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The Reception curriculum: ‘Bold beginnings’ report causes concern

Author: Suzanne O’Connell

Ofsted is in the process of reviewing the curriculum. The first report focuses on the Reception curriculum and practice in good and outstanding primary schools.

It begins with the premise that, although 93% of early years settings are now rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, this is more a reference to how they look after children rather than the quality of preparation for Year One. Instead, a more formal curriculum is recommended with a move away from play-based activities.

Children in Reception sat in a group listening to their teacher

There are 15 recommendations in the report which include:

  • that the teaching of reading, including systematic synthetic phonics, is the core purpose of the Reception year
  • attaching greater importance to the teaching of numbers in building children’s fluency in counting, recognising small numbers of items, comparing numbers and solving problems
  • making sure that when children are learning to write they are taught correct pencil grip and how to sit correctly at the table
  • devoting sufficient time each day to the direct teaching of reading, writing and maths
  • using the early years foundation stage profile (EYFSP) as a guide to end-of-Reception expectations rather than to define what should be taught.

The report recommends that the DfE review the EYFS framework to provide schools with more guidance on what exactly should be included in the Reception year. It suggests that there should be investment in maths schemes and resources, similar to that which took place during the introduction of systematic synthetic phonics.

It can also be expected that the report will be used to inform the new education inspection framework that is anticipated from September 2019. However, it has not been greeted with enthusiasm by many early years providers. They raise concerns that the principles of the EYFS should be extended upwards rather than Year One principles driving down. With the prospect of baseline assessment now being introduced again in Reception, teachers of this age group will be feeling anxious about the years to come.

The report Bold beginnings: Reception curriculum in good and outstanding primary schools is available here.

About the author:

Dr. Suzanne O’Connell is a freelance writer specialising in education. Prior to this, she taught for 23 years and was a headteacher of a junior school in Nuneaton for 11 years.

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