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Early-years writing lessons ‘do no good’ July 18, 2008

Filed under: educational stuff — paulabrown @ 7:28 pm
Education: Early-years writing lessons 'do no good'

· Research runs counter to ministers' curriculum plan
· Report is inconclusive, says government

Polly Curtis, education editor
Monday July 14, 2008
The Guardian 

Teaching children as young as three to write short sentences and use
punctuation has little effect on their literacy skills later on, according
to research which raises new questions about the government's plan for a
curriculum for the under-fives.
Tutoring children in nurseries to read using basic phonics and write simple
sentences does not improve their success once they start school, but
encouraging them to talk and communicate does, the unpublished government
research has found.

The research was released under a Freedom of Information Act request by the
Liberal Democrats, who last night questioned why the government had
previously chosen not to release the findings, which run counter to its
plans for an early-years curriculum.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families insisted it had published
more substantial and conclusive evidence to back up its policy.

The research, commissioned from academics at the Institute of Education,
University of London, compares how children score in the early learning
goals, which from September become compulsory, with how they score in
literacy and numeracy tests once they reach school.

Controversy has surrounded two of the goals, which suggest that children
should attempt to read using phonics to break down the words by their sounds
and to write "simple sentences" including some basic punctuation. Childcare
experts have argued it is rushing children into formal learning too soon.

The research says that these two goals "did not seem crucial" to high
performance once children arrive at school.

Instead it suggests that "language, communication and thinking" skills are
strong predictors of a child's ability to read and write early on.

"Overall the data suggest use of spoken language is important to becoming an
accomplished writer," it says. Children's disposition, attitudes and social
development are also important predictors, it adds.

The documents were not published because they were deemed "inconclusive",
according to the letter accompanying the research to the Liberal Democrats
from the National Assessment Agency, which oversees national testing on
behalf of the government.

Annette Brooke, Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for children, said: "It is
clear and very different from other research by the government in that it
shows that making all children learn what is effectively reading and writing
hasn't produced benefits once they start school."

A DCSF spokeswoman said the report was a "very small-scale piece of internal
analysis" which had looked at only six schools and was not conclusive.

Last week, the children's minister, Beverley Hughes, announced that the two
goals in question would be subject to a review of the primary curriculum
being conducted by Sir Jim Rose.

They will still be made compulsory from September while they are reviewed.
Parents will also be allowed to vote to let their nursery opt out of the
curriculum in a move designed to allow some freedoms for Steiner and
Montessori settings, which emphasise learning through play.

One Response to “Early-years writing lessons ‘do no good’”

  1. Alex hykel Says:

    Interesting article Paula, very much agree with it and now have first hand experience of reading and writing being rammed into my sons’ (Ru) compulsory primary educational agenda, in my opinion at too early a stage. Hopefully the news described within is the beginning of a more playful approach to learning being, in time, nationally more accepted.

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