Save the Children have published a report that needs some serious consideration. THE LOST BOYS: How boys are falling behind in their early years is linked here, and worth a read. The gender gap in attainment is well documented, and has been a serious problem since well before I was a Head. Ch 4 in particular (p17ff), probably needs to be read by a whole pile of educators, not just the concerned Early Years specialists. And of course I’d like the Brookes EY Pathway students next year on the PGCE to pick it up and read it (and understand it, and act on it); I’d like our MA students to read it too. So this brief post has to be read with the understanding that this is in many ways just a minor carp at the language of the report.
And the language is a bit hard. The report warns, for example, that
The use of ‘falling behind at five’ and its variations denote children not working securely in the components of Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in communication and language during their Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) in their Reception year. We know that some children will be four during the EYFSP assessment, but refer to five-year olds for conciseness.
In other words this report seems to take as a given that whatever the government sets as targets is right and proper, and that the boys are “falling behind. ” The boys and their teachers are at fault, not the targets. We have, it seems, to accept this: it is our sole curriculum-based measure, after all, even though the choice of referring to five year olds instead of four and five “for conciseness” begins to raise the hackles. The report also states that
Over the past ten years we have allowed nearly a million five-year-old boys to start primary school behind, making it harder for them to ever catch up.
And again, I query this language.
What is it that allows us to say Level n or Indicator i actually is a justifiable position to take? I am fully in favour of the suggestion that (p18)
we must invest in the best early years provision, led by early years teachers and supported by skilled staff at all levels, particularly in the most deprived areas
but does this commit those members of staff – and those of us involved in their formation – to seeing these levels and indicators as a true or realistic way of looking at learning?
And if we don’t use government indicators, how do we persuade government(s) to take the predicament seriously?