Behind its aggressive defence of an early years policy that would see 4 and 5 year-olds being tested when they start school earlier than almost anywhere else in Europe, lies a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of play, as Adrian Voce explains in this postscript to yesterday’s piece.
Schools Minister Liz Truss made a comment on the BBC’s Newsnight on 12 September which revealed the extent of the government’s ignorance about the nature of play and its role in children’s development and went some way to explaining how it can think that introducing tests for 4 and 5-year olds is a good idea.
She said “we’re not against play … the issue is whether it should be entirely child initiated or teacher led”, yet every serious study of the subject has identified that the benefits of play arise from the child being in control. It is the self-determination, the experience of uncertainty, the management of risk, the negotiation of relationships and the exercise of choice – all in the process of vital self-expression and creativity – that makes playing so important for children and their development. However skilled and sensitive the teacher, whatever else is happening when he or she is “leading”, children are not really playing in the full sense of the word.
Until now, all government policy that touched on it recognised this crucial part of the definition of play.
Its ignorance matched only by its arrogance, it seems that that this government is intent on marching children back – no doubt strictly in line, fingers on lips – to a time when they did what they were told or else. Look where that got us.
Adrian Voce OBE