Preschool story time children transformed into...

Preschool story time children transformed into Easter Bunnies (Photo credit: San José Library)

I am on my son’s preschool committee and this year many parents have expressed concerns about the way their children’s progress is being reported in the Early Years Curriculum. Some parents say that although they know their child has good personal, social and emotional skills that their child has not been reported to be working within the 40-60 month bracket. Other parents have said that although they know their child can read very well for their age, their child is still not working within the 40-60 month bracket for literacy. When I have talked to the preschool teachers, they have said that even when children are performing above average overall, if they don’t meet all the criteria for the 40-60 month bracket they must be placed in the 30-50 months bracket. The preschool teachers admitted that there are problems with the way the assessment bands have been labelled. However, as the assessment areas and bands have been set by the government, it is not within their control to change it.

One anomaly with the labelling of the bands in the Early Years Curriculum is that teachers say that most children starting reception are unlikely to be working within the level 40-60 months old even though the children are at least 48 months old and some are 60 months old if they are born in September. I personally cannot understand why the framework does not go to 72 months old? I also think it would have been better if they assessment bands had been labelled as level 1-4 rather than as age bands. Then parents would feel less upset when they hear that their 60 month old child is still not working within 40-60 months.

The problem with the labelling and assessment of the bands seems to continue all the way through reception. I have heard many parents complain about their children’s reception reports too. One of the problems seems to be that children at the end of the reception year are only expected to be able to count to 20 and to be able to work out one less than or one more than a given number. The parents of reception age children are telling me that they know that their children can do much more than this and that they can count to 100 easily and do addition and subtraction at a higher level than one more than or one less than. In contrast, there seems to be much higher expectations for literacy at the same age. Children by the end of reception are supposed to be able to read and write simple sentences. The same parents that feel that their children are way ahead of expectations in mathematics are at the same time worried that their children are lagging behind in literacy. This suggests to me that there are problems with the way the Early Years Curriculum has been written and that the levels have not been adjusted to match the average child. The emphasis on literacy rather than numeracy is also slightly strange as mathematical ability is a much better indicator of later achievement than literacy.

My son is due to start reception next year, I hope that I will be able to ignore the way the reports are written and not get too worried about the bands when I do receive his report. Especially as I know that children in some countries who don’t start formal education until 7 years old are easily able to catch up with us in terms of literacy and numeracy. However, the government should reduce parents’ stress by re-labelling the bands and making sure the mathematics and literacy criteria match the average child.

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