Sunday 18 March 2018

Teaching how to learn is child's play - inspectors

All set for big school: Gemma Mooney and Zoe Mulhall Picture: Gerry Mooney
All set for big school: Gemma Mooney and Zoe Mulhall Picture: Gerry Mooney
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Some pre-schools are focusing too much on ensuring toddlers know their letters and can hold a pencil, at the expense of nurturing skills such as creativity and persistence, according to Department of Education inspectors.

In what some may view as a surprising finding, the first education inspections in the country's pre-schools found a tendency to prioritise "academic" skills over important early-years learning such as problem-solving .

The inspectors reported, however, that where they found that an approach to early-learning was overly formal, rather than play-based, it was often driven by parental expectations.

Education-focused inspection of pre-schools is new to Ireland, and 182 have been carried out since April, with 42 reports published yesterday on the websites of both the Department of Education and the Department of Children.

The inspections are intended to be supportive and to guide best practice in the sector, and there was a largely positive tone to the first batch of reports.

However, they also highlighted areas where there is room for improvement, including the provision of regular outdoor play experiences and the use of children's own interests as a basis for planning learning activities.

One centre that rated "excellent" across the board was Birch Dale, Caherlag, Glanmire, Co Cork, the report on which goes into some detail about the approach that impressed the inspectors.

They noted a daily review, during which children identify the day's highlights and which includes discussion about the following day's activities: "For example, one child found a dead bumble bee and it was agreed that one of the practitioners would bring in a magnifying glass the next day to explore the bumble bee further and to look for other insects."

Irish Independent

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