The Need for Play Based Early Education

We need to ditch our obsession with the ‘school readiness’ of infants and stop fretting over four year olds who struggle to sit at a desk like a good little future worker argues James McEnaney.

When the First Minister is appealing for her critics to ‘step back from the politics’ it’s a sure sign that things are getting out of hand.

Even in the world of Scottish politics, which seems to specialise in generating unfathomable quantities of heat amidst utter darkness, the standardised testing debacle has been particularly draining. But to understand what’s going on, and what comes next, we really need to remind ourselves how we got here.

Back in April 2015 the Scottish Government published its latest batch of data from the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy (SSLN), a bi-annual survey of Scottish education which, thanks to robust sampling methods, provided (note the past tense – we’ll come back to that later) a wealth of important information about literacy and numeracy levels of pupils across the country. The 2015 release focused on literacy and the picture, to be frank, wasn’t good. Already under significant political pressure for their handling of education, Nicola Sturgeon did something entirely out of character: she panicked.

Four months later the First Minister delivered a speech in an Edinburgh high school in which she insisted that she wanted to be “judged” on her record of improving education, adding that she would make sure the data was available for the public to do so. And then she announced that standardised testing, abolished in Scotland years earlier, would be imposed once again.

Almost as soon as it was announced, however, the policy began to unravel. I discovered that the entirety of the written advice received by the government on the matter amounted to just four unsolicited emails, and spent a year fighting – successfully – to prevent the contents of those documents being kept a secret.

While this was going on officials were forced to back down from plans to publish the test data and to require all students to sit the tests at the same time. By March 2017 the government had been forced to admit that the costs of the new tests had rocketed by 50%.

It doesn’t even end there: members of the SNP’s hand-picked council of education advisers have spoken out against precisely the sort of intervention being carried out by the Scottish Government; experts have highlighted concerns about the usability of the tests for students with a range of additional needs, particularly visual impairments; teachers have pointed out, repeatedly, that the tests have increased their already unmanageable workload; and, just last week, John Swinney was finally forced to admit that the tests are not compulsory (albeit only after one of his officials sent out a disgracefully misleading letter on the matter which made reference to legal advice which did not, in fact, exist).

It has also become clear that these tests do not provide reliable national data on literacy and numeracy levels. As the government has abolished the SSLN – inviting accusations that it has been ditched by they didn’t like the information it produced – we are now in a situation where rather than having more data about literacy and numeracy in Scotland we have almost none.

By now, it would take heroic levels of blind loyalty to deny that the whole policy has been a shambles, yet still the government just will not back down.

Instead, the First Minister and her Deputy (who was appointed as Education Secretary in an attempted, and deeply misguided, show of strength) insist that the tests provide vital information to teachers. They are, we are told, “integral to what teachers should be doing.” Nevermind the fact that teachers themselves have flatly rejected this ignorant assertion, or the fact that neither Sturgeon nor Swinney have any educational expertise whatsoever (and it shows) – they know best.

To be clear, nobody is saying that children shouldn’t be assessed, and the suggestion that this is the case (“but how do you know what’s going on if you don’t test them?”) simply highlights how much ignorance has infected the debate around Scottish education.

Teachers assess their students every single day – that is literally what teaching is all about. We do this through a myriad of different techniques, all predicated on professional expertise and well-developed relationships, so by insisting that teachers need these tests Sturgeon is actually arguing that Scotland’s educators don’t know how to do their jobs. That’s a hell of a position for a First Minister to adopt, and it’s made even worse by the fact that she doesn’t know enough about education to even understand that this is what she is doing.

Sturgeon has also explicitly claimed that the tests will somehow close an attainment gap which is a product of socio-economics, rooted in poverty, deprivation and devastating inequality, not imaginary inadequacies in educational practices. She is completely, unequivocally wrong on this point, and the truth is that so long as politicians are wasting time and money doing R&D on magic bullets we will never get any closer to tackling the real problems in front of us. To be frank, we need our government to spend its time fighting poverty, not teachers.

Of course none of this should be taken to mean that Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney don’t actually care about Scotland’s young people, but good intentions don’t undo bad decisions.

Now, with parliament back in session after the summer recess, things are coming to a head. At some point in the near future the Greens, Lib Dems, Labour and Tories will vote to end the testing of P1 children. They will be suppported by a wide range of individuals and organisations including the EIS, Children in Scotland, Play Scotland, Connect (formerly the Scottish Parent Teacher Council) and the former Children’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie.

Nonetheless, the government will of course claim that this is all political, and many of their supporters are already insisting that this is just an SNPBAD dog-pile. It isn’t. The Greens and Lib Dems have opposed this policy from the very beginning and Labour, despite their previous leader calling for some sort of standardised testing programme, seemed to see sense pretty quickly.

It absolutely is the case that the Tories have behaved with shameful cynicism, particularly in trying to convince people that they have always been opposed to P1 testing when precisely the opposite is true, but even if they hadn’t flipped on the issue it would only have left the SNP depending on the support of Ruth Davidson to rescue what is, ultimately, a Tory education policy. How, exactly, is that a good thing?

So yes, the P1 tests should be scrapped. They are at best a distraction (both for the SNP and for the education system more broadly) and at worst likely to cause direct and indirect harm to young people and worsen, not improve, their education. Furthermore, the SNP simply cannot be seen to ignore the will of the Scottish Parliament, because why the hell should anyone else respect Holyrood if the First Minister of Scotland (who, let’s not forget, is leading a minority government) won’t do so?

What we mustn’t do, however, is simply wash our hands of this mess and carry on as normal, especially when some good could still come of this sorry situation. The abandonment of P1 testing should be a catalyst for something far more important – a badly-needed reappraisal of the value of early years education, and a radical reimagining of what that period in children’s lives should look like.

We need to ditch our obsession with the ‘school readiness’ of infants and stop fretting over four year olds who struggle to sit at a desk like a good little future worker. Instead, we need to recognise the power and potential of child-centred, play-based learning and a developmentally appropriate approach to education.

But even that is really just a stepping stone towards the real prize: an increased school starting age and the establishment of a universal, fully-integrated kindergarten system. As Upstart Scotland’s research has shown, the vast majority of countries do not send their children to school until they are six or seven, and the ones who do so at five have historic links to the British Empire. We are, as ever, constrained by the ‘aye been’ mentality, but we need to be better than that. Our children need us to be better than that.

We can do better, but not by clinging desperately to conservative – and Conservative – assumptions. It’s time to really act as though we live in the early days of a better nation and start the long, hard work required to create the education system that Scotland’s next generation deserves.

Let’s build a better Scotland. Let’s do it together. Let’s do it for our children.

Comments (29)

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  1. Jo says:

    Early learning absolutely is play-based!

    And the opposition we have seen from many quarters absolutely is politically motivated….particularly by the EIS!

    This word “test” is being used to conjure up pictures of small children in huge exam halls being overseen closely by stern-faced adults marching up and down between the desk aisles waving sticks and carrying stop-watches. It is absurd and utterly misleading.

    Assessing ability is vital in order to determine what stage children are at in various areas. If we treat them all the same those who need help will get lost. Right now we hear teachers claiming that children are arriving at school who have little or no vocabulary! Those children need extra support and simply must be identified via a credible assessment process. Leaving them as they are simply leaves teachers less time to plan the right teaching methods that will most benefit them. It’s bonkers!

    The Scottish Government is damned no matter what it does. This article is just shocking and, as always, we see the, “It’s because of poverty!” excuse. I’m sorry, there wasn’t much money around when I was young but I could speak when I went to school! I had parents who weren’t professional people but who’d had an ordinary education and were more than able in the areas of literary and numeracy. They supported all of us in our own learning.

    The situation of many youngsters now is very different. That’s clear when so many children arrive at pre-school or school not even able to speak!

    This article, wrongly in my view, seems to want to pile all the blame on the Scottish Government. It paints John Swinney as some sort of monster. The real monsters in this debate are those who are actively using very young children as a political football. Shame on them.

    1. Joe Gibson says:

      I will say it again as I said before I am 81 years young, growing up in the 40s and 50s was not easy being 3rd oldest of 10 children how ever my mum raised us right and that was to teach right from wrong and if we did not do as she said then you got a great old bum smacking and when that did not work then our came the belt, that worked, the point I am making is this no smacking children does not work I know we are not animals but sometimes I wonder if the way the parent of wild animals realise that they should not chastise their offspring, would work for them the answer of course is no, children need guidance and sometimes gently works then again sometimes it does not work so a wee belt across the bum is the answer.

      There that’s my input to childrens welfare and how they are taught to respect their elders.

      Joe Gibson

      1. Jo says:

        Ohhhh that’s a different debate altogether Joe. In my family we certainly knew who was in charge but we didn’t get smacked very often. My mum usually found that “the look” did the trick without a hand having to be raised!

      2. Wul says:

        you said: “…the point I am making is this no smacking children does not work…”

        I have to disagree. You are wrong. My wife and I have never hit our children. They are both healthy, happy, well adjusted, popular, successful young adults who make a valuable contribution to society. ( And yes, they did have tantrums, rebellions, naughty, wilful behaviour etc. when they were young)

        You don’t need to hit children to discipline them. People only hit their kids when they lose their temper and have run out of other ways to influence them. It’s an admission of defeat and frustration in the parent. And, it terrifies and upsets children, making them more vulnerable to abusive relationships and self-destructive behaviour in later life. (Think about it from the child’s perspective; “the person who loves me is assaulting me. How do I make sense of that? I must be bad”)

        If you disagree with me, can you please post a link to any research which shows that children who are smacked have more positive outcomes in later life? ( Hint: you won’t find any).

        You might say; “it never did me any harm”. The fact that people can say that only demonstrates their lack of self awareness. I was hit as a child and I hated it. It gave me a life-time of fear in the face of authority that still takes some effort to override in order to stand my ground.

        Don’t kid your self. People only hit kids because they are bigger than them and can get away with it. If your boss at work hit people who needed disciplining how would that be viewed?

    2. Kate Johnston says:

      I hope you will read the evidence on the Play Not Tests Tab on Upstart Scotland’s website and then continue this debate. Upstart Scotland and the other organisations we are working with are only doing this, as we continue to advocate for a kindergarten stage for our children, to ensure that the testing regime does not impinge on the curriculum which for Early Level should be delivered through Play as stated in Building the Curriculum 2. Every country which has introduced Standardised testing has seen a narrowing of the curriculum as schools are encouraged to teach to the test. We have already heard of LA’s that have encouraged this and nurseries who are focussing on literacy and numeracy instead of supporting our children’s holistic development. Unfortunately this is being used as a rod to beat the government with. We would prefer a more collaborative approach to education policy and as John Carnochan says for everyone to follow the evidence.

    3. Patricia A says:

      I have to disagree with you here. If a child’s speech is delayed then they need to see a speech and language therapist (SALT) not do a literacy or numeracy test. If they arrive at school with little or no language, the first thing any teacher would do would be to refer them to a SALT. Again, they don’t need the child to sit a standardised government-issued assessment to recognise the signs that intervention is required to support that child’s development.

      Also, while it is statistically true that more children from impoverished backgrounds have speech and language issues, there are many ‘advantaged’ children from middle-class backgrounds who have speech and language problems too. I therefore think it is wildly inaccurate and unfairly critical of those on lower incomes to imply that these issues are the consequence of lazy parenting by the poor – it completely ignores the fact that often, regardless of environmental factors, children will have inexplicable delays and disorders.

      I also think your argument fails to recognise the impact of screen time and the lack of social outdoor free-play for young children these days. I believe these factors, as well as poverty, are having a major impact on supposed ‘school readiness’ which makes it impossible to make valid comparisons with similar socio-economic groups a generation ago as ipads and iphones didn’t exist then.

      This issue transcends politics as it’s a question of what is best for young children. Standardised assessments aren’t the answer.

      1. Jo says:

        You have completely misunderstood my post Patricia.

  2. Kate Johnston says:

    Thank you! Another well constructed and argued article on the debacle around Play Not Tests- Upstart Scotland’s campaign to support the appropriate delivery of the Early Level through a Play based curriculum.

  3. Jack collatin says:

    And while you argue that the rusting rivets on the Titanic need a fresh coat of paint, Scotland is being sold into slavery.

    Willie Rennie and Mum2B Davidson should have had their desks pushed together at FMQ yesterday.

    That way they could have held hands and slipped notes to each other slagging off Sturgeon.

    Similarly Iain Gray and Liz Smith should have paired up at the back of the class and declared their undying love for each other in French, or German, or Italian, or any other European language which our pupils will not be able to use in later life because they will be held behind barbed wire and watch towers in England’s Brave New Free Trade world.

    Cancelled ferries, Leonard proving that he failed his own P1 Assessment by running his finger over each word of his latest SPAD prepared ‘on her watch’ outburst NHS SNP BAD scandal.

    Like the Scotland International team calling on a crusty old has-been to manage the team, the Red Tory Branch Office paraded their Oldie But Goldie back three of Lamont, Baillie, and Gray yesterday, who peddled the same old same old Parish council dirges, the central theme of which was, is, and always will be, SNP BAD and Nikla is the devil incarnate.

    We are on the brink of the most cataclysmic disaster ever to hit these shores since WW II, yet, Bella’s energy is down there in the Parish council, peddling former Labour Militant Larry Flanagan’s dossier from the Unionist agitators, and promoting Upstart’s get out the Lego and Brio railway, we can be the next Sweden. let the children play, agenda.

    Most of us have a sense that we are at war, fighting for our very existence,while others are checking the stationery cupboard and bemoaning the shortage of ink wells and pen nibs.
    The P1 farce is politically motivated,designed to undermine the Movement towards Self Determination.

    Upstart is a group of Middle Class mainly middle and senior aged Academics and Experts peddling their version of Early Education, that’s all.

    Brexit and Scotland’s very existence should be the sole topic of discussion at the moment. Not the Ardrossan Ferry cancellations.
    The Barbarian is at the door.
    Wake up, rise up, and fight for Scotland, not your next little sinecure.

    1. Jamsie says:

      As mainstream Scotland snuggles in cosily protected by the strength of the U.K. to iron out all these administrative errors and budget underspends in the Scottish economy melodrama is the last thing on anyone’s mind.
      If your car needs fixed you go to an expert, if your house needs fixed you do the same.
      Why is an expert on education who is trying to guide the Scottish “government” in what is best for our children acting politically?
      Some if the people pushing the “government’s” agenda don’t even have children.
      Surely like the named person thingy this should be a matter hit parents and the professionals to decide.
      The SNP have already failed across the board on education, policing,transport and the NHS but cannot bring themselves to acknowledge they are wrong even in the face of sites like Bella bringing it out.
      It is they who are the political plotters taking us all to god knows where.
      And reading the GCR even they don’t

      1. Jack collatin says:

        You lost me at:-
        “The SNP have already failed across the board on education, policing,transport and the NHS but cannot bring themselves to acknowledge they are wrong even in the face of sites like Bella bringing it out.”
        Perhaps I am an expert on ‘Learning and Development, Jamsie.
        Did you consider that?
        It is a political stunt, to embarrass the SNP Government, and undermine the Self Determination Campaign.
        As a regular Greek Chorus Brit Nat apologist on here, your post has merely confirmed my assertion.

        1. Jamsie says:

          I don’t know why you got lost at that point.
          There are now daily reports of major failings across the Spectrum.
          It is the SNP “government” and it’s own incompetence which is undermining them.
          As for the Indy movement well when you have Tommy the convicted perjurer, swinger and soon to be reborn leader of the hard left well it is obvious how this could be undermining.
          It was interesting watching wee Nicola being made to look utterly hypocritical last night on TV eh?
          Two bad press releases on the same day.
          People might have had more respect for her if she had simply admitted she and her party voted against the mental health bill because they had something better in mind.
          Now it looks as if 25000 people have suffered just because she could bring herself to support it because Labour and the Tories supported it.
          How spiteful.
          And to seek to gain sympathy by introducing the “I was bullied at school too card” was frankly beyond belief.
          It made her look very small and self serving.

          1. Jo says:

            I thought she was very honest during the Scotland Tonight session with young people.
            Sturgeon explained to them that the easy part is voting to support certain things but that it isn’t sensible to do so if you aren’t able to make the change you just voted for.
            Actually, when she was asked the bullying question, I thought she might have said, “Not just at school. Just have a look at the state of politics and journalism in general. It’s a sad example of grown up bullying because Parties want to function amid an atmosphere of hate instead of working together to get things done. They’d rather ditch good ideas than support them if they come from the ‘wrong’ Party.”
            I was actually encouraged to see young people engaging. It makes a change to hear them doing politics and not banging on about Love Island, Big Brother or any of the other garbage currently hurled at them.

          2. Jack collatin says:

            ‘Two bad press releases on the same day’.
            The Dead Tree Scrolls and the Ministry of Truth at Pacific Quay?
            Och, Jamsie, you prove the exception to the rule that @everybody loves a trier.’

      2. Legerwood says:

        Jamsie wrote:
        “”The SNP have already failed across the board on education, policing,transport and the NHS but cannot bring themselves to acknowledge they are wrong even in the face of sites like Bella bringing it out.””

        Let us examine that.

        Education. The early years, since that seems to be the topic here, baby boxes so every child has a good start. Increasing The hours of free nursery provision and extending it 2 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds. Help them to acquire language and social skills before starting school. At school – Free school meals for every child in P1-P3. Legislating to allow children in care to stay in their care environment until they are 21 if they wish to do so. Thus helping them to seriously consider college or university . Closing the attainment gap between those from the most advantaged backgrounds going to University compared to those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. Analysis carried out by UCAS in its January 2018 report on University Applications for 2018-19 showed that in Scotland the ratio of Applications from the most advantaged compared to the most disadvantaged had gone from 4.5:1 in 2006 to 2.6:1 in 2018 and this narrowing in the gap was due to an increase in applications from pupils in the most disadvantaged areas. Stabilising the PISA scores in Maths and Reading after precipitous drop between 2000-2006.

        Policing: Increase in police numbers maintained while significant cuts in police numbers in rUK. Roll out across Scotland of Victim Reduction Unit initiative – 69% drop in knife crime. In 2017, 35 young people killed in rUK from knives. No young people killed in Scotland in knife related incidents over the same time period. Etc etc

        Transport. Introduction of Road Equivalent Tarriffs on ferry routes in the Inner and Outer Hebrides giving huge boost to local economies from tourism etc. Huge investment in electrification of railways and upgrading of infrastructure in north of Scotland. Average speed cameras on roads especially A9 cutting accidents and road deaths.

        NHS. Training places for nurses and midwifes increased from 2400 in 2012 to over 3700 for this academic year. Fees, Bursaries and dependants allowances still paid by SG. Additional places in medical schools. Integration of Health and Social care to reduce delayed discharges from hospitals. And on and on.

        Budget underspends: When budgeting for various activities the SG must budget for the maximum uptake of any initiative that requires funding e.g. baby boxes. If, however there is not a 100% take up over the course of the year then at the end of the financial year there will be money left over which is not an ‘underspend but necessary prudence. This money then goes back into the pot to be spent in the next financial year.

        1. Jamsie says:

          So everything in the garden is rosy.
          All of the problems reported by organisations like Audit Scotland don’t exist.
          Sorry but you are coming across as a spad, you probably are one for all I know.
          If the “government” of Scotland can perform so many miracles whilst under the wing of the UK what need is there for change?
          The truth is there is no need, nor mandate and no appetite for change except amongst those who clearly don’t see the wonderful job you say this “government” is doing and who probably don’t want to understand that it is all because the UK treats Scotland so favourably.

    2. Is the different school starting age ‘Middles class’ in all of the other places around the world where its practised too Jack, or is it just in Scotland?

      Are the teachers unions just ‘Middle Class’ and Children in Scotland and all the other educational and development experts that back Upstart too?

      1. Jack collatin says:

        I’ve accessed the Upstart web page, Dear Ed.
        To a man and woman none of them could be described as anything other than ‘middle class’.
        I know a sales pitch when I see one.
        But then again, I will not be sucked into a faux ‘class’ argument.
        Check out the CV’s of the members.
        The Union has been good to most of them.
        I watched Gray, Rennie, Davidson, and Smith attempting to make political mischief out of this at FMQ.
        It is an attempt to clutter up the programme of Government for no reason other than to provide column inches for the Dead Tree Scrolls, and the BBC’s Ministry of Truth at Pacific Quay.
        The EIS, and other Unions, (witness the farce of the GMB staged ‘protest’ outside the City Chambers today on the 11 year old Equal Pay dispute, a GMB which did nothing for a decade when the Red Tories we in power) are being manipulated by their executives into attacking Independence and as a consequence, the current Scottish Government for no other reason than to undermine the Movement towards Self Determination.
        I am retired but still retain associate membership of my union, and professional body.
        Statistically at least 45% of teachers, care workers, and so on, are pro Independence; yet ‘the EIS’, ie the Executive represent one view and one view only, SNP Bad, Independence Bad, look what a mess they are making of our Education, children crying, soiling themselves being physically sick.
        I contest that this gross exaggeration, well, downright lie, is politically driven.
        The children are the last thing on the minds of the Branch Office lackeys at Holyrood.
        The Upstart Board have an axe to grind too.
        I really am fed up with this nonsense.
        We shall be a self Governing Nation again very soon now.
        Can we have access to Larry Flanagan’s 170 page ‘dossier’?

        1. Thanks, I note you don’t answer the questions put to you.

          And its good that you’re not being sucked into the class argument that you yourself constructed. That’s shrewd.

          I’m not sure about why play based learning could be an obstacle to self-governance. I can see lots of reason why it would be an asset in this journey but no reason why it would be an obstacle.

        2. Patsy says:

          Jack Collatin,
          As regards your comment about Upstart, “check out the CVs of the members”, what exactly is wrong about experienced professionals with a research background in their field advocating for a change to our education system based on evidence? I get the feeling you’d berate them if they had just conjured their vision out of fragmented memories of a dream they once had (and indeed I hope you would!) yet by reverse implication this seems to be what you are recommending.

          Also, I’ve been to various Upstart events and the age range is mixed with plenty of people nowhere near retirement age.

    3. Kate Johnston says:

      I am replying as Vice Chair of Upstart and I will only deal with your comments about Upstart Scotland. We have supporters from health, Education, Neuroscientists, the Police and you can see a list of them on our website where you will also find the evidence as to why we believe that a kindergarten stage will be transformational for our country. We have increasing mental health issues, health problems from Vitamin D deficiency to myopia due to children not playing outside and play is how children of this age learn. Curriculum for Excellence has several documents that say that a Play pedagogy is how the Early Level should be taught. We are working on our campaign with other respected groups from Connect, who were the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, Children in Scotland and the EIS.
      It was never our attention to create a political storm, we are only campaigning for the best start for our children.

      1. Jack collatin says:

        To Kate Johnson and Patsy
        I speak as one who barely knows his Piaget from his Donaldson.
        It was my intention to ruffle a few feathers here.

        Ms Johnson, I was never under the impression that you were out to ‘create a political storm’.
        Is teaching ‘political’?

        I have no doubt at all that you and your colleagues are passionate and committed to our children’s education and development.
        I would also argue that you are being used by Unionist politicians and elements within the EIS to lend credence to the allegation that P1 children are being reduced to tears by any assessment of their levels of learning.

        The Editor of this fine i-magazine observes:-

        ‘Thanks, I note you don’t answer the questions put to you.’

        I assume that my ‘no answer’ was in relation to his earlier comment:

        ‘Is the different school starting age ‘Middles class’ in all of the other places around the world where its practised too Jack, or is it just in Scotland?
        Are the teachers unions just ‘Middle Class’ and Children in Scotland and all the other educational and development experts that back Upstart too?’

        ….which I thought to be rhetorical.

        Allow me to be ‘sucked into’ the class argument.

        Can Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, composed in Stalinist Russia really be considered ‘classical’ music on a par with Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake written during the romantic period in 19th Century Czarist Russia?

        Are Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ and Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ as much a flight of fancy as Douglas Adam’s ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ or Erich Von Daniken’s ‘Chariots of the Gods’?

        Was it Manet or Monet who dashed off ‘Le dejeuner sur l’herbe’?
        Which one painted the lily pond series?

        Was Sartre a miserable old sod? By contrast was Kafka far out, man?

        My Joycean stream of consciousness has dried up.

        I hope you get the picture.

        This is what I meant by ‘middle class’.

        The board of Upstart appears to be made up of polymaths.

        I’d argue that it is some time since any of them struggled in a draughty garret writing the Great Scottish Novel, or whatever.

        Hopefully most who read the above ‘got’ most if not all of the references.
        If so, I consider you ‘middle class’.

        I suspect BC’s Editor’s’ middle class’ includes professional, salaried, owner occupier, with pension pot, conservative with a small ‘c’, and so on.

        I have no idea what Early Learning schemes are in place in other countries or if the practioners are ‘middle class’ in my sense of the word, or the slightly more judgemental social hierarchy category.

        I really don’t care.

        Teachers in the UK are in the main ‘middle class’.

        They buy houses, drive cars, holiday on the continent, have benefits described pensions, and love their families. Ho Hum.

        I apologise unreservedly to you, Ms Johnson and your organisation. I salute the work you and all educationalists do, really.

        Forgive my ostensibly desultory dismissal of Upstart’s Pedagogue Play system of early child development.

        Be aware that when Liz Smith uses Upstart as a baseball bat to whack the Vile Nats at FMQ, she is the woman who backs the Rape
        Clause, the Two Child UCS Cap, and would usher in Teach First to privatise Education in Scotland by the back door.
        Our children go to school with empty bellies because of WM Tory Austerity.

        Sorry, for this overlong meander into the thicket.

        Independence first, then all else is possible.

        Peace to you all.

        1. Kate Johnston says:

          Thank you for your response.
          As you will see, Upstart’s Board has a diverse range of expertise and the starting point for this expertise was education which takes people out of their class and into another which is not always a comfortable position. My great grandfather was a joiner, through education, with a barrow but his children and their children’s lives were different. We want Scotland to be aspirational and I believe all the parties do too even if we do not agree with the routes that they think will work best. But we cannot wait for independence to try to make a difference for children. They only get one chance. Education is life long, I learn something new everyday, but a good start for our children will benefit their life outcomes and will benefit the health, happiness and prosperity of our wonderful country.

          1. Jack collatin says:

            Indeed, we cannot wait for independence, any longer. we go now, before England and Wales opt out of the EU in April 2019.
            There has to be jobs and careers waiting from our children.
            Great to talk to you.

          2. Kate Johnston says:

            You too!

          3. Jamsie says:

            I’m afraid you will be waiting some time if ever.
            Scotland rejects the premise and quite simply cannot accept that being a third world country whilst controlling one’s own destiny holds any attraction.
            Being part of the UK results in financial cushioning which the Indy support has no idea how to provide and we enjoy a standard of living because of this that ordinary people do not want to surrender.
            Mind you Tommy the perjurer is now on board- someone everyone can trust eh?

  4. SleepingDog says:

    The picture may be more complicated, according to This Little Kiddy Went to Market: the Corporate Capture of Childhood by Sharon Beder, with Wendy Varney and Richard Gosden. According to the authors, the corporate agenda has several goals:
    1) children as potential markets;
    2) children as corporate drones;
    3) undermine public schooling.

    Turning child’s play into consumerist training is achieved in various ways, which are apparently getting more subtle than the blatant product placement of the past.

    Some toys and games attempt to turn children into spies and recruiters for corporations, if the “Girls Intelligence Agency” story is anything to go by.

    I have had a quick look at the Upstart site and saw nothing particularly concerning (they seem to stress outdoor play and convincing people to fund education through taxes), but not all play is equal, and corporate sponsorship should be viewed in a highly sceptical light (or simply rejected outright).

    1. Thanks – yeah – far deeper issues at play here (no pun intended). Thanks for the book reference.

    2. Kate Johnston says:

      Thank you for your support. Our chair, Sue Palmer wrote Toxic Childhood twenty years ago. Play could change the outcomes for our children.

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