HOW refreshing to read Rebecca Caswell’s views on appropriate early years education (The Yorkshire Post, November 15)! I agree with everything she said. As an early years teacher and consultant for 40 years (now retired) I have been making this case for as long as I can remember. These facts – about Scandinavian results and about play versus formalised “work” for little children – have been in the public domain for many years, yet every government ignores them.
Each government wants to be the one that is known for raising “standards”. They make wholesale changes based on flawed notions about how children learn and they expect results within the lifetime of a parliament, so all their efforts, their appalling waste of money thrown at ditching “old” policies to be replaced by their new “better” ones, their undermining of already exhausted professionals, all this achieves nothing useful at all.
This won’t change because they don’t listen and don’t trust the people who really know about how children learn and how to do it while respecting children’s right to a childhood.
Watch any kitten or puppy playing. They learn vital skills as they play. Our children are young animals too and they learn best by being allowed to play freely. They need the natural environment and insightful adults to ensure their safety without intervening too much.
In the classroom environment they need time to make choices, select materials and share their thoughts with supportive adults. The adult’s role is to provide the right environment by anticipating the type of materials the child may need, and making sure it is readily available at child’s height.
It saddens me to see how we are made not only to be the thieves of children’s precious time but, to add insult to injury, we inflict a totally wrong idea of what “education” and “standards” really are.
I understand that it would need a huge act of faith – and more than four or five years – for the powers that be to stand back and trust the professionals to show what they know about how children learn.
But the evidence is out there, for those who will only open their minds. As long as this issue is not addressed we will, as a nation, continue to produce unhappy, disaffected young people as opposed to proud, successful young people ready to take their place in society. Play is work for young children. They see no distinction and we have no right to enforce one.