Nursery owner says tests for four-year-olds stunt creativity


Tas Ramji, a Hounslow nursery owner, has warned that parents’ obsession with testing their children’s numeracy and literacy from a young age is stunting their creativity.

The statement comes in the wake of this year’s protests about the introduction of SATs for pupils as young as six.

Ms Ramji says that, with parents desperate to get their children into the best schools, the pressure to succeed starts even earlier.

“Too often parents don’t value what children do at nursery other than whether they’re able to read and write by the time they get to school age,” she said.

“Many independent schools say they will assess your child at the age of four, and parents fly into a panic.

“A lot of those schools insist on children being able to write their own name by the age of four, but not every child is ready for that.

“There’s lots of evidence to show children develop at their own rate up till the age of seven, so to test a child at four is absolutely ridiculous.”

To highlight the importance of allowing children to express themselves creatively – instead of being obsessed with testing numeracy and literacy – Ms Ramji teamed up with other local settings to put on a free exhibition of artwork from their children.

The exhibition was held on June 19 at the Study Base in Osterly Park, with 150 families attending the event. Ms Tamji said:

“Creativity is the freest form of self-expression. There is nothing more satisfying and fulfilling for children than to be able to express themselves openly and without judgment.

“The ability to be creative, to create something from personal feelings and experiences, can reflect and nurture children’s emotional health.

“The experiences children have during their first years of life can significantly enhance the development of their creativity.

“Why is it then, that only numeracy and literacy are so strongly tracked and assessed even in the early years?

“We organised the exhibition to celebrate our children’s expressions through their art and to encourage parents to support their children’s creative development.”


2 thoughts on “Nursery owner says tests for four-year-olds stunt creativity

  • July 11, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    Children who do all the creative stuff, and run about in gardens, and get engrossed in pretend play, and sing their little hearts out in circle time, or who play up to their elbows in mud in the mud kitchen, or who sit and share a book with a friend when they are feeling tired, or who are encouraged to follow their favourite, most beloved interest, who push cars along the car track, and push trains along the train track, who bath the dollies, and feed the teddies, who get down on the floor to ‘draw’ on a huge piece of paper that is as wide as the room, who ‘paint’ the walls outside with water, who bike and scooter, who climb and crawl, who play and play and play… THESE are the children who will gain writing skills, and maths skills, social skills and self regulation skills. Research shows that children who can start AND complete a task by the age of four are 50% more likely to go to university! Maths and literacy skills at the age of 4 are NO indication at all of the same thing. How? Because this is the way child development goes. They play, they learn. Adults encourage and scaffold. Children learn even more.
    Asking children to sit down with a pencil and paper and laboriously write their name is NOT learning. Finding out that they can write their own name IS. Virtually all of our children at our preschool can write their own name, or part of it, by the time they leave us, bar those who may have additional needs. Because they want to. Often they go on to do incredibly well at school. Is this because they are at private schools, or hot housed? Because they have ‘pushy’ parents? NO! It is because they played at preschool, with trained, devoted staff to enrich that learning every single day. Staff who know how to draw out maths skills, literacy skills, social and self regulation skills in children’s play.
    ‘Play is so integral to childhood that a child who does not have the opportunities to play is cut off from a major portion of childhood.’ (Musselwhite)
    I take my hat off to all child minders EVERYWHERE. Jenny, your place sounds amazing, and I love the sound of the work you are doing, inviting children into little sessions where they can get used to the maths language, or have fun with some letters. I agree, children need to be ready for school, and not get lost in a huge class of children. We just have to help all parents understand how the real work is in play, not in ‘work’. Keep going with your child minding… we desperately need people like you!

  • June 28, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Why can’t children do both? Ten/fifteen minutes a day would do. Professional childminders work with children individually and most of the children in my ‘circle’ can write their name going into school. Children are also capable of recognising and sounding out letters, being confident at blending, starting to segment and ‘read’ their name and those of their friends. In numeracy they can recognise and count sometimes to 30 or more.
    I for one like my children to be able to ‘hit the ground running’, when they get to school; classes of 30 plus and perhaps one teaching assistant with maybe a special needs child and some behavioural problems. They will certainly need it.

    Attending a professional childminder (such as myself) means they can also paint, run around in a lovely big garden, where they make mud pies, ‘perfume’, blow bubbles and climb. Days offsite mean attending groups (mums and tots, singing etc), soft play, different parks, farms, and our local theatre, when we can afford it. The main ‘beauty’ of a professional childminder should also be, that the child can choose what to do. If they wish to spend all of one week blowing bubbles they can. (Very good for hand-eye co-ordination – needed for writing later on.)

    Perhaps it’s the group settings that have more difficulty administrating individual work and could enlist the help of their local professional childminder, working together?

    Ofsted also agrees – most childminders are rated ‘good’ and more and more ‘outstanding’.

    Let’s give our children the best possible start. They will need it to face the future with confidence and
    enthusiasm – and any tests the government feels the need to throw at them!


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