Thursday, March 15, 2007

As the Pig Farmer Said

"You don't fatten a pig by weighing it ", yet according to the Guardian:

"Babies will be assessed on their gurgling, babbling and toe-playing abilities when they are a few months old under a legally enforced national curriculum for children from birth to five published by the government yesterday. Every nursery, childminder and reception class in Britain will have to monitor children’s progress towards a set of 69 government-set “early learning goals”, recording them against more than 500 development milestones..."

Not Saussure has stayed calm enough to offer an excellent critique!


Anonymous said...

The sad thing is, the great majority of parents will accept this and find it beneficial.

From the moment parents accepted, that births are the role of doctors and schooling is a good idea, this madness was bound to follow.

What will they do with children that not fulfill their goals? What pathologies are going to be invented? What special classes are going to exist for babies?

Pete said...

Many years ago, on Question Time, Stephen Fry referred to the SAT's as "this mania to test barely divided feotuses in the womb..."

Once again, this government has proved that satire is redundant, there is no absurd level we can parodise them to that they will not propose as a serious policy.

This is what madness looks like, folks; we cannot fund social services, but we can make them measure EVERYTHING.

Soon, we the government will be able to find the ultimate, calculated meaning of everything, and it will be "zero".

Carlotta said...

Well said, Pete.

I'm trying to think calmly about the whole thing again today, and actually still can't! The closest I have got to a thought that could be expressed publicly is that the proposers of this scheme should think again about the importance of primary agency.

By which, of course, I mean that when a person is measured by someone else in a way that is determined by someone else, performing to that standard is likely to become that person's objective, whether or not that objective is worthy or has anything to do with what that person would want to do. It is not as if most children and then most adults don't already absorb this message and act on it or spend their lives living in suboptimal kinds of reaction against it, but if we teach this principle from birth, it legitimises the message that people should not think for themselves about how best to act in this world, that they must simply do what they are told whether or not these objectives tally in any way with their own desires, theories and beliefs about what is right and wrong, or their sources of inspiration, motivation and happiness.

Ho hum...about to tail off into obscenity (suboptimal reaction seeming proportionate right now!)

dottyspots said...

Ah, now, I'm a registered childminder (although I very rarely work, because I have a bit of a 'different' approach to many and our family ethos is a bit different from many working in the Early Years field) and I would say it is down to approach.

I know a number of HE families who would class their approach as autonomous where one (or both) parents are registered childminders. There is space to fulfil the planning (short, medium and long) and still subscribe to a child-led approach - it is down to how it is presented.

Certainly I don't tick boxes and never will do, the day I think that that is a requirement, I will stop my registration.

Observations have been a part of the job for some time. They needn't be rigid, although there will always be elements with the profession who are rigid, who do push - and that is often down to parents as well, a drive towards children doing things as quickly and early as possible.

I would note when a baby is chatty - because, to be frank, I rejoice at a child's first attempts to communicate orally. It is important that I share that with the child's parent(s) as they are missing time that they might otherwise choose to spend with their child as they are working.

I don't actually care for babies, because my personal belief is that babies need to be with their parents or other family members - this isn't necessarily a criticism of parents who choose to go to work when they have a very young baby, as that is their choice. However, it is my own personal choice not to and therefore I prefer to maintain that in my working life (at which point one may start to get an idea as to why I don't work much :0)

I did note comments about learning to read at 3. As someone whose own older children didn't learn to read until after the age of 7 (and this was very much self-directed) I would say that I would be concerned if Ofsted demanded that I support teaching 3 year olds in a structured way - however, IMHO (and that of many others) sharing stories with children, even orally, is part of learning to read. It is not coercive - or is it that we shouldn't share our own love of literature with the children (our own and otherwise) that we share our lives with?

My write up about how I am fulfilling such a goal would be that stories are shared and further activities undertaken e.g. I tell stories orally with actions, such as the Thirsty Crow, where I will have a clear bowl of water and the 'crow' will drop stones in as I'm speaking and the water level will rise. Children are then free to have a bash at dropping stones into the water themselves, or not, as the case may be. It's a fun story, some may note the water rising and want to experiment, some will want to pour the water from one vessel to another, some may want to splash around - it's all fulfilling a myriad of 'early learning goals' but the children aren't being coerced to sit in a line and do science, or learn to read. Rather it's opening up an opportunity for them to explore and the exploration is self-directed.

I don't do much pointing out of words etc. as IMO it distracts from the story told (and I get rather irritated when people try to tell me I should be pushing this with children - my own or otherwise) because, IMO, children take note of the written word when they're ready to.

Any write up I would do re. reading would be along these lines and I would be very ready to argue it with Ofsted and very likely would successfully do so (I've not lost an argument yet re. my approach with the local authority - and I've had a very long one quite recently - and I doubt it would be a problem with Ofsted either.

Now, that said, I do have issues with the curriculum, because standardised goals annoy me beyond measure. My concern is not my own practice, or even Ofsted, but what parents might want their children to be doing.

The concern is that it will increase the already present daft competitiveness that exists between some parents (and wider family members) re. their children. Even though the argument is that the curriculum is not rigid and that it allows for individual differences, my concern is that some practitioners will not translate it as such and that unneccessary pressure will be put on young children to reach 'goalposts' at the earliest age suggested (and that parents will also subscribe to this approach).

It isn't healthy and a number of childminders on the lists I've been a member of (have a few too many lists on the go atm so am taking a break from a few) are very far from impressed about it either (because they value their child-led approach too).

A further concern is that their might be further moves to intrude upon family life - because there might be a move towards concern that children whose parents do not go out to work are somehow 'missing out' on the benefits of childcare and well, anyone reading this blog can probably fill in the rest.

THAT concerns me greatly, because the thin end of the wedge has already been driven in and it's one thing to expect certain activities from people being paid to care for children (a standardisation of service to ensure the highest level of provision - I can, with gritted teeth, see that) and indeed, if parents go to work, well, they should be aware of the potential stress upon their children (because it does exist, tickboxes or no) and should weigh up the pros and cons and take time to find a setting that best allows for the needs of the child (as far as is possible outside of the child's own home).

Should that be rolled out (as it is quietly through initiatives such as SureStart) to push upon the wider population, well, I think we're going to have even more of a problem.

I don't want to be cynical, but I am... the proposed 'light-touch changes' to HE are already likely to be a further infringement of family rights, so what might be next?

dottyspots said...

Quick edit:

"The concern is that it will increase the already present daft competitiveness that exists between some parents (and wider family members) re. their children. Even though the argument is that the curriculum is not rigid and that it allows for individual differences, my concern is that some practitioners will not translate it as such and that unneccessary pressure will be put on young children to reach 'goalposts' at the earliest age suggested and that parents will also subscribe to this approach - thus encouraging practitioners to pressurise - IYSWIM.

Such pressure is also present in nursery ed. where some parents are expecting their children to be formally learning to read.

It's often (IMO) a rather 'middle-class' expectation and well, lets face it, the government is predominantly made up of people from this sort of background (or indoctrinated into it) and therefore are more likely to subscribe to such a desire.

*Then* you've got people blithely following what they believe to be the best advice, rather than listening to their children and bemoaning their child's 'inability' to learn to read, when the child simply isn't either interested or ready.

Etc. etc.

I could really rant on about this.

Carlotta said...

Dear Dottyspots...please do! I strongly agree very much with what you say.

I am so glad that HE offers the opportunity to tailor an education to suit the needs of the child. It would be a terrible shame to lose this one bit of freedom that pre-school children have.