Category Archives: review

My Thoughts on the Tickell Review of the Early Years Foundation Stage

I usually approach such reading with trepidation, however when Jonathan Douglas Chairman of the National Literacy Trust described it as ‘exhilarating’ my ears pricked up.

The Review recognises the success and popularity of the EYFS and that it will be some time before this will be fully embedded in practice.  It therefore does not recommend radical change, but maintaining  EYFS in its current form whilst  fine tuning certain aspects.  I’m sure this will be a relief to many who are only just getting to grips with the EYFS and dread being faced with even more change. The tone of the report feels very much as though Dame Tickell has listened to the many individuals and organisations involved in the consultation and shows a commitment to the importance of early education. The review supports learning through play, active learning, creativity and critical thinking as characteristics for effective teaching and  recommends  that the EYFS remains inclusive and mandatory.

There are a number of recommendations in the review including:-

  • A greater emphasis on parental partnership .  The EYFS should be more accessible to parents by making sure it is in plain English.  I also think this would really help with the wide range of people that use it and help to remove any ambiguity .  In addition an online interactive version of EYFS is recommended that would be accessible to parents.
  • A reduction of the Early Learning Goals from 69 to 17, with a simple scale defining the skills needed for emerging, expecting and exceeding each goal.  Anything that reduces targets has to be a good thing in my opinion and the examples of the simple scale are very clear.
  • A commitment to greater clarity on the level of paperwork required, alongside the suggestion that paperwork should be reduced.  This sits alongside the recommendation that Ofsted and the Local Authority work together to ensure that no unnecessary demands made.
  • There continues to be an emphasis on formative assessment based on observations of daily activities to illustrate children’s learning.  Summative assessment (the Foundation Stage Profile) will be significantly reduced and there is a call for stronger links between EYFS and KS1.
  • A call to investigate as a matter of urgency the suitability of a ratio of 1:30 in reception classes.
  • A commitment to recruiting a professional and highly qualified workforce including a review of Early Years training courses and a clear progressive structure for qualifications.  I just hope that this quality is maintained by providing financial incentives.
  • A recommended change to the areas of learning. This would create 3 Prime areas – Communication and Language, Personal, Social and Emotional and Physical and 4 further areas through which these will be applied. These would be Literacy, Maths, Expressive Arts and Design and Understanding the World.  I am undecided as to whether the separation of Communication and Language from Literacy will lead to a greater emphasis on speaking and listening or whether it will detract from the interdependence of reading, writing, speaking and listening.  I hope that there will be clear advice as to what early literacy is .  I am a little disheartened that literacy is defined in terms of reading and writing and that definitions have not been reframed for a new technological age.  I am also unsure about the change from Creativity to
  • Expressive Arts and Design.  I am certain that it has been changed to avoid ambiguity, but creativity encompasses so much more than art and design, that I would hope that this would be fostered in diverse ways.  It is good to see that technology has a specific mention in Understanding the World.
  • A review of children’s development at aged 2-2.5  sharing knowledge from all agencies.

The examples of good practice in the appendices make good reading and there are some thought provoking quotations interspersed throughout.  Reading the whole document takes some time, but is worthwhile.  If you didn’t want to read the whole review the summary of recommendations in Annex 2 will give an overview.

I watch with interest to see how policy makers will adopt these recommendations for the new EYFS.

The full consultation report can be viewed  here http://www.education.gov.uk/tickellreview

Simply Pure – A Review

I often describe my laundry basket as the ever flowing porridge pot from the fairy tale.  Therefore, when my tubs of Simply washing tablets were delivered courtesy of Netmums, an opportunity to finally empty it presented itself. I should be the ideal candidate to review washing powder.  My eldest suffers from nose bleeds,  middle child is prone to falling in muddy puddles, the baby has just started on solids, I wash my own nappies and my clothes permanently have baby sick shoulder.

I have to say that washing powder is not something I am generally enthusiastic about. I’m not brand loyal , usually favouring  own brand products and I still use old fashioned powder as it usually goes further.   

First impressions

I liked the neat little plastic tubs and could easily see them being useful for storing the kids little bits once they were empty.  One  thing that did strike me however was that 15 washes per tub wasn’t an awful lot and since Simply has an eco friendly label there could be a lot of wasted packaging.  I wonder whether they could do a refill service to save on packaging?

The Washing

So now to put it to the test.  My first load was a coloured wash, I washed with 2 tablets on 30° as recommended on the instructions.  I expected a delicate fragrance but was surprised  when the washing came out with no fragrance at all.  However, I did find that despite  the lack of fragrance , the washing smelt really clean and fresh.  My next wash was a whites wash, again on a 30° with 2 tablets.  The whites came out much brighter than they would with my usual powder, however one of the shirts did not smell fresh on a low temperature wash, when I put it back in on a higher temperature it came out smelling clean.

I was concerned that the lack of fragrance would mean that the nappies  would smell. The nappy wash at 60° was the most impressive of all.  The nappies came out much softer than they would with my usual powder (fabric softener is not recommended when washing nappies as it reduces the absorbency) and they were clean and smelt really fresh.  By the 3rd wash the lack of fragrance was really growing on me, the freshness is much nicer than an artificial fragrance.  But most impressive of all were some heavily soiled baby clothes that I included in the wash.

WP_000128                                          

Though there was a slight trace of the stain it was barely noticeable. The washing was tumble dried and had they been line dried I am certain that even this faint staining would have been removed by the sun.

I am looking forward to using the rest of my supply and who knows I may even be converted long term.  With Netmums current special offer of buy 6 packs get £7 off,  the tablets are cheaper than my current own brand powder and at the usual price of £2.89 for 30 tablets are still excellent value.

I am a member of the Netmums Blogging Network, a unique community of parent bloggers from around the UK who have been handpicked by the Netmums team to review products and brands on their behalf. I am paid an expenses fee to cover my time (and childcare if the fee is big enough!) but Netmums have no editorial control whatsoever about what I blog about. Being a member of the Netmums Blogging Network means that I get to try out products and brands and get my expenses covered but that I retain full editorial integrity

Hooray for Kindle!

kindle My most useful recent purchase has to be my Amazon Kindle.  As part of a de-clutter my husband suggested selling/giving away our room full of books and replacing the ones that we really like on a Kindle.  I wasn’t really sure at first but it has been just fabulous.

I often find myself downloading pdf documents that I think might be interesting or useful for work and then they sit around on my laptop without being read.  Occasionally I will read a few pages before my eyes get tired from reading on screen.

Now that I have my Kindle all I need to do is email them to my Kindle email address with the subject ‘convert’ and they are instantly transferred to my Kindle in an easy to read format.  Now I can sit and read them like a book without having to print them and they are always to hand.  I can organise them into folders so that I can find them easily and there is even a function for defining words that you do not understand (very useful when reading journal articles).

When I’m bleary eyed I can change the size of the text and the unlit screen isn’t harsh, but slightly brighter than a standard book. I could happily read by the light of the fish tank when researching a few nights ago.

I’m hoping that as more books become readily available I won’t have to carry piles of books or study with a stack of books next to me.  They will all be contained in my little slimline friend.

We are even considering buying one for my daughter’s 7 th birthday – she is such a bookworm .  I could make some much needed space in her bookcase and as an able reader who usually reads alone, she would be able to look up anything she didn’t understand. I think  this would bring her reading to another level.  Though stopping her from ordering endless books on my credit card may be an issue.

And as an added bonus you will be able to subscribe to this blog on your Kindle in the next few days.

Room by Emma Donoghue

I have been looking forward to reading this book for some time and had kept it aside to read in one sitting.  I was not disappointed.

The story is told from the perspective of a 5 year old boy who has been locked in a room with his mother from birth and is unaware that there is an outside world.  Sounds depressing ?  Oddly it isn’t. The child’s voice makes the whole experience both fascinating and endearing.  Inanimate objects are his friends,  hence he refers to ‘rug’,’wardrobe’ and ‘bed’ and anything that he sees on the television is seen to live only in the t.v.  As the story unfolds his mother explains to him about the outside world and we live through his bewilderment and  attachment to both his mother and the place he knows as home.

The Middle section of the book is  gripping  and fast paced , real edge of your seat stuff.

The final 2 sections describe beautifully the child’s uncertainty in a big new world and his observations of the futility  of modern consumerism .   It made me consider what is really important to children..  They don’t need ‘things’ or to be taken to lots of places what ultimately matters is security , love , and routine.

It is a wonderful thought provoking read and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Dear Mother Goose

61DN W-wRKL__SS500_

My 2-year-old has discovered a new favourite book – ‘Dear Mother Goose’ by Michael Rosen and Nick Sharratt.

This has a new and interesting way of introducing traditional nursery rhymes.  A variety of nursery rhyme characters write to mother goose to see if she can help with problems that happen to them every day.  Little Miss Muffet for example asks how she can stop a spider appearing when she eats her curds and whey.  Each letter has a flap with the appropriate nursery rhyme on the reverse and a picture flap page opposite  illustrated with the problem and solution.

Within a few weeks my 2-year-old has learned all the nursery rhymes and has even taken to singing and recording them into a microphone (but that’s another story).

The book is a decent size so would be good for group reading in a nursery or pre-school.

Includes Amazon affiliate link