to ask why more parents don't seem to care about play based learning being replaced with more formal learning in nurseries?

(86 Posts)
teacherlikesapples Sat 06-Jul-13 16:02:35

I am at the end of my professional tether. I love my job, I love supporting children to reach their potential and helping parents understand how their children learn, so that they can support their learning as well. One of the most important aspects of my job is creating an 'enabling environment' where children play & learn.

With the Government's shift towards more formal learning, this approach is under threat.

Ignoring the tonne of evidence & research to say that would be a huge mistake (and that they should in fact be extended the play based curriculum to older children! )

This feels like a massive tragedy to me. Not only will thousands of children be missing out on some really vital experiences, on a real personal note- I cannot in all good conscience continue to teach in an environment that I consider to actually be harmful to children. So it looks likely that I will leave a job that I love.

I'm just wondering- why aren't more parents more upset about this issue? Do they consider formal learning at this young age a good thing?
I would really love to speak with someone who holds that belief. I need to understand it.

I have read that the more structured approach can get some initial gains with some academic skills. So sure, if the most important thing to you is that your child learns to read at age 4, then perhaps a case could be made.

I am not aware of any real advantage in learning to read early, as long as children make steady progress acquiring literacy skills throughout their time in nursery and any issues are flagged up early & dealt with, it all works out the same. I don't see why teaching these skills earlier is worth sacrificing other important learning opportunities.

Formal learning in the early years, is essentially telling children 'what, how and when' to think. When compared to a play based curriculum it is nowhere near as effective in promoting independence, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, social skills... the list goes on.

It is IMHO a leftover approach from the Victorian era when children should be seen and not heard.

Am I being unreasonable to think parents should care about play being filtered out from UK nurseries?

Ok rant over. Does anyone care?

HeySoulSister Sat 06-Jul-13 16:05:18

It's not being completely 'filtered out' tho is it?

Yorkie1990 Sat 06-Jul-13 16:06:07

It seems strange the solution to a failing education system in the UK is to increase the years of education, when the most successful European education systems have fewer than we have already. Smacks of politicians too scared to try anything they haven't tried (and failed with) already.

McNewPants2013 Sat 06-Jul-13 16:08:30

I don't actually know what DD nursery teachers do with DD.blush

She comes out happy and really enjoys herself at nursery and has learned loads.

AuntieStella Sat 06-Jul-13 16:09:34

The omission of explicit reference to play in the qualifications discussed in your first link is inexplicable. But with every professional body in the area knowing it's importance, is there a threat of change simply because it isn't in 2 qualifications?

Also, nurseries and reception classes must deliver EYFS. There is no suggestion of playing being removed from that.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 06-Jul-13 16:14:13

No, YANBU but my dc are past this age and I am fighting other battles in education. If my dc were little, I too would kick up a fuss.
I suppose now that nurseries and pre schools are judged by academic progression there will be fewer opportunities to play.
I think children should learn by play throughout primary school, with the emphasis on learning through practical application rather than reading writing and gaining knowledge from a small variety of resources. But hey ho, unless you take on your dc education yourself, or in your case leave your profession there's little you can do about government policies.
I do care though smile

StinkyElfCheese Sat 06-Jul-13 16:20:23

dt's are just finishing nursery - we found a lovely place for them with huge open space to run about climb and ride bikes etc. just before xmas teachers ( they are qualified primary teachers ) asked if it would be ok to start the boys reading, I said fine as long as it dosn't interrupt there play!!

They are doing really well and have been well prepared for school , some nurserys get it right some don't - ours was bloody fantastic smile

teacherlikesapples Sat 06-Jul-13 16:26:02

It will no longer feature in the training for the professionals who work in nurseries. Since teaching/learning through play used to be a massive aspect of the teacher/nursery nurse training- it will now be replaced with other teaching strategies. If teachers don't understand why play is important- then it won't be valued, planned for or protected.

Over the last couple of years the OFSTED inspections have had more of a focus on seeing statistics and data on achievement. They ask questions like "How does the achievement of this cohort differ to the last?"
What percentage of summer born children achieved under expectation this term? How do you measure you impact & outcomes? Where is your evidence?

To get this data you essentially have to use the EYFS as a checklist. That is already an uncomfortable process in a play based curriculum, but not difficult in a formal approach.

The education minister has said that OFSTED will not be expecting to see free-flow access from inside to outside and there is no requirement for ANY child led activities. If OFSTED is no longer required to promote children making choices & leading their own play, then why would nurseries bother?
It is more work for the adults, noisier and busier to have a play based room. Much easier to do all your planning ahead of time and herd the children around from activity to activity as it suits.

Damnautocorrect Sat 06-Jul-13 16:26:45

Children of that age learn through play, I couldn't imagine how you'd get 3 year olds to sit and learn AND enjoy it!
Surely it will just put them off school and learning?

DD's nursery is part forestry nursery so they're all outside digging, planting and looking at bugs etc. I don't think it could be categorised as 'play' but it's definitely 'learning' and not boring.

I think there's lots of things kids get up to at nurseries that blur the lines between playing and formal learning.

thecakeisalie Sat 06-Jul-13 16:42:33

We care. I don't understand the current age for starting formal learning let alone introducing more formal learning into the early years. It saddens me to think people think the most important aspects of a child's life are learning academic skills at such a young age. I personally believe happy children learn best and play based learning has huge advantages over formal learning.

We are voting with our feet on this one and skipping school completely - home education all the way for us. If either of my boys choose to try school when they are older then at least they made the decision and they will always be free to return to being home educated.

I really don't think the solution to a better education includes longer hours, less holidays or more formal learning. Its such a relief knowing we won't be dealing with school every time I read a new headline about the changes to education.

schooldidi Sat 06-Jul-13 16:43:31

I opted out of the pre-school based within the primary dd2 will go to and have instead sent her to a different local pre-school which is much more play-based with free-flowing access to both an outdoor space and a hall with trikes, scooters, dolls prams, etc. Dd2 is loving it. She may not learn to read at nursery, but that's not the most important thing to me, I want her to be happy at school and enjoy going there. She'll "get" the reading so much quicker if she starts older, and pretty soon I expect her to be reading the library (dd1's current goal, she's started at the A authors and has now read all the way to the Ps, in a reasonably large secondary school library)

teacherlikesapples Sat 06-Jul-13 17:08:01

The main distinction for me mrscumberbatch is the amount of choice children get to make and how the activities are planned.

Formal learning tends to have a more structured plan & the teacher generally needs to see a particular outcome. So the teacher might make a plan for all the things they needs to cover in a term, then schedule the appropriate activities.

Free-play can be a bit more responsive to the individual. The teacher looks for teachable moments for each of the children throughout the day, meaning the children can cover several different curriculum areas at the same time. e.g You spot a reluctant writer playing with cars (his favourite) You add large paper, sticky tape some pens to the back of the cars, add some photocopies of maps. Before you know it the child is experimenting with mark making- making roads, maps, signs. Simple, quick & relevant to that child. So his interest is sparked. You build on this little by little each day and before you know it that boy is making books about his favourite cars. (This is an actual example of a boy in my class this term)

So imagine the child (there is at least one in every class!) who just needs to run & move. From a teaching perspective- if that child has the opportunity to move when they need to, I have a greater chance of getting them focused on academic stuff at some point during the day.

If all of the children need to operate on the same schedule, i.e they can only run at certain times, in a certain way, in a certain place- that child is likely to be disruptive at the focus activities (taking me away from the "teaching")

Replace the child who needs to move with a shy child, or a child with behavioural difficulties or special needs. Perhaps one who is very capable, who needs an extra challenge? It is much easier to meet the needs of these individuals if you have flexibility and choice in your programme. Every child is so different and I love having the flexibility to make the curriculum relevant and interesting to them. That would be near impossible if I had to have them all doing the same thing at the same time.

Nanny0gg Sat 06-Jul-13 17:12:07

But reception classes are now very free, inside and out and play based. Why would nursery be more formal?

morethanpotatoprints Sat 06-Jul-13 17:13:05


We voted with our feet too. None of mine went to nursery, only one to pre school and two went through school. We have been H.ed for a year and ditto to headlines concerning education.
I do pity dc having to go through the circus Gove is planning. Although in hindsight every government treats our dc like guinea pigs, perhaps they always will. smile

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper Sat 06-Jul-13 17:37:20

Its stuff like this that frightens me and make me sad that HE is likely out of my reach sad why can't they just leave well alone.

BabyMakesMyEyesGoSleepy Sat 06-Jul-13 17:47:48

I sent mine to a high scope pre school despite the huge move towards Montessori.

It makes me sad too. And kids start school so early too. 4 years old is still tiny. I come from a Scandinavian country. My first two went to nursery they and came to the UK aged 6 and 4. My eldest had recently started preschool. I think that's a much better system. We are forcing chikdren into education too early- in schools and in nurseries- and I have seen from DS, who went to nursery and is in school here, that he's feeling the effects already.

KobayashiMaru Sat 06-Jul-13 18:15:19

It's just a bit more bullshit on the bullshit you were already doing. You've had years of nonsense about learning outcomes and targets and guidelines for two year olds. It's not like you're going from simple play to a classroom setting, you were already nearly there.

Latara Sat 06-Jul-13 18:34:03

teacher the government don't want to promote skills like independence, creativity, and most of all 'critical thinking' - they would prefer children to be told ''what, when and how'' to think.

It makes it easier to govern people and fool them if they can't think critically - sorry if that's a bit paranoid.

It's very sad I think.

It is very foolish.

It's quite odd that they quote the Finnish system often yet seems to be ignoring all of it. Having read the proposed new National Curriculum and Finland's curriculum for basic education (their Y1-Y9, which is a far shorter document, it was easier to understand and faster to read than just the English section of the UK's). I have no idea what from the Finland system they've used but it reads more like the status quo with ideological tweaks to me.

RubyrooUK Sat 06-Jul-13 19:36:25

I agree with you OP. I think play-based learning is vital. And I think actually that using play-based techniques to learn actually helps with things like reading etc. My son loves recognising words and letters etc and he is two. It is all a game to him and I don't make it formal because he doesn't need that yet. He is so imaginative and I feel a bit depressed that he will go to school aged four and two weeks because I feel it should still be about play-based learning then.

The irony is (on a slight tangent) that in adult life, using play and games is increasingly popular. For example, my Nike Fuelband makes a game out of being active in an attempt to make exercise more palatable. You can compete with your neighbours in a "game" to cut down electricity use and so on. So companies see that even adults respond to play and games. And yet education seems to be moving away from that.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 06-Jul-13 20:58:08

Another ironic one here is how many people believe their preschool dc are receiving a formal non play inspired education because they are learning about bugs and digging in the garden, park etc.
This is learning through play and practical application.
This is what will be replaced by a more formal classroom led rote learning system, starting from pre school. This unfortunately is what many parents don't know/ can't see.

grumpalumpgrumped Sat 06-Jul-13 21:07:01

OP it makes me very sad too. I can also see me leaving my profession of 20 years. sad

nailak Sat 06-Jul-13 21:11:34

tbh i know that my childs nursery wont be doing that, the head teacher is one of the leading experts in the field of early years education and knows the value of child initiated learning.

morethanpotatoprints Sat 06-Jul-13 21:13:48


Are they free to do that. I think its pretty much determined by Gov policy.

Notcontent Sat 06-Jul-13 22:07:46

I think it's ridiculous to start formal learning so early.
I started school at 7 before moving to a country where school starts earlier but I was actually at the same level. At that early age what happens at home is what matters.

Helenagrace Sun 07-Jul-13 13:24:12

I haven't seen successful play based learning in action so I probably won't miss it.

In my experience it involves lots of poorly supervised children playing with the same things day after day in the same way or just being aggressive with each other.

The only ones who get anything out of it are those with SN because they get an adult to work with them.

I was delighted when my DS was removed from the EYFS area and put in a year one class. It meant he actually learned something and came home with fewer bruises.

I don't think there are enough inspired practitioners out there to make it work.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 07-Jul-13 14:21:56


My dd is 9 and learns so much from play based learning, she thinks she is playing, I know how much progress she is making.
Even in reception and y1 there are presently plenty of opportunities to learn through play and that is indeed how your ds would have/will be taught.
Unfortunately, this is due to cease soon and children as young as 2 will receive a teacher led formal education. Not something many parents will want for their children.

teacherlikesapples Sun 07-Jul-13 16:01:24

Helenagrace- I agree, without good ratios & properly trained staff free play can be chaotic & cause issues- because it is essentially children doing what they want. The ideal is to giving children the opportunities to make choices, then skilled adults supporting them to learn to make good ones.

When inappropriate behaviour doesn't get addressed and the children who are engaged in constructive activity get distracted or miss out on the adults attention- because they are busy doing 'crowd control'. A quality play based curriculum has boundaries & discipline.

I just wonder what the alternative would look like with those same ratios & uninspired unqualified staff.

If it boils down to us controlling the children- expecting them to think & act only in certain ways, how will they learn to do that for themselves?

teacherlikesapples Sun 07-Jul-13 16:03:51

Sorry- posted with half my sentence missing! Meant to say:

It is definitely a problem when inappropriate behaviour doesn't get addressed and the children who are engaged in constructive activity get distracted or miss out on the adults attention- because they are too busy doing 'crowd control'. A good quality play based curriculum will have consistent boundaries & discipline.

moogy1a Sun 07-Jul-13 16:38:53

I'm a childminder. I had my inspection about 2 months ago and I was told by the OFSTED inspector at least 3 times that my outcome would be judged on the "quality of teaching".
Very very emphasised it's all about teaching and progression. This was based on the one year old I care for.
Really scary that thet is the priority.
I intend to carry on as I am then spout the appropriate bullshit based on whatever mad idea is fashionable with OFSTED come inspection time.
Worrying though that some early years providers will feel they have to go along with this awful way of developing children

TraceyTrickster Mon 08-Jul-13 09:12:51

Here in Australia, kids do not have to be in formal school until the year in which they turn far the kids seem happy, content and to be learning well. Just because they start 1-2 years later than UK does not impact the literacy rate, or uni attendance rate.

KatyTheCleaningLady Mon 08-Jul-13 09:18:28

I don't think it's a bad thing. The kids seem to play a lot.

ReallyTired Mon 08-Jul-13 09:32:50

My son went to nursery before all the EYFS crap. He had a mix of formal activities and tons of play. I believe that he had a better nursery experience than my daughter. The EYFS has dumbed down nursery to the lowest common denominatior. My daughter was bored rigid at her private nursery.

I feel that children need a mixture of both. No one is proposing that children sit down at desks and do sums or hand writing practice at the age of three. However gentle encouragement to get a child to persist at something that is difficult helps concentration. (Painting, cutting sticking, jigsaws, making shapes out of playdough)

Children do need a lot of free play, but 100% free play gets boring especially if a child is there all day.

DonDrapersAltrEgoBigglesDraper Mon 08-Jul-13 09:38:47

I couldn't agree more.

Luckily I'm in a country where my 4-year old goes to Kindergarten to learn through play, and won't start school until he's 5.

pianodoodle Mon 08-Jul-13 09:52:12

We didn't have pre-school but started P1 at age 4 (this is N.Ireland) and I'm still of the opinion this is fine.

You do lessons but I remember lots of playing as well.

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper Mon 08-Jul-13 10:05:51

I think if your nursery is doing 100% free play with the same toys and no toy rotation or activities then you have chosen a pretty rubbish nursery really. I've worked in nurseries with EYFS and they both still had a mixture of free play and guided activities where the adult was alongside to make sure they were being safe (scissors etc) and then gently encouraging learning (describing colours that the child was using, noises the scissors made, textures and shapes with the play dough etc). Toys were rotated in and out and the role play areas were always changing to encourage new interactions. That's all learning through play. I couldn't imagine it all being more formal all the time. I'm picturing children sat on the mat looking at pictures of colours and learning them by rote. How is that going to encourage learning more than playing with toys and being told the colours that way (that's a red truck! I've got the green car!) and absorbing the knowledge naturally.

teacherlikesapples Mon 08-Jul-13 16:36:26

I think the thing that seems abundantly clear from this thread is that many parents don't understand what a good quality free-play nursery setting should look like and assume that if a place is free-play that means the staff are only supervising & letting children do what they want.

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper & ReallyTired: Just because a nursery has 100% free play- doesn't mean that staff aren't working with children to extend their thinking. Quite the opposite- freeplay enables staff the flexibility to work with individual children & small groups to extend thinking in ways relevant to those individual children.

We are constantly on the lookout for teachable moments. Careful thought is put in each day, into the environment, resources, strategies, language, interaction...

We still plan, we still do projects, we set targets & goals, we evaluate each day & adapt our plans based on what we have observed. So that the set up each day is relevant to the strengths, needs and interests of the children in the group. Persisting with difficulty & developing concentration are a key component of the EYFS.

The teachers still offer structured activities- the children just choose whether to participate. If we notice that particular children never engage with the adult lead activities- we plan things based on their interest, we take the learning/teaching to where they are.

The settings you describe where toys are not rotated & 'activities' are dumbed down- is not good practice or good quality.

NadiaWadia Mon 08-Jul-13 17:39:06

I suppose that's what happens when the power resides in the hands of fairly recently appointed government ministers who know nothing about education (their previous job could have been in transport or any other unconnected field), and yet once in power, they feel they can ignore professionals in the field with decades of experience. And yet the public are all supposed to take seriously their pompous pontificating.

I went to what was considered a very progressive state primary in the 1970s and remember a lot of play. School was full of exciting activities. I was a bit sad when DD started school in the late 90s to find that the school day had become more formalised, with 'literacy hour' etc, and even though her school was excellent, the teachers obviously had no choice in this. And now things are going to get much more formal than that, feel very sorry for children starting school in the next few years.

Maybe someone should start a campaign about it?

ReallyTired Mon 08-Jul-13 19:58:40

I go with what my daughter enjoys. She is at school nursery where there is a mixture of guided activites and free play. Her teacher gets all the children to sing songs at the end of the day, the children play instruments, they have a story and go on nature walks in the school grounds.

In contrast the day nursery had lovely grounds and better toys, but my daughter was bored. She is eager to learn and having to discover everything for herself is frankly a very slow way to learn.

"nd yet once in power, they feel they can ignore professionals in the field with decades of experience. And yet the public are all supposed to take seriously their pompous pontificating. "

Many "professionals" ignore parents who know their children best. Some children enjoy structure.

HamsterDam Mon 08-Jul-13 20:16:46

my ds will be 4in October has been at a private nursery since he was 9 months. since January maybe before they have been learning phonics and they sit and do number work. he can recognise numbers up to 100, counts to 12 recognises all the letters of the alphabet and can say them in order and writes his name.
can't see the harm in spending an hour a day on work like this so long as a child that's not interested or is getting frustrated with it is being tortured/forced.
little brains are like sponges they learn it all so quickly. if they are still allowed to play then what's the harm?
academic achievement is important to me and my sons dad (my ex) so when he starts at his new pre school in September which is much more play orientated- they don't do any phonics or number work, as parents we will continue the work at home, ds enjoys it and is capable so why not?

PrettyKitty1986 Mon 08-Jul-13 20:26:27

I'm not really that concerned. I remember when the move was made to learning through play. I couldn't really see any difference in the classroom from before. So I'm not too bothered if they change it back.


It's a tragedy and I'm worried for the future of my children's education.


I will add, my ds goes to a play based pre-school - and he's doing brilliantly. Trying to read (he's 3), write, his confidence has come on leaps and bounds and he's learning so much. The idea of him sitting down doing forced academic style learning fills me with dread. He's tiny.

Also Montessori nurseries which are almost always leaps ahead do it this way - play based. They're better for a reason.

Oh and he doesn't just "play with toys" all day.

sweettooth99 Mon 08-Jul-13 20:35:30

So pleased that someone somewhere is flagging this up for discussion. Formal learning in the early years is madness. You are not being u at all

This just demonstrates how ridiculous Gove's ideas are - he just makes it up.

sweettooth99 Mon 08-Jul-13 20:40:19

Why can't we start a campaign?! How do we do it?

One of those petitions would be a start and ask MN if they'd sponsor one?

ReallyTired Mon 08-Jul-13 20:42:54

Seeing this thread it is clear that in many settings some children are gently introduced to phonics, shown how to write their name, getting children how to recongise numbers. Surely all nurseries should be doing this.

I don't believe that even Gove wants pre school children sitting in rows doing formal learning. It is making sure that all nurseries get a suitable balance. Prehaps it shows the importance of having graduates in the pre school class room so that children have access to high quality learning experiences.

Prehaps it shows the importance of having graduates in the pre school class room so that children have access to high quality learning experiences

Why? Graduates may be more academic but it certainly doesn't make it them better at engaging with children.

nextphase Mon 08-Jul-13 20:45:14

Totally totally disagree with teaching more to little kids!
Please, let them be kids, and learn about how to move their bodys, interact with people, and mess about making mud and sand cakes.

Apples is there a way we can say early learning is NOT the way forward to the government, or is it too late? I saw this on the bbc earlier, and was horrified.

But then I'm one of the few mummies (in this pushy parent town), whos child can't write his name before he goes to school in Sept.

He does, however know what happens to caterpillars, as we read "The very Hungry Caterpillar", and have kept a caterpillar in a jam jar on the kitchen table, fed it, made sure the cut leaves were kept damp, and watch it pupate. So we were learning, but following something which fascinated 2 and 4 year old boys.

I think a mixture is appropriate. Ds started in a very play focused preschool which takes children from age 2. He is moving to a school based nursery with a qualified teacher for his final year which will give him a bit more formal teaching which he seems ready for being a Sept baby and youngest of 3. I think giving schools a bit more latitude to make their own unique settings and letting parents vote with their feet with the setting they want when they want it would be better. But perish the thought that we would risk putting someone in charge of making decisions about a child's education who has no experience as a teacher or in education...

Tweet @Number10gov to register your discontent!

HamsterDam Mon 08-Jul-13 20:51:37

don't understand the uproar. they can do both, its not that 3 year olds will be tied to desks what is the harm in introducing phonics and numbers?
some kids are capable and enjoy a challenge.
my ds can write his name and knows the alphabet that doesn't mean he isn't creative or doesn't get to play.
children's brains are amazing and adaptable things, if they are capable of learning it then teach it to them

To answer the OP's question - some parents think that academic achievement at the age of 5 is vital. These are the parents sneaking looks in book bags on play dates to compare reading bands and insisting the teacher 'stretch' their child. These are the parents sitting at home doing number bonds and phonics ad nauseum. As time goes on those are the parents threatening their kids if they don't get 5s in their SATS and stressing their children out about their GCSE results. Then eventually the child will leave home for university and what happens next is anybody's guess. What is for certain though is that the best part of two decades have been spent judging a child, your child, by attainment. It's pretty chilling tbh.
My youngest child is going in to Year 2 so will I deduce be minimally affected by this. I know though that it would be a disaster for her. SHe is a child that you need to seize the learning opportunities as outlined by OP. Motivation and involvment is everything. You cannot simply tell her what to think. She won't play ball.

grumpalumpgrumped Mon 08-Jul-13 21:45:38

Very true northernlurker

HamsterDam Mon 08-Jul-13 22:01:54

i disagree completely nothernlurker.
some parents might be like that but just because i want my child to achieve academically and we do number work and practice phonics at home doesn't mean i will threaten or force him. nor do i care what other peoples kids are doing i just want my own to reach his full potential.
if i believe my ds has the potential to be reading when he starts school why wouldn't i help him to achieve that?
i do want him to be stretched at school , bored kids can be just as disruptive in classes as the ones that struggle

AmyFarrahFowlerCooper Mon 08-Jul-13 22:05:02

teacherlikesapples, I'm aware that free play encourages learning having worked in childcare. Note that I said "free play with no toy rotation" which implies no thought about environment or the children's changing needs and said this was a "rubbish nursery". So basically what you said in your last paragraph in different words. So don't lump me in with people who don't understand what learning through play is smile

ReallyTired Mon 08-Jul-13 22:10:23

The early years curriculum is nothing to do with academic achievement at five year old; its about setting a child up to learn for the rest of their life. As a parent I am keen that my child is happy at nursery.

Before the EYFS nurseries and childminders had far more freedom to offer a curriuclum that suited their children's needs. Parents were able to pick a setting which provided the type of early years curriculum that they believed was best. OFSTED concentrated on making sure children were well looked after.

I feel that the EYFS has a ridiculous stranglehold over British Schools, nurseries and pre schools. Its ironic that state funded schools ie; academies are being allowed to ditch the national curriculum but private schools are forced to follow the EYFS.

bunnybing Mon 08-Jul-13 22:14:25

Quite surprised things are getting more formal.

When DD1 started preschool in 2006 there was lots of playing both inside and outside, but every child encouraged to do complete a couple of specific activities - differentiated according to their ability - eg using building blocks to make a pattern/make a card or write their name.
By the time DD2 was at preschool in 2008 all structure had been blown out of the water - according to govt EYFs guidelines the children were now to pretty much do what they wanted for the 3 hours, so if they wanted to do sticking/gluing all the time they could etc.

I preferred the former way.

SHarri13 Mon 08-Jul-13 22:20:19

For this very reason I have kept my older two sons at a playgroup rather than pre-school. They've got plenty if time to learn when they start school.

There are mothers of others in my eldests class that complain that they play far too much, they are in reception.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 08-Jul-13 22:51:16

Surely preschool means before school, which should be play. Why are people referring to classrooms?
Also do you realise that when your dc are digging in the garden, making a model, using plasticine, experimenting in sand etc. This is play, even if the key worker is leading your child to meet some objective.
Yes Gove is talking about formal education for 2 year olds.

Hamster - why does your child need to be reading when he starts school? There are plenty of ways to keep bright children engaged without that. Nobody thinks they're going to pressurise their child but my oldest is 15. I've seen a lot of kids and parents and some do go way, way too far. It's as well to be aware of that risk don't you think?

pianodoodle Tue 09-Jul-13 09:35:25

What's the harm in learning to read at four alongside playing etc...?

Saying they don't need to doesn't mean it won't be enjoyable or beneficial.

You can take enjoyment from lots of things.

I was asked by an independant school as an instrumental teacher as lots of their parents had shown an interest in having their children learn.

The average age was 7-8 and many of these hadn't started to read properly. A complete shock to the system for me as my usual students (some as young as 5) all had these skills.

I was having to teach some their left from their right hand. I had to teach a few the alphabet up to G. Also they couldn't read their own practise notebooks, the titles of pieces or the words to sing along.

After a while I had kids who could now read music quite well but still could read words, and that apparently caused some muttering among the teachers who considered them too young to be doing it.

None of them were unhappy in their lessons, or showed signs of any particular hardship at having learned something for half an hour!

According to the school, the students have "caught up" with the average state school pupil in academic terms by the age of 14 or 15 but TBH from what I saw, I sincerely doubt it.

Lots of parents were also paying for extra tuition outside school as well. I was pretty bewildered as to why they decided to chuck so much money at a school that seems to teach bugger all then chuck more money away playing catch up.

I'm sure they all had a lovely time at the school but I'm not sure they'll have such a lovely time with their job applications.

Maybe I'm old fashioned :D

pianodoodle Tue 09-Jul-13 09:45:49

Having said all of the above, I should add that there were aspects of the school life that I thought were great. There was a good atmosphere and the children were great.

Coming from a grammar school background I did feel like I'd been lured to summerisle for the first few weeks though - and Mayday was coming up.

ReallyTired Tue 09-Jul-13 14:34:58

Lots of children being unable to read at 7/8 is very extreme. I assume it must be a steiner school.

I feel that when market forces dicated what children learnt with childminders, nurseries, schools etc there was a better balance between formal learning and learning through play. Most parents aren't stupid, they want their children be mentally stimulated with a range of interesting activities rather than hot housed.

What bunnybing described in 2006 sounds ideal.

teacherlikesapples Tue 09-Jul-13 18:35:58

HamsterDan- If an individual child is ready to learn something academically, then good practice in a free-play nursery would have the staff planning suitable activities to extend that learning, be it phonics, writing, mathematics etc... Most of my school leavers (4 year olds) know their letter sounds, can read/write their own & friends names- some are reading much more than that, all have a 1:1 correspondence, all can count & recognise numbers beyond 13, all learnt during free play.

The point that is being made here is that the formal learning approach relies on EVERY child being ready at the same time. That doesn't fit with reality.

pianodoodle- there is no harm in learning to read through play. Many children do. The issue I have is with the alternative. Many children are taught before they are ready or in a way that is boring or puts them off wanting to learn more. I want the children in my class to have intrinsic motivation, to be so excited about their learning that they just want more- I don't want me to be doing all the thinking for them.

There are several literacy concepts a child needs to understand before they are ready to read- not all children learn these at the same time. So it makes more sense to bring the literacy teaching to where that child is in play- be it the block area, home corner, sand pit- until they are ready for more formal teaching.

A bit fed up with assumption that just because we want to promote learning through play that means children won't be learning anything academically. Quite the opposite- especially if you can accept that there is more academically that the 3 Rs!

HamsterDam Tue 09-Jul-13 19:28:03

he doesn't need to be reading when he starts school but if i can encourage him to get there then why not?
im not talking about sitting him down for hours threatening him or punishing him.
we do the alphabet he says a letter then i say the next one until we get to the end then start again the other way round so he says all the letters. then we do it with sounds. same for numbers, its a game and its helping him learn.
he enjoys reading loves books as do i so its just while we're enjoying a book we sound the letters of the last word of a sentence, im not making him try to read whole books he's not even 4 yet

HamsterDam Tue 09-Jul-13 19:30:49

maybe im selfish not to be concerned about the changes because i think my child will cope with them and reach his potential.
i would rather my child be stretched than bored in a class being taught to the lowest common denominator

teacherlikesapples Tue 09-Jul-13 19:50:24

HamsterDam- I think you are misunderstanding what is being discussed here. It seems you believe that the only way for a child to learn something is if they are sat in front of an adult. i.e Being 'taught' something.
That is just not true.

Also if the teacher is teaching everyone at once (i.e Teacher led formal learning) - do you think it will be as easy for them to 'stretch' each child & differentiate as needed?

Compared to a free play curriculum where the teacher ensures they observe & plan for each child as an individual. Make sure each child gets the opportunity for 1:1 & small group work, engages in child led & adult led activities. Through that they figure out where each child is & extend their learning for the ENTIRE curriculum (i.e not just literacy) all day. Every day. Just in a way that is relevant to that child's interests.

Rather than just hoping your child is ready when literacy is scheduled to be taught on Wednesday mornings between 10-11am.

teacherlikesapples Tue 09-Jul-13 20:01:56

CreatureRetorts- maybe those that care could ask @Number10gov why they choose to ignore the comprehensive research & findings of the Cambridge primary review which recommended delaying formal learning until age 6.

There are loads more research that shows this of course, but when the Government is attempting to argue the case for improving academics- why ignore the findings of the UK education elite?

HamsterDam Tue 09-Jul-13 21:10:16

i understand kids can learn through play not just being sat with an adult, you would have to be completely thick to believe that which im not.
im not saying 4 5 and 6 year olds should be taught in this way all day everyday i just don't see the harm in encouraging kids that are capable to learn to read and write

teacherlikesapples Tue 09-Jul-13 21:26:13

No one does though. Both the quality free play curriculum & structured formal approach would promote that. Just in very different ways and arguably -very different outcomes.

The Cambridge University research had this to say "There is no evidence that a child who spends more time learning through lessons – as opposed to learning through play – will ‘do better’ in the long run. In fact,
research suggests the opposite; that too formal too soon
can be dangerously counterproductive. In 14 of the 15
countries that scored higher than England in a major
study of reading and literacy in 2006, children did not
enter school until they were six or seven. And more
children read for pleasure in most of those countries than
do so in England."

So while there may be a belief that children taught formally will gain skills earlier, those from a free play curriculum quickly catch up and tend to read more for pleasure and end up scoring higher in actual general literacy attainment. This is without even looking at the research on other areas of development such as emotional, physical skills, communication & social skills (all of which btw favour the free-play approach)

Blu Tue 09-Jul-13 21:36:12

I care, OP. The whole thing makes me boiling wild.

I don't even think we should be encouraging 'learning through play' in nursery, with targets and a curriculum and achievement monitoring. think tiny children should simply play. And be offered high quality play oportunities which give them lots of scope for imagination, creativity, building, finding out, seeing, balancing, speaking, using their hands, physical games.

Through which they happen to learn things.

But it is the quality of play that should be kept up to scratch, and play for play's sake should be sacrosanct in the life of a 3 year old.

teacherlikesapples Tue 09-Jul-13 22:03:59

Blu- I think you hit the nail on the head there with the phrase 'high quality play opportunities'

If the Government instead focusing on staff recruitment & training. Making sure the adults working with children understood child development and worked hard to plan and set up an environment that encouraged their learning.

As a teacher I am happy to do more training, I am happy to be observed, inspected, held up to scrutiny. I am happy to work alongside parents, to do paperwork that is meaningful to parents & children. I am happy to work long hours, research in my own time and put everything I can into my work- so that by the time holidays arrive, I am so worn out the first week of holidays is spent sleeping & catching up on every other part of life. I don't mind any of that. All I ask in return is that we have parents working with us, trusting us & supporting us. That the Government pays attention to the mountains of science & research that has been done in this field.

This whole thing is really getting me down sad

morethanpotatoprints Tue 09-Jul-13 22:05:08

I must be boring to you all again but here we go....

The right of a child to play, is right up there on the Convention of Human Rights and if I remember correctly it was the Geneva Convention.

Just saying grin

I care too.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 09-Jul-13 22:15:33


You are very narrow minded if you don't believe the children you talk about will level to their peers.
What does it matter when you learn to read.
An education is a marathon not a sprint.
As a H.ed parent I have read about dc who have ended up taking GCSE's very early, having only wanted to learn to read and write at 9, 10 or later.
If we allow dc to have fun whilst learning their education and what they learn will be fondly memorable, more so than if they are forced to do things when they are not ready.

teacherlikesapples Tue 09-Jul-13 22:15:50

morethanpotatoprints - I'm a big fan of your work! So nice to know I'm not on my own here smile

morethanpotatoprints Tue 09-Jul-13 22:25:26


Ah thanks I can't do much really but feel passionately about kids playing.

I feel so much for you in your position. You must feel like you are fighting a losing battle.
I don't know what the answer is and just wish more people could see it.
My dd loves reading and was always average but didn't want to do it heavily unless cajoled. She is reading a book a day atm and is hungry for knowledge which wasn't her personality at school at all.

ha, she could also write, sing and compose music, before she could read and right. She still struggles with spelling and blending loads of words, but she'll get there.
Maths has improved because she does the grocery shopping with me in tow. It has taken a while but through play she is really improving.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 09-Jul-13 22:27:23

write, sorry. I'm dyslexic and hate spelling words wrong arghhhhhhhhhh
Please excuse my writing and typing, as I use 2 fingers to type. sad

Thing is hamster most children can learn to read and write and end up on broadly the same page (pun intended). Doing it at 3 or 4 confers no advantage - so why do it?

dianashaw Tue 22-Oct-13 02:26:19

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

SatinSandals Tue 22-Oct-13 06:32:56

I agree with you OP. If I had young children I would just vote with my feet, the forest schools sound lovely to me.

anchovies Tue 22-Oct-13 06:56:36

I am a governor of a nursery that recently received outstanding from ofsted on the basis of it's attitude to early years play based learning. The inspector whole heartedly agreed with everything the nursery was doing and especially liked the forest school and outdoor areas. They take a novel approach to mark making and numeracy, finding opportunities in play. The headteacher in completely commited and training focuses around this approach and also importantly how she can document progress whilst still focussing on every child as an individual.

Despite all this, the nursery is nowhere near full and is facing closure in favour of attaching another nursery to a local primary school because parents in this affluent area choose a more formal education for their three year olds. I find it heartbreaking!

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now