The task of planning has assumed enormous proportions over the last ten years. Where teachers previously were encouraged to follow the excitement of children’s learning, spot the development points, seize the moment and guide the children onto new dizzy heights, we are now expected to be less spontaneous. Teachers are expected to know the precise destination, work out the route, identify the best roads, seek diversions where necessary and avoid resting in lay-bys for fear that young people will be overtaken. As we venture towards Learning Goals for the Early Years which set standards which most children should reach by the end of the reception year, there is the very real concern that children beginning nursery will be rammed through a formalised learning experience which drills them in the outcomes expected at the end of the two-year cycle. This has immense dangers associated with it because, even at the end of the reception year, some children are 20 per cent younger than their colleagues and if we are drawn into comparisons in a negative way, the damage we do to young people at this tender age will be significant. We need to be very careful in the way we plan experience for children. If we deny the spontaneous; we deny learning. If we deny the opportunity to seize the moment; we deny teaching in its truest sense. Teachers need to be professionally critical about the tramlines upon which they are driven and need to be prepared to raise an eyebrow and a voice about the demands, not
upon themselves, but on the youngsters. As a society, we are in danger of planning every step along the way for our children and the distance between potty training and A Levels will be little more than a series of rungs on a ladder. For many children though, the rungs on the ladder are not equidistant. They need the opportunity to put some rungs very close together so that they can take those small steps in learning and at other times the rungs can be set well apart so that they can take those great leaps of understanding.