Falling Behind in the Pencil Grip

In the 2017 Ofsted report Bold Beginnings – as if an assertive alliteration generates meaning – it is concluded that many 4 and 5 year old reception class children are ‘falling behind their peers’.

While the report recognises the importance of listening to ‘stories, poems and rhyme’ – though this seems the oddest trilogy, and it doesn’t initially mention writing stories and poems – the conclusion seems to be that this, and other aspects of learning at this stage, aren’t formalised enough:

The EYFS profile (EYFSP)3 is a mechanism for statutory summative assessment and if this doesn’t demonstrate that the perceived best learning is right, children are ‘falling behind’.

And when the report does mention children writing, this is the focus:

In schools visited where writing was of a high standard, the children were able to write simple sentences and more by the end of Reception. They were mastering the spelling of phonically regular words and common exception words. These schools paid good attention to children’s posture and pencil grip when children were writing. They used pencils and exercise books, while children sat at tables, to support good, controlled letter formation.

‘Pencil grip’. There’s another title for a new found poem. But for now, here is what I found in the report’s opening Executive Summary:

Reception Years

It was
comprehensive

this falling
behind

their imagination,
painful and

unnecessary
at the

heart of the
curriculum,

a missed
opportunity

for their
life ahead –

our children
spelling

spelling,
selling synthetic

preparing for
Inspection, exposed

to critical
consequences

in their stories
and poems years.

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