A third of all five-year-olds are being “failed” by their reception experience, and the number is even higher among disadvantaged children, a report has revealed.
Ofsted’s Bold beginnings report found nearly half of disadvantaged children failed to meet expected levels of development at this important stage of their education.
The education regulation service said their report “highlights missed opportunities and the painful consequences of falling behind”.
The report included small, practical tasks schools could do to boost the experiences of reception children, including ensuring they are taught how to correctly grip a pencil and how to sit at a table.
But some parents believe the blame lies with the government not teachers.
“Reception is essential,” said Gill Jones, Ofsted’s early education deputy director. “For many children, it is their first experience of full-time education, when teachers set the routines and expectations that will serve children well for the rest of their school life.
“So schools need to get Reception right.”
Jones said reading stories, poems and rhymes out loud to children, and encouraging them to join in and learn them by heart, will introduce them to new vocabulary, language structures and ideas.
“Providing children with the right reading books to practise what they have been taught in their phonics lessons will make sure they master the alphabetic code so they can read by themselves,” she added.
“This is the essential knowledge that children need to open up the rest of the curriculum.”
Headteachers commented that the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) – government advice on how to asses children at the end of the Early Years period of education – is placing an “unnecessary burden” on teachers. They also stated that newly-qualified teachers are “not well prepared” to teach reading, writing or numbers in Reception.
Ofsted recommends that headteachers put reading at the heart of the reception curriculum.
“The best schools know how to design their curriculum so that children’s learning and development sets them up well for the rest of their schooling,” said HM chief inspector Amanda Spielman.
“Reception should not just be a repeat of what children learned in their nursery or pre-school, or with their childminder. They deserve better than facing years of catching up.”
Commenting on the report, mum Helen Barfield told HuffPost UK on Facebook that she thinks her three children going through Reception in the past nine years have had good experiences.
“[Ofsted] claims that ‘newly-qualified teachers are not well prepared to teach reading, writing or numbers in Reception’ is rubbish,” she said.
“The best teachers my kids had (and still have) were newly-qualified. It was the ones who had been in the job for years that struggled to implement the way the curriculum and standards changed.
“I will also point out that my kids didn’t attend a ‘best school’ in their reception years, in fact we were classed as a ‘deprived area’, but the fact that they got the best start from teachers who were in it for the right reasons made a huge difference.
“The curriculum is never, and has never been, a one size fits all.”
In the best schools, Ofsted stated children: Learn to read quickly and easily. Enjoy listening to stories as the highlight of the day. Learn poems and rhymes by heart. Learn about numbers through practical activities and formal, written recording. Develop their personal, social and emotional skills through play.
Another mum, Catherine Brundrett, wrote: “My son (who has a speech problem which affects his education) isn’t being failed by the teacher or the TAs, but the government.
“The school has had to save money and TAs is the first thing to go. The teachers and staff go above and beyond for the children in their class.
“The government needs to actually sit in a classroom for a day and see what’s needed, not more cuts.”
Jemma Martin-Lee agreed that the cuts to education are affecting children, writing: “Reception isn’t failing our children, the Tory government is.
“It’s disgusting that they are piling on more pressure to professionals in an already incrediblly difficult sector. Cuts after cuts, low wages, long hours. The government is letting teachers and schools down as well as our children.
“Thank goodness for teachers – I for one appreciate all they try and do to benefit our children despite having their hands tied around their backs.”
Ofsted is also recommending that the Department for Education reviews the EYFS stage to make sure that it provides sufficient clarity for the effective teaching of reading, writing and numbers and also reduce teachers’ workload.
You can read the full ‘Bold Beginnings’ report here.