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playing in the reception class

52 replies

adastreet · 19/01/2009 19:59

Hi, I am a reception class teacher and I am seriously worried that many teachers are not teaching our 4 and 5 year olds. Do parents realise that in the current Early Years curriculum guidance there is no recommendation to actually TEACH. we can deliver, and give opportunities but no one is asking us to teach. Do any parents have experience of feeling that their children are not being taught the basic skills?

OP posts:
cory · 20/01/2009 11:59

Yes, well why can't she practise at home? Why does she have to join a club and be acknowledged? How about just doing things because they are fun?

This isn't really about her being understimulated; it's about her wanting more praise from the teacher. Which is understandable given her young age, but surely you could provide the praise at home? And encourage her to do things for the sake of it, rather than for getting praised.

Fennel · 20/01/2009 12:02

One of mine was reading and writing well at the beginning of reception, but she spent reception AND yr 1 in a play-based class, and loved it. She's only complained about being bored since they moved on from the play-based curriculum to the more formal learning.

Noone stopped her reading or writing in reception, but it was mostly free choice rather than required activity.

weblette · 20/01/2009 12:10

By "acknowledge her achievements" what do you think the teacher should be doing lala?

lalalonglegs · 20/01/2009 12:21

She does practise her reading and her second language at home.

I think that if she asks the teacher if she can have a reading book, the teacher should say yes rather than tell her she is too young and not ready to be reading. I think that if there is a language club she should be allowed to join, not ruled out on grounds of age (and the language club is advertised around the school so she asked about it). And, yes, it is about her being understimulated; some children don't want to play all day, even if they do, I feel that sometimes they may want some adult direction and structure, not just drifting from sand table to plasticine to home corner. She is quite swotty and goal-driven and she wants to do other things.

I suppose great teachers will make a play-based curriculum fun and interesting and the children will learn from it; mediocre teachers will not.

cory · 20/01/2009 12:34

Fair enough, she may have a mediocre teacher. But I also think there is a strong case for learning to provide your own direction and structure.

And who has told this 4-year-old that reading is a goal and building the perfect sandcastle is not? Just because she is better at reading doesn't mean she shouldn't work at improving something else. Next year, she will work at what she is better at and somebody else will struggle. It is good for you to work on different skills.

tbh if she is not allowed to join the language club it is probably because a 4-year-old would find it difficult to join in discussions on the same level as children aged 8 and 9 and over. I think that is wholly understandable. There is no way she is going to be as emotionally mature as a child on the verge of puberty; their whole way of working would have to change to accommodate her.

cory · 20/01/2009 12:38

"some children don't want to play all day"

Well, some children don't want to read all day, either- but once they get to year 2, that's what they're going to have to do, whether they like it or not. Because it is about learning essential skills. And so is play-based learning.

I grew up in Sweden where practical skills are valued far more highly in the school curriculum than they have ever been in this country. I was hopeless at them and hated them- but I am really glad nobody asked me; they have been valuable later in life. I was going to read in my leisure time anyway, but I needed someone to make me do the things I didn't want to do.

weblette · 20/01/2009 12:43

My experience of reception - three children through it - is that it's a mix of smaller, more focused activities as well as times to play. It's structured and certainly not a free for all.

Really sounds as if you need to be talking to the teacher if you are so concerned.

lalalonglegs · 20/01/2009 13:19

I have been talking to the teacher (as have other parents) and basically had my concerns dismissed. I have also spoken to the head teacher who doesn't seem at all interested - sighed and said that they always have problems with KS1 because so many children don't speak English at home, don't you know - and have now had to start on the governors. The problems I am encountering at the school aren't all about the curriculum I should add. I just wish there was something I liked about it.

cory · 20/01/2009 13:24

Fair enough, but this seems to be more a problem with your school than with the play-based curriculum per se.

I still think it is very important that a young child should be made to work on practical and social skills whether she likes it or not. And made to understand that the skills her mates get praised for are just as valuable as hers.

memoo · 20/01/2009 16:48

Lalalonglegs, tbh it sounds like you DD is in the wrong school.

Learning through play doesn't mean they aren't being taught. The reception children in my class now all know all their letters and some high frequency words, But this has all been achieved through play based activities.

lalalonglegs · 20/01/2009 21:16

Yes, she is in the wrong school but nothing we can do about it. I am aware that learning through play doesn't have to mean fart-arsing about all day - it's just how it has been interpreted by her teacher.

MillyR · 20/01/2009 21:27


I don't believe you are a teacher; I suspect you are doing research for some reason. You need to do an academic article search as there was research done a few years ago that demonstrated that learning through play was giving an advantage to white, middle class children. Working class children and children from the minority ethnic groups included in the study did not do as well in play based environments as similar children taught in a traditional way. I suspect that would be more useful to you than any comment that us MNers could make to you.

aintnomountainhighenough · 20/01/2009 21:27

The fact is that children should not be starting school so early and I am amazed that so many mumsnetters are happy with the current EYFS. My attitude to school is that if you are taking my children 5 days out of 7 then do something with them. I don't need to send them to school to play, they can learn through play at home, with their friends, in different scenarios that I choose. Playing at/doing what they want to play and not what somebody has 'put together' to 'test' and get 'evidence' to satisfy Ofsted.

lalalonglegs - I can see where you are coming from and understand your frustration. Unfortunately there is no choice in this country.

MillyR · 20/01/2009 21:31


I agree. Play is what children naturally do when left to their own devices. The stuff that gets called play in schools is something entirely different.

smartiejake · 20/01/2009 22:09

A properly trained teacher who knew about child development would never make such a ridiculously ignorant statement.

Trip trap...

cory · 21/01/2009 08:33

I believe there is the choice to keep your child out of reception and send them straight into Year 1.

ThingOne · 21/01/2009 09:37

Do you really think that's a good idea, Cory? I don't.

Fennel · 21/01/2009 09:49

I don't mind how young they start school (being the sort of mother who sent them to nursery as babies), especially as all 3 of mine are the type of children who love reception. So I'd be sending them for childcare and their enjoyment of it, irrespective of the "learning goals". I can see if your child isn't happy there you might feel it's too young, but my current 4yo is quite happy, and not pressured, so what they actually teach isn't really important to me.

Today they are building an Ice Castle. We have all made ice blocks (with glitter and toys and shells in) at home and taken them in. What's not to like about that? The teacher talks a bit about freezing and melting, we noticed that the food dye made it take longer to freeze. Etc. Not that formal at all but plenty of scientific interest for the children who do relate to that.

BonsoirAnna · 21/01/2009 09:53

Agree with the OP.

Thankfully I am in France where the three years of nursery school (école maternelle) for 3, 4 and 5 year olds are staffed by fully qualified primary teachers who do teach the children, and give them proper grounding for primary school.

cory · 21/01/2009 10:01

I, on the other hand, have experience from Sweden where parents now get a choice between starting their child in Reception at age 6 or in Year 1 at age 7. Before that, most children attend nurseries/playschool, where the emphasis is on practical skills: they help to prepare meals and are taken on nature trails, their craft skills are far superior to those of English children. Staff are highly trained, but as playschool staff, not as primary teachers.

Once they start school, they usually learn to read within a matter of months. Some of them have already taught themselves to read at this stage, but that is usually not a problem.

BonsoirAnna · 21/01/2009 10:06

It's the same in France re reading - most children are reading fluently by Christmas of their first year in primary (the calendar year of their sixth birthday) because they have done so much groundwork during maternelle and also because their oral skills are so well developed by age 6. A lot of the emphasis in maternelle is on oral language skills, which I think is an excellent thing.

And there are children who have taught themselves to read (or who have been taught by parents) before the first year of primary. In my DD's school there is one class for readers (out of 5 classes in total) in the first year of primary, so it takes account of this.

cory · 21/01/2009 10:21

SO reading is probably very similar. What strikes me about the UK is that children are so far behind on the practical side (may be different in France). The level of craft work is really low, they can't prepare the simplest meal, they know very little about plant and animal life around them, they seem to have the idea that only reading and writing counts as real learning.

This is a big difference to the Scandinavian countries an I think it holds English children back later in life.

A friend of mine who was a support teacher in London schools used to complain that it was hopeless trying to teach these children to write because they had nothing to write about.

This IMO is where all-round training for playschool/Reception teachers could make a big difference.

BonsoirAnna · 21/01/2009 10:25

French schools aren't widely praised for their teaching of manual skills, but actually I am reasonably pleasantly surprised by what DD is doing at school.

I agree that teaching children to write before they have anything much to say for themselves is pointless.

lalalonglegs · 21/01/2009 11:35

But aren't Swedish schools a lot less risk-averse? There isn't generally an assumption that children will kill themselves if given a pair of scissors for craft; that they won't get run over/dragged off into the woods if taken on a nature trail etc? The teachers in UK often seem so afraid to use their imaginations because of the logistics (perhaps imaginary) they think will be involved.

at Fennel's ice castle.

cory · 21/01/2009 12:06

Yes, you do have a good point, lalalonglegs. My nephew is actually allowed to climb trees at his primary; can't see that happening here. And as for the ice slide we had at my primary...totally lethal, of course, but great fun.

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