned that induction across the wide variety of settings (see previous point) should be as effective as possible and that inspectors must be adequately qualified and trained to make judgements and decisions about early years. OFSTED should be monitoring the mentoring of newly-qualified teachers which MUST be undertaken BY qualified teachers and this is not easy to achieve in the current climate. Similarly, whilst it is vital that teachers in training at initial an in-service levels experience teaching in different types of setting, the relationship between ITT standards and the Foundation Stage are still now established.

  25.  (Paragraph 361) Linked with previous comments about Teaching Assistants, we feel it vital that OfSTED take up not only the initial and continuing education of teachers as an issue but that this should be done in relation to the on-going training of TAs. Increasingly those in HE and LEA contexts are using training opportunities to bring the two groups of practitioners together to gain a joint understanding of practice intended to benefit children. This makes even more necessary the appropriate differentiation of roles more vital as indicated above.

  We are sorry that limited time to respond does not permit a fuller examination of HMCI's Report which, whilst having some strengths, does not, in TACTYC's opinion, address clearly some of the major issues which face Foundation Stage settings and providers. As this is the base for all future learning and development for children and teachers, then we feel it deserves better attention in future HMCI Reports. We will ensure that these messages are conveyed to the in-coming Chief Inspector.

Professor Janet Moyles

on behalf of TACTYC

March 2002


  Greenfield, S. (2002) Interview with Professor Janet Moyles for InterPlay Journal, Chelmsford/London: February.

  Moyles, J., Hargreaves, L., Merry, R., Paterson, A. and Esarte-Sarries, V. (in press) Interactive Teaching in the Primary Years: Digging Deeper into Meanings. Buckingham: Open University Press.

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