Learning in the Early Years 3–7


Edited by: Jeni Riley

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

    View Copyright Page


    This book is dedicated to Ben, William, Imogen, and James who have taught me so much about the amazing intellectual capability of very young children.

    Publisher's Note

    Findings from the DATEC project reproduced by kind permission of Trentham Books Ltd.

    List of Contributors

    Mike Askew is Professor of Mathematics Education at King's College, University of London and freelance writer, trainer and consultant. A former primary school teacher, he now researches, lectures and writes on teaching and learning primary mathematics. Currently he is Visiting Distinguished Scholar at City College, City University New York. Mike led the writing of the influential research report ‘Effective teachers of numeracy in primary schools’ and has directed many research projects including ‘Raising Attainment in Numeracy’ and ‘Mental Calculations: Interpretations and Implementation’. He was deputy director of the five-year Leverhulme Numeracy Research Programme which examined teaching, learning and progression in number from age 5 to age 11. Mike is particularly interested in making research findings on teaching and learning accessible to teachers. This has led to the development of the Mathematics, Teachers and Children (MaTCh) project which has taken Mike back into classrooms to teach and check out research findings for himself. Through this he is developing training and support materials that help children learn about number and operations in a ‘connected’ way. When he is not writing up research he enjoys being a conjuror.

    Carol Aubrey is Professor of Early Childhood Studies at The University of Warwick in the Institute of Education. She trained first as a primary school teacher and then as an educational pyschologist. Later she spent a number of years in primary teacher education with a particular focus on the early years, first at University College Cardiff and then at the University of Durham, where she was Director of PGCE (Primary) and Deputy Chair of the School of Education for a while. Thereafter from 2001, she worked at Canterbury Christ Church University College where she led the Centre for International Studies in Early Childhood (CISEC). For the last four years she has been Director of Research at The University of Warwick. She is convener of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) Special Interest Group for Early Childhood Education and Care and is a member of BERA Council. She is UK editor for Journal of Early Childhood Research. Her research interests lie in the area of the policy to practice context of early childhood education and care, early learning and development, with a particular interest in early mathematics and inclusive/special educational needs. Recently completed work includes an ESRC project entitled ‘How Do They Manage? An Investigation of Early Childhood Leadership’.

    Richard Bailey is Director of the Roehampton University Child Wellbeing Institute, a unique collaborative centre for research, teaching and public engagement. He is also Professor of Pedagogy at Froebel College, where he teaches courses in philosophy and research methodology. Richard is an internationally acknowledged writer and speaker on children's physical development and education, and has spoken to audiences in every continent of the world. He was the director of the influential ‘Sport in Education’ project, which was funded by the International Olympic Committee and involved fieldwork in every continent of the world; he was also the Rapporteur of the Physical Education and Sport section of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO's) 2004 Athens Declaration. He is the author/editor of nine books on children's development, health and education. Most recently, he has been the ‘expert’ behind Persil's Europe-wide ‘Be My Coach’ campaign, promoted in the UK by Dame Kelly Holmes and Steven Gerrard, which encourages parents to play outside with their children.

    Patti Barber is Lecturer in Primary Education at the University of London, Institute of Education. Patti taught for many years in inner London primary schools where she was a deputy headteacher of an infants' school and a mathematics advisory teacher. Her particular interest is mathematics in the early years. She was a co-founder of the Early Childhood Mathematics Group, which is affiliated with the Association of Mathematics. Patti has been very involved with BEAM mathematics and has worked on many of their publications. She has co-written Nursery Mathematics and Foundation Mathematics, published by Heinemann. She has been involved in writing materials for the National Numeracy Strategy to support the transition for children from Reception to Key Stage 1. She was appointed to the Institute of Education, University of London in 1990 and has, in recent years, co-ordinated the mathematics component of the Primary PGCE. At the Institute, Patti has collaborated with colleagues researching beginning teachers’ subject knowledge. This has led to further ongoing research with Cambridge and York universities.

    Lynne Broadbent is the former Director of the British and Foreign Schools Society National Religious Education Centre at Brunei University and is now working as an Educational Consultant. She has extensive experience of working with primary and secondary teachers and student teachers in the areas of religious, personal and social education.

    Liz Brooker was an early years teacher for nearly 20 years but now teaches and researches at the Institute of Education, University of London. Her doctoral study of young children's learning at home and at school was published by the Open University Press as Starting School: Young Children's Learning Cultures (2002) and she is currently writing a book on the transitions children make in the years from birth into the early years of formal schooling.

    John Cook is a part-time Lecturer in Primary Education at the Institute of Education, University of London. He has been a primary headteacher in London and a humanities inspector and assistant chief inspector in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. His long association with the development of the humanities curriculum includes involvement in the preparation of resource material for schools to support ‘distant locality’ work with particular reference to Jamaica and the Netherlands, and he has contributed to the production of telelvision programmes for both children and teachers.

    Jonathan Doherty is Head of Early Childhood Education at Leeds Metropolitan University where he has responsibility for training intending teachers at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the 3–8 age range. Prior to taking up his current post at Leeds, he was an early years teacher for a number of years. As a PE specialist, Jonathan lectures in the Carnegie Centre for PE and Sport at the university, mainly in psychology, skill acquisition and child development, and he has delivered many in-service training courses in PE to specialist and non-specialist teachers. A member of various working parties and committees relating to PE, he acts as a consultant to the Amateur Swimming Association National Education Committee and the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) Physical Education and School Sport project. He has presented to national and international audiences and has written a number of papers and journal articles. Recent publications include Supporting Physical Development and PE in the Early Years (Open University Press; with Richard Bailey) and Observing Children Moving (PEAUK). His current research interests involve thinking skills in relation to movement in young children.

    EsmèA Glauert has worked with young children for many years in playgroups, nurseries and in primary schools. She has wide experience as a teacher educator in science contributing to initial teacher education, in-service training and masters programmes. Currently she is a Lecturer in Primary Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, where she is course leader for the MA in Primary Education and co-ordinator of the science component of the full-time primary PGCE programme. Her research interests include young children's learning in science and pedagogy in initial teacher education. Her book, Tracking Significant Achievement in Science (Hodder & Stoughton) was published in both Japanese and English.

    Caroline Heal is a Lecturer in Primary Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, where she has gained experience as a teacher educator at both primary and secondary levels. Within the Primary PGCE course she has the responsibility for the development of the history component. Her main research interest is in the development of teachers’ thinking and practice through professional dialogue, especially in the context of ‘mentoring’.

    Gill Hope is a Senior Lecturer in Design and Technology Education at Canterbury Christ Church University. Previously she taught in a First School on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, where she was Year 1 Co-ordinator, as well as co-ordinating D&T across the school. Her research interests focus on young children's capability in using drawing to support the development of design ideas. She believes strongly in the importance of hands-on practical learning for young children and in providing opportunities for children to be creative and to develop their learning in personally meaningful ways. Two of her publications are (2004) Teaching Design and Technology 3–11 (London: Continuum) and (2006) Teaching Design and Technology in Key Stages 1 & 2 (Exeter: Learning Matters).

    John Matthews is an artist and educator with experience as a teacher at nursery, primary and secondary level, as well as at university level, in Britain and Singapore. His research work is about the origin and development of art in early childhood. For many years he taught at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, in the School of Arts and also early years education in the Faculty of Education. He is currently a Professor in the Division of Visual and Performing Arts, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has written many papers and addressed international conferences about the significance of the art of very young children. His books include Children and Visual Representation: Helping Children to Draw and Paint in Early Childhood (Hodder & Stoughton) and The Art of Childhood and Adolescence: The Construction of Meaning (Falmer Press).

    Ian Pickup is currently Principal Lecturer and Subject Leader for physical education at Roehampton University, where he works with trainee and in-service teachers. His main areas of interest are the provision of developmentally appropriate physical education experiences and the fostering of subject specific pedagogy, particularly for practitioners who work with children aged 3–11. Before joining Roehampton, Ian taught in secondary and primary schools, within further education, worked as a development officer for the Rugby Football Union and played professional rugby. Ian is currently conducting research into the physical self-perception of trainee primary school teachers and is a partner within a European Union (EU)-funded project focusing on physical education in the early years. He is an active member of physical education professional bodies and has presented various papers at international and national conferences. He has recently published Teaching Physical Education in the Primary School: A Developmental Approach (Continuum; with Lawry Price) and contributed to a BERA academic review entitled The Educational Benefits Claimed for Physical Education and School Sport.

    Roy Prentice is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London where formerly he was Head of Art, Design and Museology. Over many years he has gained wide experience of art and design in different educational contexts, as a teacher, a local education authority (LEA) adviser and a university academic. His long-standing commitment to the role of practical workshops in courses of primary teacher education and to the development of practice-based research in the field of art and design education is reflected in his teaching, writing and research. He is a practising painter.

    David Reedy is currently the Head of Primary English for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London. He has been responsible for the development and implementation of the Barking and Dagenham Primary English project which has substantially raised attainment in the borough's primary schools. David, when a practising teacher, had experience with children all through the primary age phase, including nursery children. His main research interests are the place of dialogic teaching in the primary classroom and the teaching of writing. His publications include Guiding Reading – A Handbook for Teaching Guided Reading at KS2 (Institute of Education, with Angela Hobsbaum and Nikki Gamble) and Developing Writing for Different Purposes – Teaching about Genre in the Early Years (Paul Chapman Publishing/Sage, with Jeni Riley).

    Jeni Riley is Director of the Consultancy Network of the School of Early Childhood and Primary Education, Institute of Education, University of London. Before being appointed to the Institute of Education, Jeni's main teaching experience was in the early years and with the advisory service in Oxfordshire. Since her appointment at the Institute of Education, Jeni has focused her research energies on the teaching and learning of language and literacy in the early years of education. She has directed a funded research project, StoryTalk, which investigated ways to enhance the spoken language skills of reception children in three inner-city, multicultural schools. Jeni teaches on and co-ordinates professional development courses and also works as a consultant in the field of language and literacy. Her most recent book is Language and Literacy 3–7: Creative Approaches to Teaching (2006) published by Paul Chapman Publishing/Sage.

    Helen Taylor is a Principal Lecturer at Northumbria University in Newcastle where she leads initial teacher education as the Programme Area Director. She joined the university in 1993 as Head of Music Education. Having trained as a singer at the Royal Academy of Music, she went on to train and teach in London before moving to the North East of England. Working in mainstream, special schools and as a freelance consultant, she has substantial experience in both music and early years education. In higher education, she has worked with undergraduate, PGCE, MA and Ph.D students. She has developed a new specialist Advanced Studies in the Early Years ITT undergraduate course. Helen co-directed a funded research project into the impact that music education and musicians working in early years settings have on children in the early year



    In this Introduction, I explain the purpose of this book, its rationale and its structure. Each of Chapters 27 focuses on the curriculum content and pedagogy within an area of learning as identified in The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfES, 2007:7). This Introduction deals with the current political and operational context, and it addresses the key issues which affect young children's learning and which are evident in the discussion throughout this book. These issues are:

    This book takes its structure from the The Early Years Foundation Stage document and it aims to support practitioners with an overview of the six areas of learning along with a consideration of the relevant subject knowledge and ‘developmentally appropriate’ pedagogy. It will help students and practitioners to make useful connections between the Early Years Foundation Stage requirements and the National Curriculum for Key Stage 1, and with the traditional body of knowledge which has informed learning in early childhood education. The book provides new insights from recent research that are relevant to teaching and learning within the 3–7 age range and, we believe, this book is highly relevant to early years practitioners in pre-school, reception and Years 1 and 2 classrooms.

    Chapter 1 deals with the foundations of early learning and includes a discussion of the following:

    The Social and Political Context for Early Years Education

    Since the publication of the first edition of Learning in the Early Years, government energy and investment has been directed towards services and provision for the youngest members of society in England. The House of Commons Education and Skills Committee (HCESC) report Every Child Matters (2005) instigated comprehensive reform for children's services.

    Key underpinning principles – all garnering very broad support in the evidence we have received – include: more closely integrated frontline delivery of education, health, social and specialist services; earlier intervention to provide support before problems become serious; closer working between professionals who might be involved with the same child or young person; more coherent planning and commissioning of services at the combined local level – the establishment of Children's Trusts (or similar arrangements) to support this; and greater involvement of children, parents and carers in the development of services. (HCESC, 2005: 3)

    The catalyst for Every Child Matters was a response to the Laming Enquiry into the tragic death of Victoria ClimbièA through, essentially, a failure in communication between a variety of services. This visionary report proposed long-awaited reform to the patchy, fragmented provision of children's services across the country. Every Child Matters (ECM) has wide-reaching implications for education, health, social services, voluntary and community organizations and other agencies, although to many of the professionals working in these services ECM was long overdue.

    The report explored the broad issues of organizational and professional integration, information and management and the needs of parents and children, specifically:

    • The place of health, social services and education respectively within the integrated services;
    • The practical implications of the ‘duty to collaborate’, including funding streams and location of staff and facilities;
    • Staff and management needs: team building, leadership and training;
    • Inspection;
    • –Listening to children; the role of the Children's Commissioner;
    • Working with parents;
    • The creation, management and sharing of records, including electronic databases. (HCESC, 2005: 5)

    The main principles cited by the ECM report can be found in paragraph 10:

    Every Child Matters aims to bring about root-and-branch reform of children's services at every level to ensure that children and young people achieve five main outcomes. They should:

    It can be seen how these aspirational outcomes feed into and underpin the revision of the Curriculum Guidance for Foundation Stage (DfEE/QCA, 2000).

    The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfES, 2007) will be a single framework for care, learning and development for children in all early years settings from birth to the August after their fifth birthday. Building on the existing Curriculum Guidance for Foundation Stage (DfEE/QCA, 2000), the Birth to Three Matters framework and the National Standards for Under 8s Day Care and Childminding, the framework aims to provide coherence, provide a flexible approach to care and learning and raise quality throughout the Early Years Sector. It is intended to play a key role in improving the life chances of all children, regardless of their family circumstances, by setting clear expectations of the care, [and the provision for their] learning and development they will receive, whatever the setting they attend. (DfES, 2007)

    Throughout the book we discuss the recommendations of the documents from the DfES advising on the curriculum for 0–7-year-olds: The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfES, 2007) (0–5 years) and its companion document The Practice Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfES, 2007) and the Key Stage 1 (5–7 years) section in the National Curriculum (DfEE, 1999) to explore their relationship with each other in terms of continuity of subject content and the associated ‘developmentally appropriate’ pedagogy.

    The message of this book is essentially an optimistic one. Research findings emerging from the most recent studies are providing robust evidence which reaffirms many of the long-held beliefs of early childhood educators. But within this message is a clearer, more rigorous and harder-edged focus relevant to education today.

    Why was it Important to Write this Book?
    The Rationale for the Book

    The education children experience during the earliest years of their life lays the foundations for all that follows. The nature and quality of the care, the experiences and the learning opportunities that are offered to children, from their birth and then onwards through infancy and early childhood, affect their educational potential and their life chances in a profound and lasting way. The recognition, by both wider public opinion and the government, of the vital importance of the early years has resulted in a massively heightened interest in the quality of early childhood provision and education. Driven by this concern, substantial funding has been allocated to developing early childhood education and services. Considerable energy and effort have been directed into rationalizing, standardizing and improving the many and diverse services which at present cater for children before they reach full-time, mainstream primary education. Additional resources have been made available:

    The government's introduction of an official Foundation Stage (0–5 years, prior to the statutory National Curriculum), along with its associated document, The Early Years Foundation Stage further demonstrates a determination to improve the educational provision and learning opportunities for all children in the 0–5-year age range. This book deals with the way, in practice, this guidance can complement both the National Curriculum (DfEE, 1999) document at Key Stage 1 (5–7 years) and the Primary National Strategy (DfES, 2006).

    In a situation where there is increasingly tough competition for public funds, what has convinced a government that this immense commitment will be rewarded?

    Evidence of the Benefits of Early Childhood Education

    There have been many studies of interventions in early childhood education (see Ramey and Ramey, 1998) but one particular longitudinal study undertaken in the USA provides convincing evidence on the long-lasting value of pre-school education. The High/Scope Perry Pre-school evaluation (Schweinhart et al., 1993) is a robustly designed intervention programme and associated evaluation with a random sample of 123 participating individuals who at the time were living in deprived circumstances. The evaluation has provided extensive data over a wide variety of real-life measures covering a long time span. Analyses of the data (which were collected annually from children 3–11, and then at 14, 15, 19 and 27) show the indisputable long-term benefits of an early educational intervention for children brought up in poverty and at high risk of school failure. The High/Scope study has also famously shown the impressive cost benefits to society of early intervention. The programme participants were more successful at school compared with those individuals who were living in the same circumstances but who had not received the educational programme. This was demonstrated by the participants:

    At 27 years of age, participants in the High/Scope Programme:

    Although these findings have been very influential, more precise evidence is needed. For example, are the benefits so striking because this study was conducted on a very deprived group of people? Are all early education programmes equally effective? If not, then what appear to be the key features of an effective pre-school programme?

    Features of Effective Pre-School Provision

    Ramey and Ramey (1998) suggest that there are six ‘developmental priming mechanisms’ with a potential role to enhance learning:

    • encouragement to explore the environment;
    • mentoring basic intellectual and social skills;
    • celebrating new skills;
    • rehearsing and expanding new skills;
    • protection from inappropriate punishment or ridicule for developmental advances; and
    • stimulation in language and symbolic communication.

    Evidence emerging from the Researching Effective Pedagogy in the Early Years (REPEY) project (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002) supports the dual emphasis described above and the value of encouraging equally both cognitive and social development. Findings from the REPEY study, derived from both quantitative and qualitative data, suggest that the greater than expected levels of development in children in the most effective settings were associated with:

    The findings of this important study and their implications for practice are discussed in more depth in Chapter 1.

    Research Evidence on the Attainment and Progress of Children Starting School

    As every reception class teacher knows, there is a very wide range of development shown by each class of new school entrants. Extensive evidence of pupils' social, intellectual and behavioural attainment assessed in a variety of ways when they enter school confirms that this is so (Tymms, 2002). The wide range in the functioning of children is influenced by the type of home background, particularly their socio-economic status, ethnic origin and gender, and is affected by whether the child is a singleton or a twin.

    The aim of the Performance Indicators of Primary Schools Project (PIPS) (Tymms, 1999) is to provide high-quality data on the attainments, attitudes and progress of children throughout their primary school careers. In addition, the findings offer reliable and up-to-date demographic information, which is useful for teachers concerning the context within which they work.

    Demographic Information on Pupils' Start to School

    The PIPS data indicate that, in English schools:

    The Range of Attainment Shown at School Entry

    Details of the span of attainment at school entry across and within the different groups of children are discussed fully by Tymms (1999; 2002) and make compulsive reading. To take a few examples, in spoken language, some children starting school do not know or use basic and commonly used household words, while others have in their vocabulary such words as saxophone, jewellery and cosmetics. Some children have a very limited understanding of how books and print work, while one child in 500 is able to read a long passage fluently. In mathematics, one child in five cannot recognize the number 4 but one in a hundred knows the number 164.

    The Particular and Long-Lasting Importance of the Reception Year

    The design of the PIPS research project measured the reception pupils' progress and found that it is very rapid. Not only that, but the progress made in the first year of school is the greatest that pupils achieve over the entire seven years of primary school. In addition to this, some schools and their teachers have a greater effect on the progress made over and above what might be expected from the children's entry scores. In other words, in terms of a ‘value-added’ effect (that is, the influence of a school or a teacher which exceeds that which might be expected from a class of pupils' beginning-of-school-year scores) there is as much as a 40 per cent variance in the relative progress made. This percentage is extremely high. In comparison with this figure of 40 per cent, school effectiveness research at secondary level indicates that a positive school/teacher effect is approximately only 10–15 per cent of the variance.

    The important point to make is that the school and the teacher have the single and greatest influence on the progress made by classes of pupils. And the most progress occurs during the first year of school. Therefore reception teachers have an awesome responsibility: they need to build sensitively and knowledgeably upon the foundations that pre-school and home have laid, while also taking into account the wide individual differences in young pupils. Two smaller studies (compared with the PIPS project) investigating the progress made during the reception year in literacy (Riley, 1996) and mathematics (Aubrey, 1994) provide detail on some of the factors and processes which appear to lead to positive learning outcomes for new school pupils. The quality of the training and experience of the teacher is key. Children arrive in school with a vast store of knowledge but it is highly idiosyncratic and individual. Capitalizing on that knowledge is the key for children to make sound progress. Teachers need strong subject knowledge across the curriculum and to be aware of the appropriate pedagogy for teaching it. Early years teachers have to be skilled assessors of the children's levels of development so that they can offer a close match of teaching with children's levels of understanding. The findings of these studies described in this section support those from the REPEY study (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). They also confirm the ideology and theories of early childhood education held for over a century.

    Which Type of Curriculum is the Most Effective?

    Debate exists about the type and content of an early years curriculum. What should be the main focus of education during the years 3–7? Clearly there will be a change of emphasis during this time span. But in which direction should educators place most of their energy? Should adults working with young children be encouraging them to become autonomous learners, or should they be concerned mostly with developing socially competent young pupils to enable them to cope and integrate into the community of the setting? Or should greatest emphasis be put upon offering learning opportunities in the subjects of a curriculum? These aims are not mutually exclusive, naturally, but research evidence is providing answers here too.

    ‘Play is the work of the child’ (Froebel, 1876). Play-based activities as an effective vehicle for learning appear to meet all three of the above educational aims. Traditionally, play has a place at the heart of early childhood education as the recognized way that young children learn most effectively. It is argued that play offers opportunities from which children will benefit hugely, both cognitively and socially. On the intellectual side, play-based learning – because of its highly motivating, self-directing qualities – encourages engagement, concentration, task completion and the development of problem-solving abilities. Social and communication skills of negotiation and collaboration with peers are also demanded in many play situations.

    Play has its critics, however. Studies (for example, Bennett et al., 1997) have shown that play activities can be low in intellectual challenge and often repetitive and time-wasting for children, particularly in Key Stage 1. Researchers have found that infant teachers have an idealized, somewhat sentimental view of play, considering it to have educational validity at all times and in all circumstances but without a clear sense of how or why. It appears that some teachers under-exploit its learning potential. Debate whether play is as educationally valuable as early years teachers would like to believe comes from a lack of clarity about what is and what is not play. This despite many attempts at precise and comprehensive definitions! One way forward is a categorization of play-based activities developed in order to assess the educational value of play. How can activities which can be described as ‘playful’ be categorized?

    Play-Based Activities
    Widely Used Criteria for Evaluating Play Events

    Researchers have developed frameworks which take into account the nature of play and its complexity by categorizing the way in which it can cover a variety of dimensions. Brooker (2002) has summarized the research evidence on the learning outcomes of play. Parten (1932) described the developmental changes that occur in the social groupings that arise when children are playing and noted that, as they grow older, children engage in more associative and co-operative play and play less on their own. Her categories are as follows:

    Evidence from Observational Studies

    Smilansky (1968; 1990) investigated the frequency and complexity of children's ‘socio-dramatic’ or ‘fantasy’ play and she suggests that socio-dramatic play in pre-school and school settings is a valuable stimulus for emotional, social and intellectual growth. Smilansky claims that ‘it is the make-believe process … that is pivotal’ (1990: 35). She developed the following criteria with the potential to develop children's intellectual capacity:

    Research Evidence from the Oxford Preschool Research Project

    Sylva et al. (1980) developed criteria which were used in the most informative research studies designed to undertake detailed ‘target child’ observations on 3–5-year-olds. The researchers coded the behaviour of each ‘target child’ on action codes, social codes and play bouts, using children in different forms of pre-school provision (120 children aged 3.6 and 5.6). They looked for the ‘task settings’ and ‘social settings’ associated with a high level (‘yield’) of cognitively challenging and complex play.

    Their main findings lead them to recommend that:

    • activities should have a clear goal structure;
    • children should work in pairs; and
    • adults should have a tutorial role.

    The most beneficial situations in terms of the level of the cognitive demand on the child and which led to intellectual gains include construction materials of all kinds, structured tasks and art activities, as well as pretend play and small-world play; and settings in which a child interacts with a peer or adult.

    The categories Sylva and colleagues developed aimed to take account of the complexity within both social and cognitive dimensions in the following way:

    Activities which meet the criteria potentially offer valuable learning opportunities for children to develop in a variety of ways and across a range of dimensions. However, progress depends upon the level of intellectual and social maturity of the children, and the relationship between it and the activity in which they are engaged.

    The Importance of Play

    We return to the issue of the importance and nature of play throughout the 3–7 age phase in Chapter 1 of this book, with a particular focus on the research findings of the REPEY project (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). This study shows that the children who made the most progress had been offered play-based learning opportunities which had both curriculum and social learning objectives and which were also intended to develop positive learning dispositions and communication skills. These children had developed best in effective learning environments and alongside adults who engaged with them in mutually enjoyable ‘sustained shared thinking’.

    The Department for Education and Skills is convinced that play is an appropriate way for valuable learning to occur in the Foundation Stage, so much so that play is in place within the official advice given to practitioners, which states that:

    Through play children can:

    And this probably understates the case; no mention is made here of the many opportunities that play offers for children to acquire knowledge and understanding across the entire curriculum. Play has the potential to be the major, unifying pedagogical approach for the child's transition from the Foundation Stage to Key Stage 1. When playing, children are able to engage at a level which is best suited to them given the self-chosen, ‘differentiated by outcome’ and flexible nature of the activities. It is the practitioner's responsibility to be aware of the range and possibilities of the learning potential of a particular activity. Adults must also observe and monitor the play, with individual children's learning needs in mind, in order to ensure that sufficient cognitive and social challenge is present. The well-known saying of early years education, ‘observe, support and extend’, holds true today. Let us take as an example children's ‘socio-dramatic’, ‘fantasy’, ‘pretence’, ‘make believe’ or ‘symbolic’ play in both pre-school and school settings. Smilansky has showed that there are genuine gains for cognitive development in socio-dramatic play. She claims that it ‘activates resources that stimulate emotional, social and intellectual growth in the child, which in turn affects the child's success in school’ (1990: 25). Role-play areas are an essential part of the learning environment in all pre-school settings and can and should be an effective and staple offering for Years 1 and 2 pupils. A travel agent's shop, for example, offers active, authentic, enjoyable learning experiences in communication, language, literacy, mathematics and knowledge and understanding about the world, to mention only some curriculum areas of learning.

    The Structure of this Book

    This book considers the curriculum and the associated ‘developmentally appropriate pedagogy’ in the age phase 3–7 from the perspective of the six areas of learning identified in The Statutory Framework of the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfES, 2007). It aims to support practitioners in their understanding of how the framework for the Foundation Stage and the National Curriculum work together in practice. It shows how educators can use this structure of intellectual, social, aesthetic, spiritual and physical development for 3–7-year-olds as they meet the requirements of all documents. The issues particularly associated with the curriculum and ‘developmentally appropriate’ teaching approaches in both the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 are discussed in depth in Chapters 27. The book is organized in this way as an effective education for 3–7-year-olds demands an underpinning and unifying framework which spans the whole curriculum. A rigorous and comprehensive grasp of the curriculum is required of practitioners and teachers working in all early years settings, in reception and Years 1 and 2 classrooms, so that ‘developmentally appropriate’ learning experiences and teaching can be offered across all the curriculum subjects.

    Issues of Difficulty and Confusion

    There are two areas of potential difficulty with the Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage documents, and the Practice Guidance EYFS, which has otherwise been widely welcomed. A high level of practitioners' subject knowledge has been assumed by the documents and it does not provide a useful support for planning. The ‘Stepping Stones’ of the ‘Early Learning Goals’ are not a curriculum framework but suggest rather an ideal place on a ladder of learning which needs to be reached by the end of the reception year on entry to Year 1. Research evidence suggests that ‘the requirements for the Foundation Stage’ presume levels of curriculum subject knowledge from early years practitioners that are over-optimistic (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). While at Key Stage 1 the issue appears to be reversed; through the recent initiatives in initial teacher education, primary teachers have stronger subject knowledge but they are less confident concerning child development and how to employ ‘developmentally appropriate’ teaching approaches, particularly through play-based activities.

    In addition to this, advice early in the introduction of the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies (DfEE, 1998; 1999) was prescriptive: it was too whole-class-teaching focused and inappropriate for many children in reception and some Year 1 classrooms. The content of the revised National Primary Strategy: Framework for Literacy and Numeracy (DfEE, 2006) is relevant and broadly in line with current research evidence and thinking. The Framework for Literacy and Numeracy are helpful to the adults working with children at these ages, particularly in terms of planning for continuity and progression.

    Recognition of the need for primary teachers to be well equipped with a sound understanding of the curriculum now requires no defence. An extensive subject knowledge enables a teacher to select content, to identify key points and to offer multiple exemplars more appropriately. Such a practitioner is more accurate in assessing the level of the child's understanding. Research shows that this type of teacher is able, also, to interest the children to a greater extent and to teach in a more engaging fashion. Teachers with strong subject knowledge ask more appropriate questions and are able to incorporate the pupils' contributions into the lesson. Aubrey (1994) made a strong case that educators supporting the earliest years of schooling need to be equally well informed. She suggests that:

    Those who teach children in the early years may, however, regard other criteria such as the way young children learn and develop at a particular stage as more important. Clearly taking account of young children's interests, preferred activities and out of school experiences as these relate to teaching subject matter is vitally important. Early years teachers may have different orientations to different subjects, as well as different knowledge bases, adopting a child-centred approach to, for instance, children's literature and history and a fact-centred approach to mathematics and science. (Aubrey, 1994: 5)

    Research evidence is highlighting further the vital importance for early years practitioners to be well qualified and with high levels of subject knowledge and expertise. This was recognized in the Every Child Matters report also. This ensures that practitioners are able to plan rich learning opportunities for children in the 3–7 age range and to engage and support the learners through discussion and skilful, open-ended questioning (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002). Research evidence has shown that children taught by adults of this quality make more progress than those who are not.

    ICT and Education in the Early Years

    Children are early adopters of new technology. They always have been. (Kinnes, 2002: 50, cited by Mallett, 2003: 138)

    The debate regarding the effects of information and communication technology (ICT) on young children's development and learning is being resolved. Convincing evidence is emerging from studies being undertaken by Developmentally Appropriate Technology in Early Childhood (DATEC) regarding the nature and the role of ICT for nursery children. The studies are providing examples of exceptionally strong practice. One study (Brooker and Siraj-Blatchford, 2002) cites many instances where children are delighting in and benefiting across a variety of subject domains and dimensions of learning. Software packages, such as Henry's Party (Marshall Media, 1995) and Tizzy's Toybox (Sherston Software, 1997), appear to have been particularly valuable. The first program offers a series of locations to visit, in which clicking on items produces a huge range of effects and interactions, based on ‘helping’ characters (such as farm animals) to find and sort objects.

    From the findings from the DATEC research project, Iram and John Siraj-Blatchford suggest that the applications with the greatest potential to support learning in the early years of education:

    • Were educational – applications employed in the early years should be educational in nature and this effectively excludes all applications where clear learning aims cannot be identified. For example, it was found that, however entertaining, most arcade type games provided little encouragement of creativity, or indeed any other worthwhile learning outcome
    • Encouraged collaboration – in the early years we know that activities which provide contexts for collaboration are especially important
    • Supported integration – with an integrated approach to ICT we present ICT products as tools
    • Supported play – play and imitation are primary contexts for representational and symbolic behaviour, and role-play is therefore central to the processes of learning in the early years
    • Left the child in control – ICT should be controlled by the child, not control the child through programmed learning
    • Were transparent and intuitive – applications should be selected that provide transparency: their functions clearly defined and intuitive
    • Avoided violence and stereotyping – where applications fail to meet these criteria it would be difficult to justify their use in any educational context
    • Supported the awareness of health and safety issues – where the use of a computer is integrated with other activities e.g. in socio-dramatic play, modeling, painting, etc. children benefit from greater movement and exercise away from the computer
    • Supported the involvement of parents – studies have shown that when parents, teachers and children collaborate towards the same goals it leads to improved performance. (Siraj-Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford, 2006: 9)

    Brooker and Siraj-Blatchford (2002) give enchanting examples of groups of children (aged 3 and 4) interacting as they work with the computer. The interaction, in turn, supports language development, promotes pro-social behaviour and assists the performance of less experienced peers. Also, the researchers found that the interaction aids collaboration and stimulates play behaviours. Just two examples are included here (Learning stories I.1 and I.2).

    The principle which appears to underpin this valuable learning is the type of software package itself. Open-ended and interactive programs which encourage collaboration rather than those which are single-answer, drill-and-skill based, offer far more potential benefit with regard to the cognitive, social and linguistic gains listed above. The knowledge base of the practitioner and her sensitive balance between support at the appropriate point and non-intervention is another important factor. As we have discussed with traditional play-based opportunities, the nature of the adult's support is key to the child's sustained involvement and the progress made.

    The Six Areas of Learning: Chapters 27

    As stated earlier, this book has taken the areas of learning as described in the document The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage (DfES, 2007) as the organizing framework in order to give ideas coherence. All organizing structures are open to debate, and the areas of learning and their relationship with the subject areas of the National Curriculum at Key Stage 1 (DfEE, 1999) are not straightforward or tidy. Some curriculum subjects might have been placed in two or even three of the Foundation Stage areas of learning – design and technology is one of these, ‘dance’ is another. Others are integral to the whole curriculum, such as communication and language. The authors of Chapter 7, when considering opportunities for creative development, acknowledge that creativity is not exclusively developed through the arts and design and technology. The purpose of this book, therefore, is to address the particular and potential contribution which certain subjects offer to the overall development of children and their education. The view of learning which has been adopted is a consideration of the development of the whole child through the lenses of subject specialists with expertise in the early years of education.

    Finally, what emerges from this book is the complex relationship between a practitioner's expertise across the curriculum and the quality of the learning experience that is offered to the children in the setting or class. We have aimed to inform, to delight and to inspire so that professionals can ensure that all children are given every opportunity to maximize their potential through access to the diverse ways of knowing and being intelligent.

    Further Reading
    Wood, E. and Attfield, J. (2005) (
    Ed.) Play Learning and the Early Childhood Curriculum. London: Paul Chapman Publishing/Sage.
    Abbott, L. and Gillen, J. (1997) Educare for the Under Threes – Identifying Need and Opportunity. Report of the research study by the Manchester Metropolitan University jointly funded by the EsméAe Fairburn Charitable Trust.
    Aubrey, C. (1994) The Role of Subject Knowledge in the Early Years of Schooling. Abingdon: Falmer Press.
    Bennett, N., Wood, E. and Rogers, S. (1997) Teaching through Play: Teachers, Theories and Classroom Practice. Buckingham: Open University Press.
    Brooker, E. (2002) ‘The importance of play’ (Institute of Education, London, ITT Resource File, Appendix B), in The National Numeracy Strategy: Teaching Mathematics in Reception and Year 1. London: DfES.
    Brooker, E. and Siraj-Blatchford, J. (2002) ‘Click on miaow! How children aged 3 and 4 experience the nursery computer’, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 3(2): 251–72. http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/ciec.2002.3.2.7
    Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) (1998) The National Literacy Strategy: Framework for Teaching. London: DfEE.
    Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) (1999) The National Numeracy Strategy: Framework for Teaching. London: DfEE.
    Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) (1999) The National Curriculum. London: HMSO.
    Department for Education and Employment/Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (DfEE/QCA) (2000) Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage. London: QCA.
    Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2006) The National Primary Strategy: Frameworks for Literacy and Numeracy. London. DfES Publications.
    Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2007) The Statutory Framework for the Early Years Foundation Stage. DfES Publications.
    Department for Education and Skills (DfES) (2007) The Practice Guidance for the Early Years Foundation Stage. DfES Publications.
    Goldschmied, E. and Jackson, S. (1994) People under Three: Young Children in Daycare. London: Routledge.
    Hodge, M. (2000) ‘Introduction’, in Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage. London: QCA.
    House of Commons Education and Skills Committee (HCESC) (2005) Every Child Matters. Ninth Report of Session 2004–05. London: The Stationery Office.
    Marshall Media (1995) Henry's Party. Computer software package.
    Parten, M.B. (1932) ‘Social participation among pre-school children’, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 27: 243–69. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0074524
    Ramey, C. and Ramey, S.L. (1998) ‘Early intervention and early experience’, American Psychologist, 53(2): 109–20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.53.2.109
    Riley, J.L. (1996) The Teaching of Reading: The Development of Literacy. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.
    Schweinhart, L.J., Barnes, H.V. and Weikart, D.P. (1993) Signiificant Benefits: The High/Scope Perry Preschool Study through Age 27. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope Education Research Foundation.
    Sherston Software (1997) Tizzy's Toybox. Computer software package.
    Siraj-Blatchford, I. and Siraj-Blatchford, J. (2006) A Guide to Developing the ICT Curriculum for Early Childhood Education. London: Trentham Book and BAECE
    Siraj-Blatchford, I., Sylva, K., Muttock, S., Gilden, R. and Bell, D. (2002) Researching Effective Pedagogy in the Early Years. DfES Research Brief 356. London: HMSO.
    Smilansky, S. (1968) The Effects of Sociodramatic Play on Disadvantaged Pre-school Children. New York: John Wiley.
    Smilansky, S. (1990) ‘Socio-dramatic play: its relevance to behaviour and achievement in school’, inE. Klugman and S. Smilansky (eds), Children's Play and Learning: Perspectives and Policy Implications. New York: Teachers College Press.
    Sylva, K., Roy, C. and Painter, M. (1980) Childwatching at Playgroup and Nursery School. London: Grant McIntyre.
    Tymms, P. (1999) Baseline Assessment and Monitoring in Primary Schools: Achievements, Attitudes and Value-added Indicators. London: David Fulton.
    Tymms, P. (2002) ‘The attainments and progress of children starting school. Research review’, Interplay, Spring: 35–8.

    • Loading...
Back to Top

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website