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INSIDE THE FOUNDATION STAGE
R ec r eati n g th e recepti o n yea r

FINAL REPORT

R e po r t c om m i s s i oned and p ub l i s hed b y th e A s s oc i at i on of T eac her s and Lec t ur er s A ut hor s : Si ân A d am s , E l i s e A l ex ander , M a r y Jane D r um m ond and Janet Moy les

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers exists to promote the cause of education in the UK and elsewhere, to protect and improve the status of teachers, lecturers and non-teaching professionals directly involved in the delivery of education, and to further the legitimate professional interests of all members. For a free copy of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers’ publications catalogue, please call the ATL publications despatch line on 0845 4500 009.

C ON T EN T S

IN T RODUC T ION

1 Background to the research Findings Recommendations Questionnaire phase Interview phase Classroom observations The continuum of practice Discussion Research design and data collection Questionnaire Questionnaire 7 18 23 28 43 57 75 79 92 103 114 125

S EC T ION 1 S EC T ION 2 S EC T ION 3 S EC T ION 4 S EC T ION 5 S EC T ION 6 S EC T ION 7 S EC T ION 8 A PPENDI X A A PPENDI X B A PPENDI X C REF ERENC ES

F ORE WORD
ATL welcomed the Foundation Stage when it was first introduced in England, establishing the principle of a play-based curriculum as part of school provision for young children. Since then, continuing pressure on schools to meet national targets for 11-year olds in English and mathematics has increased the focus on the higher end of the primary school. ATL feared a clash of priorities, and has seen worrying differences in the way learning and teaching is conceptualized in policies for younger and older primary school children. We commissioned Mary Jane Drummond and Janet Moyles (both extremely experienced researchers and practitioners in the early years) to find out if and how the Foundation Stage was changing practice in school reception classes. The research began early in 2002, two years after the Foundation Stage was introduced. We knew implementation had not been easy, but we hoped for signs that the Government’s aspirations were beginning to be met. We sought indications that the introduction of the foundation stage was enabling the profession to argue more strongly for the play-based, principled early years provision that best suits children. We wanted to see that a reflective and knowledgeable teaching profession was beginning to feel trusted and supported by Government, their school leadership, LEAs and early years partnerships (EYDCPs) and that practitioners were feeling more confident to move away from a formal approach towards good early years practice in reception classes. We hoped this report would be a celebration and a sharing of good early years practice. Sadly, the research shows that this is not yet the case. ATL believes that many reception teachers feel unable to provide the kind of curriculum which their professional expertise tells them is right for young children. Government pressure on children to perform and teachers to deliver – manifested through high-stakes tests, performance tables, and targets – is a major concern. Although the methods used to implement the Foundation Stage were very different from those supporting the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, we believe that many of the findings hold here too: a lack of opportunity for reflection and deep understanding; limited understanding of the principles underpinning the changes; and too much focus on particular subjects at the expense of a whole and coherent curriculum. However, the researchers also found grounds for optimism. Early years staff do recognise that they are on a developmental journey; they are committed to the well-being and the learning of the children in their care and to giving those children the best foundations. ATL, too, is optimistic. We believe that the time is right for a move towards a more reflective and...
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