Dear Damian Hinds, Ofsted forgets our four-year-olds are not GCSE apprentices

Dear Damian Hinds,

Your powers will enable you to ignore or act upon the Ofsted report that recently landed on your desk: “Bold beginnings: the reception curriculum in a sample of good and outstanding primary schools”. Here’s the report’s second sentence: “For too many children, however, their reception year is a missed opportunity that can leave them exposed to all the painful and unnecessary consequences of falling behind their peers.”

Schooling has been increasingly built around the idea that a proportion of children are “falling behind”. There are “falling behind” tables. My children are tested once a week and each set of test results announces the fallen-behinds. But the report holds out, in the midst of setting and streaming, a no-one-falling-behind future. Perhaps you will acquire the special powers to prevent anyone from falling behind anyone else.

Apart from children being in an inevitable race to be not-behind, the report also assumes that the most important thing about four-year-olds is that they need to be pump-primed for what’s going to happen next. We’re told by Ofsted that if teachers get reception right, our children will get seven grade Bs at GCSE. I get the message: we should think of our four-year-olds as GCSE apprentices, though the report does give us a glimpse of childhood with two sentences: “[L]istening to stories, poems and rhymes fed children’s imagination” and“[S]ome headteachers did not believe in the notion of ‘free play’. They viewed playing without boundaries as too rosy and unrealistic a view of childhood.”

Perhaps, Damian, before you act on this report, you’ll start a conversation about children and childhood – because the authors of the report seem to think children are units on a conveyor belt.

Read the full letter to Damian Hinds Dear Damian Hinds, Ofsted forgets our four-year-olds are not GCSE apprentices

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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