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HEADS UP IN BRIEF Breast-fed are Brighter

The Guardian reports on a study that found that breastfeeding produces brighter children: “Children who had been breastfed consistently outperformed their formula-fed peers at ages five, seven, 11 and 14 in tests of reading, writing and mathematics, researchers from the University of Oxford and the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex found.”

Britain has one of the world’s lowest rates of breastfeeding despite NHS recommendations that babies should be breastfed in their first six months. Only 35% of UK infants are exclusively breastfed at one week old, 21% at six weeks, 7% at four months and just 3% at six months. However, Maria Iacovou, one of the paper’s co-authors, said she still supported mothers who decided for whatever reason that breastfeeding wasn’t for them: “It really, really wasn’t my intention to make any mother feel guilty.”


What is meant by the latest writings from the government about children being “ready for school”? Surely, we should be looking at whether schools are ready for our kids! Without a clear definition as to what is expected of a child coming up to the age when he or she will start school, the missives from both ministerial and educational policy writings using the words “ready for school” are causing considerable consternation amongst early years learning experts.

Mary Evans, writing in Nursery World, highlights the disparity in interpretation: “To one person, the phrase can mean the expectation that a child has the necessary social, language and emotional skills to manage the transition from reception to a play- based curriculum in year one; in the eyes of another, it can mean that a child has the specific literacy and numeracy skills to knuckle down to formal instruction in the 3Rs.” To have “school readiness” linked to child literacy is most alarming as both Ofsted and the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, have been very clear in wanting children to be reading before the age of six through use of synthetic phonics.

“There is top-down pressure for this focus on readiness for school,” says Megan Pacey, Chief Executive of Early Education. “It is not coming from the early years sector, where there is an awkward feeling about the whole phrase. It is particularly coming from the Secretary of State and one or two supporters. There is frustration in the early years, as we would

argue that the learning through play approach, building on skills in a fun-filled, more informal learning environment, not being strapped into desks, should go on from reception into year one and year two.”

It is not the child that needs to be ready for school, but the school that should be ready for the child

Wendy Ellyatt, editor of the OpenEYE Campaign Newsletter, writes that the framework has been established based upon externally-set “norms” and “standards”, with each child measured against such norms and assessed accordingly: “It assesses the child according to his or her lack of opportunity, judges the child on the pre-defined norms and makes little allowance for age or gender variation in the rate and nature of individual development and learning. What is now beginning to be recognised by many educators is that it is not the child that needs to be ready for school, but the school that should be ready for the child.”


For the Department for Education’s business plan, visit: for%20education%20business%20plan.pdf ready-school-mean/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH remedy-early-literacy-delay/

“Having children hitting five, being put into school uniform, wearing ties, sitting at desks, reciting by rote and doing phonics until they are blue in the face – that is our fear”

• Founded in 1645 Cheam is one of the oldest Prep Schools in the country • Set in 100 acres of beautiful countryside, for sporty, outdoor loving, energetic types • Cheam is the perfect school for children to spend their formative years • Outstanding academic performance – 68 scholarships in the last 5 years • Very strong sport, music, drama and an exhaustive list of extra-curricular activities • Co-Ed day and boarding from 3-13 (Weekly or Flexi boarding available from age 8)




Tel: 01635 268242

Cheam School, Headley, Newbury, Berkshire RG19 8LD

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