Greg Hurst reported in The Times last week (Children get maths lesson from Asian ‘tigers’) on a move towards covering depth rather than breadth in Primary School classrooms, following in the footsteps of a number of high performing Asian countries. As a primary school governor, parent, educational consultant and designer of educational resources I totally endorse this approach. In fact only last week on a governor visit, children across the year groups talked excitedly about how much they enjoyed project work and learning about topics in detail rather than skimming over lots of subjects. It was obvious that this gave the children the opportunity to stamp their own mark on the curriculum and shape their own learning – no bad thing. This in depth focus and hands-on practical approach gives ample potential for experimentation, problem solving and creativity. Crucially it’s a world apart from learning by rote as the learning is exciting, real and has a purpose. For teachers too no doubt this is far more satisfying as children’s absorption translates into individuality and quality work.

I have just returned from speaking at the Early Years Conference 2011 in Lincolnshire, where people were sharing examples of problem solving, physics, scientific discovery and peer mentoring in young children and even mathematical ability in babies. This, along with our research, demonstrated that even very young children relish in difficult concepts, rather than ‘having’ to learn them. For example, many young children see counting the leaves on a branch as fun and exciting, rather than daunting.

Sixth formers also concur with Mr Oates, (Chairman of the expert panel directing the review) saying that they found the time spent studying for Sats ‘dull and repetitive’ as compared to project work which is ‘really exciting’.  Rather than being taught in discrete subjects, projects enable numeracy and literacy to be seamlessly integrated as well as giving them meaning and relevance. Obviously the focus on subjects within the Early Years Foundation Stage is yet to be confirmed, but speaking personally, I hope that the key areas of personal, social and emotional development, communication and language and physical development take priority. as suggested by the Tickell review. This would allow children to leave school equipped not just with the skills for reading, writing and numeracy, but for life generally.

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