Early years anger over Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report ‘impossible to reconcile’

CREDIT: This story was first seen in Tes

Best-selling primary education author Sue Cowley feels Reception staff are being treated as if they are less rational than other teachers, Tes reports.

The anger over Ofsted’s controversial report on early years is only growing, author and teacher trainer Sue Cowley has warned in her latest blog post.

She says that the sector is not about to back down on what it feels is appropriate in Reception.

Her comments are the latest salvo in a battle over Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report. The document has angered many working in the sector by saying that the Reception year is a “false start” for too many children.

And Ms Cowley’s blog comes a day after an open letter, signed by more than 1,850 people, called for Ofsted to withdraw the report because of concerns that it undervalues play and play-based approaches to learning.

Ofsted has already met with early years organisations and individuals in an attempt to build bridges, and officials have said that the report does emphasise the importance of play and informal learning in Reception.

But Ms Cowley is doubtful Ofsted will be able to reassure the critics. “If Ofsted were hoping that the anger would settle down and go away over Christmas, the opposite seems to be the case,” she writes. “To my mind, it is probably going to be impossible to reconcile some parts of the report with the values and beliefs of those of us who work in early years, and probably many of our colleagues in other phases as well.”

And Ms Cowley argues out that on social media the reaction from some non-early years specialists to objections raised by those working in early years has been somewhat patronising.

“If you spend any length of time working in the early years sector, you start to get the feeling that you are not seen to be as quite as intellectual or rational as those working in other phases of education,” she writes.

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“The reaction to the response to Ofsted’s Bold Beginnings report is a great case in point – lying just beneath the surface of the language being used on Twitter seems to be the idea that the women who make up 98 per cent of the early years sector should just calm the hell down.”

She points out that while individual comments could be shrugged off as “ill-informed”, the cumulative effect is to create a “distrust of the early years sector and a misunderstanding of the pedagogy we use”.

Ms Cowley says that the early years sector, which covers private, voluntary and independent preschools, as well as nursery and Reception classes in schools, has a more united vision than perhaps schools, where there seems to be a divide between more progressive and traditionalist teachers.

And she concludes: “We do not plan to let the EYFS become a ‘preparation’ for ‘now-increased expectations’. Because it is a unique and important phase, in and of itself.”

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