Thursday, 21 July 2011

Testing Time for Toddlers

Toddlers in England will be assessed to find out whether they can use basic words, respond to familiar sounds, communicate their needs and play with friends.
A Government overhaul of pre-school education  announced recently will propose giving all parents a written summary of their children’s abilities in key areas between the age of two and three. Ministers claim the test will identify early developmental problems and diagnose special needs at a young age. It comes amid fears that too many children are currently starting school at the age of four or five without the skills needed to make a success of compulsory education. Almost half lack basic social and language skills, figures show.
But Richard House, senior lecturer in psychotherapy at Roehampton University, said the move risked branding children as "failures" at a young age.
"Children are so diverse that to even begin constructing some generalised view of how they should be developing at a certain age is fraught with danger," he said.
A review of Labour’s compulsory “nappy curriculum” published earlier this year found that the existing system of pre-school education in England promoted a tick-box culture that stifled children’s early development.
Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of the charity Action for Children, said the so-called Early Years Foundation Stage – introduced in 2008 – was “cumbersome, repetitive and unnecessarily bureucractic”.
She recommended dramatically cutting back in the number of targets youngsters are supposed to meet by their fifth birthday and making a clearer identification of problems at a much earlier stage.
Outlining a revised early years strategy today, the Government is set to accept many of her key recommendations.
The updated framework, which is being put out to consultation, will slash the number of targets all children are supposed to hit by the age of five – from the existing 69 to just 17.
It will also set out plans for a compulsory assessment of all children aged between two and three covering personal, social and emotional development, physical development and communication and language.
Ministers insist the exact nature of the checks should be down to individual nurseries and childminders.
But a draft framework suggests that assessments should focus on whether children are beginning to independently care for themselves, including “pulling off their socks or shoes or getting a tissue when necessary”.
Children should understand “'who', 'what' [and] 'where' in simple questions”, listen with interest when adults read stories and be aware that some actions can hurt or harm others, it says.
Staff should also check that children can play nicely with friends and be aware that “some actions can hurt or harm others”.
Ministers will say that the development checks should sit alongside health visitor checks which are carried out at the age of two.
Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat Children’s Minister, said: "The importance of the early years – as a foundation for life and for future attainment and success – cannot be over estimated. That’s why it’s vital we have the right framework to support high quality early years education.”

The Teeny Talker and Small Talker sessions by Smart Talkers Pre-school Communication Groups are designed especially to help develop children's language and communication skills. they work on everything the child needs using games, puppets, stories and songs. the groups were especially designed to help address the current needs of children. I welcome the introduction of earlier identification because we have shown that early help can mean that children start school with adequate language levels and the ability to attend and listen.
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  1. Having a 4 year old I am much more interested in that he can communicate effectively and speak well than write. My little one does not recognise letters and is not reading although others in his class are (nursery not even reception) I tihnk checks are good as some friends of mine do worry about what their kids are doing or not doing and this would help them.

  2. It is so much more important. I need to write more about what parents could do rather than teach counting by rote and learning to recite the ABC!