So much for our determination to remain positive in adversity! When Mr Gove speaks so dismissively and disrespectfully of people who’ve spent years and years in education, then a response is required. The people that Mr Gove has chosen to criticise today have spent a lifetime in education thinking carefully about the needs of children and young people, assimilating their own learning and practice based on strong EVIDENCE.
In today’s Daily Telegraph over 120 renowned professionals have written a letter to highlight their concern about the lack of educative play in the new National Curriculum. They reiterate the fact that in Scandinavia children don’t start formal learning until 6 or 7, and that the focus on play and on social and emotional learning enhances their “academic success” in subsequent years as opposed to it being detrimental to their learning and progress.
Mr Gove’s response to this? The “so-called experts are misguided”.
The “spokesman” for the Department of Education said,
“These people represent the powerful and badly misguided lobby who are responsible for the devaluation of exams and the culture of low expectations in state schools.
We need a system that aims to prepare pupils to solve hard problems in calculus or be a poet or engineer — a system freed from the grip of those who bleat bogus pop-psychology about ‘self image’, which is an excuse for not teaching poor children how to add up.”
How dare he! Whilst we acknowledge that these may not be Gove’s exact words, do you honestly think that any such statement gets out of the Department of Education without being checked and approved by the Secretary of State?
These “bogus pop-psychologists” include the former Children’s Commissioner, eminent academics such as Guy Claxton and Richard House from the University of Winchester, and Lord Layard from the London School of Economics, key union leaders and a host of other highly sensible, highly experienced practitioners who’ve spent decades actually working with young children in a nursery setting. If we could, we would certainly add our names to this letter and state quite clearly now that we wholeheartedly support every point that has been raised in this excellent letter.
To say that we are sickened to the core and incensed by such comments is an understatement. The appalling and impertinent manner of response from the “department” is almost as bad as their obstinate refusal to accept the reality of evidence, as outlined in such important reports as the OECD findings on world “attainment”, that young children need to learn through play and should not have a formal education inflicted upon them before their poor brains have matured enough to cope with the onslaught that Gove and his like are suggesting.
Has either Mr Gove or his “spokesman” ever set foot in an early years teaching session for longer than the obligatory ministerial visit? Has either Mr Gove or his “spokesperson” spent longer than a few days considering the value, worth and necessity of getting primary education right, listening to practitioners, taking on the vast amounts of evidence and affording some proper thinking to the importance of the development of all the intelligences?
As primary practitioners we absolutely object to the notion that we’re so brain-washed in our pop-psychology that we use it as an excuse not to teach a child how to “add up”. We’ve spent hours and hours sitting patiently with children, waiting for the penny to drop, urging them, encouraging them and then rejoicing with them as they finally work out how numbers join together or how words suddenly have meaning when they’ve employed all manner of reading cues to decipher a previously meaningless text. The sort of joy that comes from seeing a child “get it” is almost indescribable, and something that Mr Gove has never ever experienced because HE’S NOT AN EDUCATIONALIST.
Undoubtedly, we shall be writing more about this subject in the very near future, but for now, we would urge our readers to look at the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign and consider the possibility of supporting this important challenge to Gove’s miscalculated intervention into the world of early education.
(The five objectives of the campaign are to:
1) re-establish the early years as a unique stage in its own right and not merely a preparation for school
2) protect young children’s natural developmental rights
3) prevent baseline testing
4) reinstate the vital role of play
5) call for an English developmentally appropriate Foundation Stage for children between the ages of 3 and 7. )
Mr Gove. Let our children be children. Let them learn. Let them be, and leave it to those who know what they’re talking about to decide what is best for them. We’ve got years of experience. We’ve mountains of your beloved evidence. We know what we’re doing.