1.1 Introduction

 

“The Early Years Foundation
Stage (EYFS) sets the standard that all Early Years providers must meet to
ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes
teaching and learning to ensure children’s ‘School Readiness’ and gives
children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right
foundation for good future progress through school and life (Goverment, 2017).

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1.2  School
Readiness

 

The current
issue with EYS (Early Years Stage) is their pedagogical approach, which focuses
a lot on specifying what ‘School Readiness’ is and categorising children by
their educational abilities. The issue of inequality in early years education,
changes along with what teachers do, what they think is important, and how they
judge children as good or bad learners. Children aged 4 or 5, will spend their
first year in school being talked about and assessed as a ‘good learner’,
meanwhile some will not be classed as that, and all because of how, or who they
are, in terms of their race, class or gender, among others (Dahlberg, G. and
Moss, P. 2005). Early Years professionals, along with children’s parents
interpret the term ‘school ready’ in a way that is in blunt contrast to often
stated by policy makers and regulators in England and more reflective of the
approach taking by policy makers in Wales (Pacey, 2013). Vast majority of each
group of respondents including 97% of childcare professionals agree that the
term ‘school readiness’ should include:-

 

·     
Strong
Social skills

·     
Being
able to cope emotionally with being separated from their parents and being able
to have basic skills of independency in their own personal care.

·     
Have
curiosity about world

 

The ongoing
evidence from international research, recognise that play best supports
children’s social and emotional development as well as their creativity (Pacey,
2013). It has come to attention that play in the early years is being neglected
and risks that may potentially occur during play is being eroded even further
by current government proposal in England, which leads to schoolification
(Pacey, 2013).

 

Lev Vygotsky
believed there were two aspects to school readiness:-

 

·     
Social
situation as it relates to the cultural practices of schooling and the
expectations associated with the role of the child as a student

·     
Child’s
awareness of the expectations and the ability to meet them. School readiness is
the ability to receive and follow instructions given (Vygotsky, 1978).

 

1.3 Play-Based learning theories

 

Lev Vygotsky
believed that, ” Children have dialogues with
themselves when they engage in imaginative play (Kozulin, 2002). 
Role-playing means creating a story and giving a voice to the different
characters in the story.  When children imitate others, they are
developing a vocabulary that allows them to name and navigate the world around
them.  Less verbal children may talk more during imaginative play than in
other settings” (Kozulin, 2002).

 

Jean Piaget, constructivist
theorist, believed that all children go through 4 stages of development,
however the domain stage he believed in, was cognitive development, where at
this level children begin to develop their thinking, they begin to train their
intellect and intellectual processes, which include, attention, memory,
knowledge, problem solving and so on (Jean Piaget 1969. Pg. 11), Piaget explained in his research
that play-based learning has a big influence on clear majority of children, he
believed that children learn faster and better through play rather than formal
form of teaching (Cutter-Mackenzie
et al. 2014).

 

In addition (Hereford & Schall, 1991)
believed that different types of play such as dramatic play, sociodramatic
play, symbolic play, etc. Based on that theory government as well as early
years practitioners begin to believe that play is a form of teaching children,
and begin to discover the great impact play has on young children (William, Strader, 2010).

 

The National
Teachers Union believes in the importance of play in the Early Years Foundation
Stage, as it is embedded in curriculum guidance (teachers.org.uk pg.1. 2006).
Although play is a natural form of learning and exploring for children from the
youngest of ages, there is still a strong emphasis on formal learning, this
form of teaching is excluding play-based learning activities out of the
curriculum, as it is believed that it is not as beneficial for children, as the
formal approach to teaching, it is believed play based learning will not
prepare children as effectively for further education (teachers.org.uk pg. 1.
2006). Despite the fact that children do adapt information faster and better
during play as the learning is not forced out on them, also the information and
skills that they acquire through play will leave an imprint on their brains
which means they will remember it for longer (teachers.org.uk pg. 1. 2006).

 

Play based
learning has its’ advantages and disadvantages, to why it should remain within
the National Curriculum. The advantages of play-based learning is, a fun and
creative way of familiarising children to new subjects and topics and it will
encourage them to learn and show them that learning can be fun too (teachers.org.uk
pg. 1. 2006). On the other hand, the disadvantages are, that it might not be a
good idea to introduce children to learning in a fun and creative way whilst
they are young, as when children get older they slowly get familiarised with
the formal teaching approaches, which may have a negative impact on the
children as suddenly the idea of school could become discouraging as they were
used to fun and carefree learning at the early stage of their lives (teachers.org.uk.
2006).

 

Formal learning
can also affect children, particularly boys, to become distracted and
disinterested in further education. This could lead to jeopardising not only
their future, but the future of other classroom pupils around them due to
causing a distraction and interrupting the class (teachers.org.uk pg. 1. 2006).

 

 

1.4 Assessing Early learning through formative
assessment:

Key issues and
considerations.

 

 Formative assessment education system is
growing in importance for Early Years educators, furthermore, the principle
that assessment informs teaching, and that teaching involves assessing, this is
considered as important in Early Childhood (Bowman, Donovan, and Burns, 2000).
The observation and assessment in early childhood is a long tradition
throughout many of the pioneers in the field, such as Frobel, Piaget, Vygotsky
and Issacs, they strongly promoted this process of watching and listening and
reflecting based on child’s actions and words (Bowman, Donovan, Burns, 2000).

 

Curriculum standards define
what children should know and be able to do in a particular content area (Bowman,
Donovan, Burns, 2000). Standards provide guidance to teachers and informs their
instruction. Teachers can use these curriculum standards to assess what
concepts need strengthening or re-teaching, or to identify when a new strategy
is needed (Bowman, Donovan, Burns, 2000). Standards are organized by grade
level to better define what children should know and be able to do at each
grade level, and to facilitate developmentally appropriate teaching. When faced
with high-stakes testing, teachers often feel pressured to teach material to
students before they are ready to learn it, or in ways that are not age
appropriate. Teacher training, discussions with colleagues, and networking can
enable teachers to carefully reflect about each step along the way to mastery. Standards
should provide enough information to help with assessment of student mastery (Bowman,
Donovan, Burns, 2000).

 

EYFS Statutory Framework
Guidance

The statutory guidance seeks to
provide a good quality and consistency in all 
Early years Settings, in order for every child to make a good progress
and no child gets left behind, a secure foundation through learning and development
opportunities, which are planned around the needs and interests of each child,
and are assessed and reviewed regularly (Department of Education, 2017).
Statutory Guidance seeks a good partnership between parents/ carers and
practitioners, so they can work together in creating equality and new
opportunities for children, as well as delivering anti-discriminatory practice,
and ensuring that no child is left behind and that all are being included and
supported.

EYFS by following the guidance,
specifies requirements and development for safeguarding children while
promoting their welfare. In the early years settings, the early learning
providers must help children work towards the best possible standard and make sure
that each individual has a good knowledge, skills and understanding at the end
of the academic year (Department of Education, 2017)

 

 

 

Pedagogy and children with SEN and
disabilities

The EYFS framework sets out the
standards, where all ‘Ofsted-registered’ Early Years providers must meet, to
ensure that all children learn and develop appropriately and that all children
are kept healthy and safe (Department of Health, Department of Education,
2015). All this includes an ongoing assessment of children’s progress, Early
Years providers and Educational settings should have those arrangements in
place, where it includes clear approach to assessing SEN (Department of Health,
Department of Education, 2015). This is a must for this setting overall approach
to monitoring the progress and development of all children.

Practitioners can use the
non-statutory Early Years Outcome guidance tool to assess progress of children
in the early years, and to assess if each child is developing at expected level
for their age (Department of Health, Department of Education, 2015). The
Guidance sets out what majority of children do at each stage of their learning
development (Department of Health, Department of Education, 2015).

“This Code of Practice provides
statutory guidance on duties, policies and procedures relating to Part 3 of the
Children and Families Act 2014 and associated regulations and applies to
England. It relates to children and young people with special educational needs
(SEN) and disabled children and young people” (Department of Education, 2015).

Supporting Special
Educational Needs (SEN) has been introduced and issued by the National Council
of Curriculum in December 1999. Early Years practitioners have been introduced
to this topic, as it is expected, that every practitioner understands every
condition thoroughly to adjust lesson plans or any type of activity for
children with different conditions, and to deliver appropriate guidelines for
students with Special Educational Needs (Department for Education and Skills, 2001).

 

Although there
are many disabilities that children are born with, such as, ADHD, language
impairment, autism, dyslexia, visual impairment, Asperger’s syndrome, and many
more, some of those conditions are more serious than others, therefore
practitioners must be correctly trained and be alerted to be aware of what
actions to take, when they get pupil with one of those conditions or any other
disability that they may or may not have come across in theory, but also they
may or may not have come across in practice (Department for Education and
Skills, 2001).

Across all types of special educational
need there is a variety of research methods used (Davis
P, Florian L, 2004). Differences
between the profile of the type of evidence associated with each strand area
has much to do with the cultural and historical development of research in that
area, as well as to the nature of the ‘special educational need’ under
investigation (Davis P, Florian L. 2004). Key teaching strategies and approaches
associated with each area of need defined in the SEN Code of Practice (Department of
Education, Department of Health, 2015).

Down Syndrome

The Special Educational Needs and Disability Act. 2001, has introduced a
stronger right for children with SEN to be educated and mainstreamed at schools
(Gov.co.uk/specialeducationalneeds 2016). In November 1978, Mary Warnock (Warnock. M, 1978),
produced a report in accordance with Margaret Thatcher MP, who
was the Secretary of State for Education and Science at the time, with
reference to what she announced to create a committee that would review
educational provision in England, Scotland and Wales for children and young
people who are handicapped by disabilities of body or mind(Warnock. M, 1978). The
report goes on to specify how children and young people with disabilities will
be provided with the additional care and help they deserve with respect to the
medical attention that is essential for their condition in order to prepare
them in best possible way for their future transiting into adulthood (Gov.co.uk/specialeducationalneeds
2016), (Warnock. M, 1978).

 

Children
whom are born with down’s syndrome may be affected by short term listening
memory. This may affect them being able to remember and follow direct
instructions, remembering things in a certain order, people with this
disability cannot easily distinguish between their short term and long term
memory (Buckley, S. & Bird,G. 2000-2004). This could be problematic when
certain tasks are set for example, examination period at school, therefore this
is why children with down’s syndrome follow designated educational programs
that are specifically designed for their needs (Buckley, S. & Bird,G. 2000-2004).

 

Programs
are designed to suit the learning needs of those with down’s syndrome as they
typically have trouble with their concentration span, thus reducing their
productivity when learning through conventional methods, due to this lesson
plans that consist of a lot of signs and gestures, demonstrations and visual
imagery as well as use of pictures diagrams and hand held objects as technology
advances, there is also increasing usage of interactive white boards tablets
and many more are created (Alton, S. 2000).

 

Although
children with down’s syndrome struggle with spoken language their ability to
read is often underestimated, due to this their strong ability to read, their
cognitive development improves. However, despite their reading ability being
strong this cannot be said for their capability within mathematics, it is
commonly known that their numerical disadvantage is estimated to be around two
years behind their literacy skills (Byrne,
et. al 2002).

 

EYFS
requires early years’ practitioners to review children’s progress and share the
summary with the child’s parents, these reviews are essential at the 24 and 36
months of their age. Development Matters might be used by the practitioners
throughout the EYFS developmental stage to make the best judgment about whether
the child is showing typical development for their age (The British Association
for Early Childhood Education 2012), (Alton, S. 2000).

 

Early
Years practitioners are trained to help them out in various ways, such as with
additional reading and writing classes. It is known that the classroom
environment for children with down’s syndrome should have correct adjustments
to their needs (Webster, R. 2015).For
example, correct
chairs and tables at the right height for child’s feet to be flat on the
ground, likewise children are being taught how to hold their pen suitably to
help them with their writing (Webster, R. 2015).

 

Each
child has different strengths and weaknesses which is particular to their own
learning (Webster. R, 2015). In addition, there are many ways and different
approaches in which Early Years practitioners can help children with down’s
syndrome, such as teach them how to use gesture and sign language, also to
create more hands-on activities that are supported by the EYFS curriculum (Buckley,
S. 1993).

 

Children
should be involved in Makaton classes, this is a programme which is using signs
and symbols to help children with language impairment to communicate, it has
been designed to support spoken language, the signs and symbols are being used
with speech. With Makaton children, can communicate straight away using the
signs and symbols they have learned. (Makaton 2013), (Buckley, S. 1993).

Sing-along
is another vital activity for children with learning delays such as language
and speech impairment. Sing-along is both learning and enjoyment, which
children need in their learning environment to grasp what they are being
taught, particularly children with down’s syndrome, as it reinforces language
and literacy skills. (Down Syndrome 1999, p. g133-135), (Buckley, S. 1993).

 

Practitioners help and support ,for children with down’s syndrome is
important but just like anything else, too much can have an opposite outcome,
child will not become entirely independent, as they will be used to adult
supervision at all times even in the simplest of tasks such as zipping their
own jacket, putting shoes on, or even putting their hats on when it is cold
outside. They will not have social relationships with their peers as they have
not had enough time to get to know them, in its place they will form a
relationship and bond with their day time care staff (Lorenz, S. 2006).

 

The national curriculum states that, there is no reason why young children
with down’s syndrome should not participate in the same activities as children
who were not born with down’s syndrome, it is clear that children with those
special educational needs may need an additional help in some activities but
they should be getting involved in various of plays by their teachers (Lorenz, S. 2006).

Children
with down syndrome tend to have very specific needs, those are as follow
(Lorenz, S. 2006) :-

 

·     
Need
to go to school nurse for medication when necessary

·     
Miss
class time due to frequent medical appointments

·     
Need
visual and auditory accommodations for classroom instruction

·     
Require
physical, occupational, and speech therapies

·     
Need
extra time and assistance with class work

·     
Require
therapeutic staff support in the classroom

 

With
regards to this, children with down’s syndrome should not be subject to any
favouritism by the practitioners in order to avoid neglecting children that do
not have disabilities, as it is not approved by the National Council of
Curriculum. Although it is important that teachers do make available any
additional help and support for those children whose body and mind are
handicapped, and are unable to use their learning skills at the same
educational level as their peers. For example; to improve on their language
development, mathematical skills or their everyday communication skills that
they will need in their future in order to manage in an adulthood