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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?

mrscumberbatch Sat 06-Jul-13 16:32:47

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.

TheMagicKeyCanFuckOff Sat 06-Jul-13 18:10:10

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.

LittleSporksBigSpork Sat 06-Jul-13 18:50:20

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.

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