Monday, December 18, 2006

School lessons to focus on play

School children learning about spiders through play, Scotland

Children will spend more time being taught through play rather than formal classes when they start primary school under a shake-up of the curriculum.

An increasing number of children entering primary one from next August are to learn through techniques traditionally used in nursery school.

Schools will still use traditional methods when necessary to teach pupils to read, write and count.

But the Scottish Executive also wants teachers to use play-based techniques.

It means drama, music, art, sand and water will replace worksheets or teaching from the blackboard.

The changes have already been introduced in some schools, including primaries in East Renfrewshire and Shetland, but the executive wants to see all local authorities backing the approach.

The aim of the changes is to bring Scotland closer to the approach taken in Scandinavia, where children start school at the age of seven but still go on to achieve high academic standards.

Some experts feel the current system creates a gulf in a child's experience between nursery and primary as learning through play is immediately replaced by more formal techniques.

'Gradual transition'

Education Minister Hugh Henry said every local authority across Scotland must have reviewed, or be reviewing, their policies on P1 education by next summer.

He added: "One of the things I am particularly concerned about is the tendency in Scotland to start the formal education process at too young an age.

"I want to see more of a gradual transition from the nursery years into primary education.

"We need to move away from the concept of teaching where pupils are given worksheets and are instructed, to a process where children can develop on their own through purposeful play."

However, Judith Gillespie, policy development officer with the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, warned the executive to take a cautious approach.

Hard work

She said: "I think the difficulty with these kinds of ideas is that when they are introduced there is a tendency to go overboard in one direction.

"Whilst play is an important part of learning, youngsters have to do the hard work and at the end of the day there is a reward for hard work.

"Learning can't always be fun - there is hard work required and it is a mistake to think that the big incentive is to make everything fun."

SNP education spokeswoman Fiona Hyslop MSP said her party had been calling for the changes for some time.
She added: "However, the Lib-Lab government must ensure that there is more time for teachers to implement these proposals and work with children in structured play."

Source: BBC

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