Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'm sure I went to 'playschool' rather than Nursery.

My daughter, who is almost two years of age, currently goes to a Nursery. At some point in the next twelve months, my wife and I will probably sit down to decide whether or when to move her to the pre-school at the primary school. This is a place I know well as I work in KS1 and 2 in the primary.

This pre-school (like a number that I have witnessed), has a formal feel to it. The room is a reflection of the latter stages of primary schooling with its set number of tables (often five) that six children can sit round. This structure then leads to stale lessons with children sat in their chairs all day. This seems an inescapable consequence in current secondary eduction but do we need to resort to it in primaries? It is definitely not a pre-school regime I want my child to go through but what do other people think?

This blog post by Frank Chalk promotes the opposite to what I suggest. It states that children should be moved into a formal setting as soon as possible. What is interesting is some of the comments that are added to the post.

A couple of comments point out the Finish model, which is recognised as the current number one model of best practice, where children don't start any kind of formal education to the age of six.

But a number of comments support this view:

"...I just felt that the teacher should be stood at the front teaching them, otherwise why do you need a teacher at all?..."

"...I want my child taught to read, write, sit still and listen by an intelligent teacher...."

We have to recognise that there are a percentage of our pupils' parents that may feel this way. (These were two out of fourteen comments so I make it about 15%) If we have some parents that think this way we have to look at why?

'Play' is the term that confuses them. Play to these parents just means children left to their own devices. Successful play in the pre-school though refers to the areas of learning carefully crafted by the teacher. Areas include construction, role-play, art, literacy, numeracy and a tactile area. These areas are centred around themes and are refreshed more than once a week. This is the play that is often referred to but 'play' used as a term by a teacher and 'play' as perceived by the everyday parent are two different concepts.

I recall my early years before I joined school in year one. I went to a playschool. Till this day the images of that time are some of the strongest I have of my pre-school years. (These and filling my Wellingtons with drain water - eugh!) When I visit my child's nursery I see those different areas carefully crafted and I know that it is this 'play' that I want my child to learn through as long as possible.

Further reading:

BBC article 1
BBC article 2
Scholastic education poll of opinion

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