This week we have been thinking about the word ‘scrutiny’. The Oxford Dictionary defines this word as ‘a critical observation or examination’. It also interestingly tells us the origins of the word. Apparently it comes from the Latin ‘scrutari’ which originally meant to sort rubbish. Therefore this is quite an apt word to describe our views on certain practices that are taking place in schools with our youngest children. The ‘book scrutiny’ is a practice which has been happening in schools for many years and is all part of the ‘being-ready-for-Ofsted’ strategy. It describes how a class teacher must present a selection of the children’s exercise books to senior management so that a check can be made on the child’s progress, the teacher’s teaching and marking and the setting of targets. Although we knew this was common practice we were surprised to find out that even the very youngest children in the Reception class were included in this sample. This is only the third month these children have been in school, some are barely four, so it made us wonder what they were being scrutinised for.
We were under the impression that they should be learning through play following the Statutory Early Years Foundation Stage Framework. Of course this should include lots of opportunities for early writing and early maths but how this should be documented should be appropriate to the age of a child. If children are given the materials to make their own books they will create wonderful stories, maps and information texts in meaningful and purposeful ways. They will also engage in purposeful mathematical activities rather than simplistic maths worksheets which involves them colouring in 6 blue cars and 6 red cars until their hand aches. When BERA (the British Educational Research Association) and TACTYC (Association for Professional Development in Early Years) collaborated on a review of research into Early Childhood between 2003-2017, they found a focus on maths and literacy that emphasised ‘what the child cannot do as opposed to what they can achieve.’
It is not just the children who are impacted by this narrow focus. Teachers, too, are having to side-line what they know about child development and how children learn effectively to embrace this restrictive educational culture which we would argue is damaging to the child, the teacher, and ultimately society as a whole. It’s just rubbish isn’t it?
Now we are all for the use of rubbish in the reception class. We are inspired, as many others have been, by the creative way the Reggio approach has led the way in using recycled material to enhance children’s learning by enabling them to create something beautiful out of something worn but also to learn at the same time about sustainability. Is our pedagogy with young children becoming ‘worn out’ also? Do we need to think about ‘upcycling’ it to make something beautiful from some of the rubbish that is going on? We’d love to know what you think. Please let us know!