‘Foundations for all future learning’ – What does Penny mean by this?   Leave a comment

In yesterdays blog about an ordinary day at Penny’s Place – Penny said that the children in her care would be ready for school in September 2014 because the ‘Foundations for all future learning’ would be in place.

The questions is therefore will the children who attend Penny’s Place be ‘school ready’? (which in Penny’s opinion is somewhat different from being ready for school).

Before answering the question Penny thought a bit of research would be beneficial, so;

2011 article from Nursery World on school readiness

This article was written when the term ‘school readiness’ started to be used more widely – and is still a good overview of how different people have a different interpretation for the term.

A more recent article is this one in which Liz Bayram CEO of Pacey writes about school readiness and the views of Pacey’s members

Liz Bayram on school readiness in Huffington Post

I hope you take the time to read the whole article, but I have copied and pasted the bit that ‘jumped out at me;

Our findings from the research with childcare professionals showed that they were quite clear on what it means to be school ready 97% agreed that the term “school ready” should be defined as children who:

• Are curious about the world, 
• Have a desire to learn, 
• Can cope emotionally with being separated from their parents 
• Are relatively independent with their personal care’

I agree with the above points and they do sum up what I call the foundations of learning  fairly well.

BUT ……..

….it is difficult to define, other than a simple Yes / No answer to the questions – and although personally I am more than happy with those Yes / No answers – I have a feeling that the government won’t be!


However ……

…. there are the Characteristics of effective learning which of course are part of EYFS 2012 – and one would hope are therefore central to what is meant by ‘school ready’ – and indeed on page 11 of EYFS 2012 it says in relation to the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile which is given by reception teachers to their Year One colleagues ‘ …… together with a short commentary on each child’s skills and abilities in relation to the three key characteristics of effective learning’

Playing and exploring – engagement

  • Finding out and exploring
  • Playing with what they know
  • Being willing to ‘have a go’

Active learning – motivation

  • Being involved and concentrating
  • Keeping trying
  • Enjoying achieving what they set out to do

Creating and thinking critically – thinking

  • Having their own ideas
  • Making links
  • Choosing ways to do things

At first glance these characteristics of effective learning don’t seem to link to the social and emotional side of things – and in particular to the points raise by Pacey members about personal care and being able to separate from their parents (and Penny  would add from their carer). However anyone who has completed a 2 year check will know that they do link to the three prime areas of learning – where those aspects are covered.

And so Penny has decided to use the characteristic of effective learning as her ‘bench mark’ for if a child is secure in the ‘Foundations of Learning’ and therefore is ready for school.

It must be remembered that Early Years Foundation Stage Profile is completed at the end of the reception year and so no matter where the child starts the reception year at in terms of what might be called the ‘academic side of things’ if he or she has those foundations of learning embedded he or she should flourish in the reception year and by the time they reach the end of the reception year be ready, willing and able to embrace the opportunities presented to them as they progress through the school system.

With this in mind the answer to the question at the beginning of this blog – is – YES the children who attend Penny’s Place will be ready for school – whether school is ready for them is another question!

However … .

…. To Penny mind it is not essential to reach certain standards or levels of reading, writing, maths and so on, by a certain age – what is far more important is that those characteristics of effective learning are evident because a child who demonstrates these characteristic will do well in life and will achieve their full potential when they are ready and able to do so. This is important because for some children and young people the other aspects in their lives (health, divorce, death in family, relocation, effects of drugs / domestic violence, mental health in the adults in their lives – and so any more things) mean that they are unable to move forward at the particular moment in time but provided those characteristic of effective learning are secure they will not see a temporary ‘set back’ or a ‘barrier’ as a failure and will pick up and continue on their personal learning journey as soon as they are able to do so – and will cope much better with whatever they have to deal with in their lives than they would if the characteristics of effective learning are not in place, because it is true that all of us including children, learn from every situation and the impact of that situation can be both positive and negative.

The problem we have is that the government (present and past)  do not recognise this, our whole school system does not recognise this – and young people, children and even those children within early years are set targets to meet and are  judged on the results of assessment against those targets.

Penny considers this not only unfair but a complete waste of public money – it is time to consider what is really important – test results or people.

NB Penny speaks as someone who failed the 11+, did not do as well as expected with O’ levels / CSE’s , who never studied for A levels, who did not engage with further education until her 40’s – but who considers herself to successful – personally and professionally …..and who to be blunt does not give two hoots if the government agrees or not with her…….. but who cares a great deal about the governments intention to introduce more formal learning and more testing for younger and younger children

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