Ofsted’s report, Bold Beginnings, which recommended that reception year should be focused more on formal learning led to considerable opposition from people across the field.
The report maintained that successful primary schools treated reception year as fundamentally different from nursery. Reading and writing, rather than play, were core activities with a focus on being ready for the beginning of year one. These schools had the children practise handwriting, ensuring that they had good pencil grip and sat at a table to write. Students were able, said the report, to read and write simple sentences by the end of reception. The report praised schools that approached reception in this way and recommended that all schools should follow this approach, and furthermore that they should take a similar approach to mathematics and numeracy.
“The proposed changes in the ‘Bold Beginnings’ report will be harmful to children in the long term and must therefore be challenged.”
Over 1,700 people signed a letter opposing Ofsted’s stance and demanded that Bold Beginnings be withdrawn. Signatories included early years and educational experts, authors, MPs, teachers, union representatives and parents. The open letter criticised the report saying that children would be damaged by the developmentally inappropriate recommendations of early formal learning. It highlighted the knowledge and evidence that learning should be play focused at this age.