Teach reception children how to grip a pencil, says Ofsted

Teach reception children how to grip a pencil, says OFSTED

The pressure on reception teachers

I read a BBC article the other day, which was about Ofsted suggesting parents and teachers to teach reception children how to grip a pencil.

The reason why I read this article

For a child in reception to grip a pencil and write, needs to have the fundamental skills first, which are taught at home or/and in a nursery setting. He needs to have the right gross and fine motor skills, which must be developed before he goes to reception. But let’s just stop here a little bit.

What do they mean by ‘grip a pencil’? 

Personally, I don’t hold the pencil in a “normal” way. Still, everybody who made any comments on my handwriting said that mine is beautiful. And I am also good at drawing and painting (not bragging at all, haha).

To make it easier, I am going to copy some of the sentences of the article, that I would like to react to.

“Children in Reception class in England should be taught how to grip a pencil properly and how to sit correctly at a table, says the watchdog Ofsted.”

In my opinion, children need to get some fundamental skills and knowledge before they go to reception. Early years practitioners, childminders, parents, whoever is with toddlers can help the work of reception teachers with setting up a good routine and helping toddlers to develop and improve skills such as personal, social and emotional skills, gross and fine motor skills and listening skills – just to mention a few.

In this way, everybody is a winner: teachers, children, parents.

And maybe, children will sit at tables properly because they’ve got used to it or because they know what it means, what it is for. And maybe teaching them how to grip a pencil will be easier, because their gross and fine motor skills are well developed.

Where should children get that essential knowledge and understanding they need for school?

“Inspectors say a third of five-year-olds do not have the essential knowledge and understanding they need following their first year at school.”

It may sound shocking to you, that a third of five-year-olds don’t have the knowledge and understanding what it is necessary for the first year of school. But you have to keep in mind that we are talking about 4-5-year-old children.

They are still very young and want to play all day long…

I am not saying that they do not need education. And I certainly do not say that Ofsted does not want us, teachers, to play with them, or let them play with their peers.

But I feel every time I read an article like this, we easily forget about the nature of children. So just keep that in mind.

“Heads said the good work of early years professionals should not be undermined.”

As the heads said, we can not undermine the work of early years professionals (and stay at home moms, dads, nannies and so on, this is me saying). Because everything begins with that. It can show, how a child will behave in school if he is going to have that necessary knowledge and understanding in reception or not (yet).

Is reading what reception teachers should focus on?

“Ofsted says primary-school teachers should be reading lots of stories, poems and rhymes out loud to childrenReading should be the focus in the Reception year and reading “was at the heart of the curriculum” in successful schools.”

I agree but I would like to add something to it. Early years practitioners and parents, friends and whoever is looking after children should read and sing a lot. It helps with phonics and reading for sure, but it also helps with writing, problem-solving, expressing ourselves and a lot of other things. Reading is strictly connected to writing, as it gives the vocab for children and it teaches them how to structure their writing.

So I understand, why schools are encouraged to focus on reading, but the rest of the EYFS areas and their aspects shouldn’t be forgotten either. Personally, I wouldn’t only focus on reading, but rather on playing as well.

When do we need to set the routines and expectations?

“The watchdog says the Reception year is essential as, for many children, it is their first experience of full-time education … It says it is a time when teachers set the routines and expectations that will serve children well for the rest of their school life.”

Well, yes, maybe for many children. But there are many nurseries, where children already experience full-time education. Sometimes even a very strict and academic one which is not so good either I think.

Routines and expectations…I think it is something which needs to be there from birth. It is actually there… they have their bath time, they have their story time, then they will know when to eat and when to play so on and so forth. Also, early years professionals set their routines and expectations already, so I’m not sure what we’re talking about.

Shall you be worried about your children’s education in the UK?

“Nine out of 10 primary schools are rated good or better by Ofsted. Overwhelmingly, the school system serves the youngest learners very well … This report should not cast unnecessary doubt on that record, undermining the good work done by early years professionals.”

I agree. I think there is no need to worry about it too much, especially when we compare it to other countries.

In my opinion, we need to develop our children’s gross and fine motor skills in case of helping them to use a pen. Read and sing to them a lot, also to observe their behaviour and show good examples.

But I wouldn’t be worried about a 4 or 5-year-old child who can not read yet or form a letter properly by the end of reception. These things can come later too.


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ABOUT ME

Hi, it's Eva, Early Years and Parenting Consultant and the founder of Wonder Toddlers. I am sharing my knowledge and experience about child development and teaching in a blog form and I offer email consultations. Have a look around, sign up for more free parenting and teaching tips and I send you my eBook "How to develop your toddler's writing skill" as a token of my appreciation.