Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report on reception class curriculum is flawed

The Guardian Letters 16th January 2018  

“We are deeply concerned about Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report. The report infers that reception classes should be taught like year 1. This would mean narrowing the curriculum to focus more heavily on literacy and mathematics, overly formal teaching and less opportunity for play. It asserts that “successful” schools already teach in this way. However, the report is based on visits to less than 0.25% of schools. It appears that Ofsted only visited schools where teaching was congruent with the recommendations the report would later make.

Thousands of reception children make excellent progress following a broad and balanced curriculum where play is the central feature. Here, children engage in purposeful activities, both adult-guided and child-led, with teachers who are highly skilled in moving learning forward. The basic architecture of a child’s brain is forming during reception year. Introducing overly formal, unsuitable teaching practices is a potential disaster for children’s learning.

Education is our collective responsibility. We urge reception teachers to continue to base their practice on their professional knowledge of how young children learn best. We ask senior leadership teams to have confidence in their teachers in doing so. We call on parents and carers to advocate for each child’s right to learn through play.

 The government must review their plans regarding changes to the nature of the reception year. The biased Bold Beginnings report risks being used as a basis for educational policy. It is based on flawed evidence and it should be withdrawn.

Elaine Bennett Keeping Early Years Unique, Prof Robert Winston Imperial College London, Tracy Brabin MP Shadow early years minister, Kevin Courtney Joint general secretary, National Education Union, Dr Mary Bousted Joint general secretary, National Education Union Michael Rosen Children’s author, Thelma Walker MP Member, education select committee, Caroline Lucas MP Green party co-leader, Elaine Bennett Reception and year 1 teacher, founding member of Keeping Early Years Unique, Dr David Whitebread Retired senior member, Homerton College, Cambridge, Wendy Scott President, TACTYC (Association for Professional Development in the Early Years), Hugh Greenwood Headteacher, Wainscott primary school, Rochester, Kent, Lynn Hannay Chair, National Association for Primary Education (NAPE), Michael Fielding Emeritus professor of education, UCL Institute of Education, London, David Reedy General secretary, United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA), Beatrice Merrick Chief executive, Early Education, Neil Leitch CEO, Pre-school Learning Alliance and over 1,700 others – see www.keyu.co.uk/bold-beginnings/