It is very good news to see the emphasis the coalition government is placing on children in the recent Allen Report, particularly early years through such initiatives as the Early Intervention Report and Childhood and Families Task Force
- How do children’s brains develop? For more than a decade now, the evidence has been mounting about the rate at which children’s brains develop in their first few years of life, making it vitally important that early experiences are positive ones, setting the stage for their future development, achievement of potential, quality of life and contribution to society.Having this greater knowledge about how children develop gives us the opportunity to identify what types of experiences we want to focus on, which to avoid and when to “intervene” to influence the outcomes particularly with regard to children who are disadvantaged.
- School ready, life ready, child ready There is a great deal of emphasis in the Allen report on readiness and the use of early intervention to create what is being called a “virtuous circle” – school ready, life ready, child ready – almost as though each phase of life is primarily preparation for the next . One of the recommendations that alarms me most is that the government should number all year groups from birth, not from the start of primary school – and that the primary objective of the foundation years from 0 to 5 should be to produce high levels of “school readiness”. Can it really be a good thing to introduce more structure and regimentation into the lives of our children from the time they leave the womb? Or possibly even before as Allen’s concept of the foundation years includes pregnancy!
- Childhood is for joy and discovery If this government wants to make a real difference to children’s lives I’d encourage them to remember that childhood should be a time of joy and discovery for each individual child, treasured for its intrinsic value rather than primarily being viewed and programmed as the period when we learn how to become successful adults Achieving this means allowing children to play and to use their imaginations freely rather than as a means to an end. Play is as natural to children as eating and breathing and it is the one aspect of childhood that is shared regardless of background or circumstance.
Surely there must be a prominent place for play in any recommendations intended to improve the lives of children and to support families in the UK?
How do we ensure this is safeguarded for our families in the future?