It’s great that so many people are reading our blog entries and want to contribute their own guest posts. This week we are very happy to be able to share a guest post by Kerry Holman, who is a member of the OMEP UK (World Organisation for Early Childhood UK branch) charity committee. She is discussing the important transition that children in England make at the age of five from a play-based curriculum to a formal curriculum.
Last week, I was chatting to a mum whose little boy had just made the transition from the Foundation Stage into Key Stage One; he had spent his first two days in Year 1. Making polite conversation, I asked her if he had enjoyed his first days in his new class. However, I did not anticipate the response! It went along the lines of him saying to her:
“I am sorry for being naughty in Reception. If I promise to be good, can I go back to Reception?”
She went on to tell me how he had come home after the second day, and felt like Year 1 was a punishment for his behaviour in Reception (which, from her description, sounded like a “typical” five year old boy who loved to play). Now, as an early years teacher myself, I felt really sad for her son. Our conversation reminded me of the Characteristics of Effective Learning within the Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) which are all about children playing and exploring, creating and thinking for themselves, and becoming active learners. This little boy felt like the play had gone.
We often hear about children starting school, going into Reception for the very first time. We share and see photos of children in their school uniform on their first day, hear all about their new teachers, and all the rules they must now follow! This was discussed in the post last week. Often, these children have come from some form of pre-school setting, be it a nursery, a childminder, or a more traditional pre-school setting. Their transition into school is of course a huge milestone, and rightly so – but ultimately, the majority are transitioning into a setting which follows the same framework (The Early Years Foundation Stage) as they did in pre-school, with a learning through play ethos. It is not until Year One when they move into a whole new Key Stage, and a new curriculum.
There is research out there exploring this transition from the Foundation Stage into Key Stage One, and a really good read is a book by Julie Fisher, published in 2010. It is nearly 8 years old now, but the story I heard inspired me to read it again. It describes research conducted that explores the views of parents, teachers and children during this period of transition. It highlights the value of child-initiated practices and the place of play in Key Stage One, which are particularly important when children are just starting.
The anecdote I’ve shared, and the research that is out there, suggests that maybe some people need to pay more attention to this transition. Perhaps we should listen to the children who directly experience this leap, from a play based framework to a curriculum where children don’t feel that learning is fun. We need to listen to children more to support their well-being, and their confidence during this transition, so that they are able to develop as independent and confident learners moving on. What do you think?