Too many tests aren't grade news for our kids
As an early years practitioner, I understand the importance and value of education for children from a very young age.
But concerns are now being raised about how ready children are to start in the formal school environment at the age of 4.
These concerns are voiced by the campaign group Save Childhood Movement, which includes many leading education specialists.
Last week, the group launched the Too Much, Too Soon campaign which has five core aims:
Have early years education recognised as a unique educational stage away from school.
Protect children's natural development.
Prevent baseline testing.
Make more of play.
Establish a Foundation Stage for ages 3 to 7.
I share the concerns outlined about the so-called "schoolification" of children in their early years and about the Government's focus on testing even the youngest children.
We must recognise the importance of learning through play and enjoying a proper childhood.
In England, we place too much emphasis on the term "school readiness", which looks at ensuring a child can attend school and step into that structured environment at the age of 4.
The importance of play is often of much less concern and is becoming a less and less important element of a child's daily life.
The campaign rightly draws attention to the fact that the Government is soon to draw up qualifications for nursery teachers and child carers which state they don't have to use play as a learning tool. This is fundamentally flawed and would have nothing but a detrimental effect on young children.
Not only that, but there are also calls for more testing at early ages. This is despite the fact that research does not support that an early start to testing is beneficial but instead provides considerable evidence to challenge it.
You only have to look at the way exam and test pressure affects older children and adults to realise that monitoring a child's progress from such a young age will promote stress and a fear of learning.
Remember, this is an age when they are learning that good behaviour – doing something correctly – is a positive thing.
If they don't perform well in tests, then they will believe they have been bad and, as a consequence, begin to shy away from learning new skills.
The campaign addresses the impact early years policies can have on the health and wellbeing of our youngest children.
This is a time of life when children are developing their communication skills, learning how to interact with others, establishing their own identities and, even more crucially, developing the skills they need to continue learning later in life.
As a sector, there is a united front to have the early years policy-making put in the hands of those who truly understand the developmental needs and potential of young children.
I certainly appreciate the need to ensure that all education is delivered to a high standard but this should be done in a way that complements a child's natural way of learning and interacting.
Imposing rigid tests, removing the opportunity for play and putting in place a formal education structure when they are very young is not the right way to ensure those standards are met.
I encourage everyone to take the time to look at this campaign and put their thoughts across – it is only with a united voice that we might effect some change in the system.
Find out more at www.toomuch toosoon.org