1st February 2022

Early Years – What is its Role in Modern Education 2022?

Increasing pressure for children to perform to standards, targets and higher expectations of schools to fix societies issues within their walls means pressure on school leaders to get the maximum out of every year group. The leaders look inward and look at what works, or the government release a new initiative that works but are we truly looking at what works from the top to bottom, Key Stage 2 to Nursery or are we looking at what works in nursery and following that through?  

With the constant pressure on school leaders to ‘perform’ the Foundation Stage becomes a part of that process. 

In a recent poll most schools said they looked at top to bottom rather than Nursery through. This here is the problem. Having been an Early Years teacher for 16 years sometimes venturing into Year 1 I see this top to bottom issue daily. When I visit schools as a consultant, I see lots of issues in Early Years stemming from lack of understanding of Early Years and how it fits into modern education. So, let’s solve that right now. 

Early Years is the foundation, it used to be called Foundation, in Wales it’s called Foundation Phase and interestingly in Wales Foundation Phase goes up to the end of Year 2. 

Foundation: 

  1. The lowest load bearing part of a building, typically below ground level. 
  1. An underlying basis or principle 

Early Years is the FOUNDATION of education. The entry point of any child to school. Now we have private nursery and some schools, like mine, having twos provision. It’s the most important start point for any child and in turn parent. Often parents learn from school how to parent or even develop their child as extended families decrease. The most important point is Early Years is the foundation the underlying basis for all education. 

In Robert Fulghum’s poem ‘All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’, he reminds us that everything we need to learn about life, living and being human is right there in our Early Years classrooms.  

These are the things I learned: 

  • Share everything. 
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.

In our modern world technology has advanced rapidly, check out my vlog about what’s missing from pandemic childhood if you haven’t already.  

Our children are indoor children, experiencing less of outdoor time than inmates in prison. Research actually shows this! Early Years is the foundation and it’s important that we look at what that actually is. The foundation to all learning. 

Early Years is where we must preserve childhood because it is in childhood that the brain learns to control the body. Neuroscience clearly shows that every human needs early childhood practices, so the brain learns to control the body, strengthens the muscles including the brains ability to retain facts, knowledge and skills. Movement is essential, outdoor time also essential. NHS recommended movement times for under 5 is 3 hours per day. Again, all this will occur in an education environment.  What we must also realise is movement is play, play is child development and that’s the underpinning reason why Early Years is important in our education system today. Unfortunately, it’s no longer the simple skills Robert Fulham shares it’s much more important. Our children in modern education enter school delayed by one simple factor modern life. Lives now are easier in some senses, adults don’t move as much as the previous generations and parents have access to many enabling pieces of equipment as they do enabling. 

Our Early Years settings are more important now than every before because childhood has changed. We are now neuroscientific practitioners responsible for accelerating development, language, movement and intelligence. Without brain connections to the body a child can often have literacy issues in key stage 2. Check out Sally Goddard Blythe research spanning the changes in childhood including the pandemic. Without the correct practice in our Early Years, and by that, I mean a balance between movement and teaching input. An environment that is centred mainly outdoors and correct developmental styles of teaching for reading, writing and maths like Dough Disco, the Squiggle Early Writing Programme and movement-based maths we are building our children’s education on sand.  

We, as an education system, must stand up and look at the bottom or more the start point and accept this is the foundation of learning and agree to protect childhood and thus raise standards because quality Early Years brings another level of learning. Talk to my Spread the Happiness Head Teachers who saw impact within a term of putting Early Years as the foundation to learning.