Children unprepared for school
Figures reported on the 27th August 2010 showing that one in five children failed to reach writing standards expected for their age, one in six failed to attain expected reading level, one in ten were behind in maths and boys trailed behind girls in every subject tested despite record investments in the early education and the recently implemented early years foundation stage (EYFS), suggest that there is more involved to acquiring literacy and numeracy than simply the teaching of basic skills.
“Readiness” for reading requires that all systems involved have received sufficient stimulation in the early years. This includes development of balance, coordination, postural control and fine motor skills to facilitate writing; control of eye movements and the ability to hear and say all of the sounds required for reading and spelling. These basic skills are nurtured not through direct teaching of reading and writing in the pre-school years, but through physical and imaginative play, singing, conversation, being told stories and being read to on a regular basis. Increasingly, the lacking ingredients in a child’s early years are physical interaction with the environment and social engagement with adults and other children. Children growing up in areas of social deprivation are particularly at risk, as are boys who are naturally later at developing the fine motor and language skills needed to support reading, writing and spelling.
Only last weekend, when I was running a training day for teachers in The Netherlands in how to recognise signs of neuro-motor immaturity in the classroom and how to administer a developmental intervention programme, one of the attendees remarked that these problems are now reaching “epidemic” proportions, not only in the United Kingdom but in other parts of Europe and the rest of the developed world. As technology proceeds apace, and children are increasingly exposed to visual stimulation without motor integration we are in danger of creating a state of evolutionary regression rather then progression in the motor and language skills needed to support reading, writing, spelling, maths and social integration. The foundations for these skills are laid down in the early years as a child’s brain and body learn to work together through activity.
Until successive governments focus attention on developing the whole child instead of trying to treat the symptom, we will continue to see similar depressing statistics.
Information on the INPP one day course for teachers in identifying neuro-motor immaturity and implementing a developmental movement programme may be be found at: www.inpp.org.uk/training