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The Plowden Report mainly focuses on primary education while The Rumbold Report focuses entirely on Early Years education. This essay proposes to critically analyse the impact of these two reports on teaching and learning with reference to the Early Years

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Throughout history, the Early Years Curriculum has been transformed due to the impact of education reports and increased intervention of the government. Major reports such as The Plowden Report “Children and their Primary schools” (1967) and The Rumbold Report “Starting with Quality” (1990) have had a significant impact on the Early Years curriculum today. Both reports offer similar perspectives on teaching and learning and they have the same goal, improving society through education and ensuring that the child is at the centre. However The Plowden Report mainly focuses on primary education while The Rumbold Report focuses entirely on Early Years education. This essay proposes to critically analyse the impact of these two reports on teaching and learning with reference to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

The Plowden Report focuses on a curriculum based on children’s individual needs and interests and that play should be an integral part for children to learn (Gillard, 2004).                                                                                                      The Rumbold Report strongly believed in the quality of an Early Year’s education and suggested a new curriculum that was based on eight main areas of learning and emphasises that children should learn through active, first-hand experiences in a prepared environment (Rumbold, 1990).

The EYFS is a framework which provides children from birth to five with an environment that is safe and secure and where they can play, explore, experiment, develop confidence, be curious and learn. It is in the foundation years that children develop learning attitudes, skills, social integration and personal organisation (Cole 2007). Within the EYFS children should experience a broad and balanced curriculum reflecting their individual needs, interests, enthusiasms and individual learning styles. Every early years setting should aim to nurture a sense of personal well-being and a love of learning. Each child should be encouraged to reach their full potential regardless of their background, race, gender, creed or ability (Dfes 2007). In order to achieve this and to set clear guidelines for early years practitioners the EYFS is based on 4 main principles which outline many important aspects (Dfes 2007, page 5).

“A Unique Child- every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured” (Dfes 2007, page 5). Children develop in individual ways, at varying rates and have different interests. Children’s attitudes and dispositions to learning are influenced by feedback from others (Qcda 2009).

The Plowden and The Rumbold Report emphasise that children have an inherent instinct to explore and discover so early years and primary school children should be engaged in the projects and activities they choose and discover things in the areas of their own interests. Any planned activities and lessons should be child-centred and focusing on individual learning. Teachers have a crucial role in preparing the environment where individuality is fostered and all needs are met. In order to do so teachers have to consider the impact of development due to culture and background of each individual child. Inclusion and Equal Opportunities are important factors within both reports. Children with special educational needs, including talented and gifted children as well as children from disadvantaged backgrounds should all be receiving the best possible care and education within schools (Plowden, 1967 and Rumbold 1990). The staff: child ratio has an impact on providing differentiated and child-centred education. The Plowden Report recommended 1:20 with a qualified teacher and The Rumbold Report recommended 2:26 if one is a qualified teacher, however 3:26 is more favourable in regards to fostering children’s sense of trust and security (Plowden, 1967 and Rumbold 1990).

As an early years practitioner we have to know and understand child development and each individual child within the setting taking into consideration their previous experiences, culture and background. In order to foster each individual child we have to ensure that the provision is stimulating and interesting for all children and that we embrace children’s interest and achievements (Dfes 2007). At my setting we plan activities and experiences for each individual child based on their interests and developmental stage. For example a boy was talking about pirates and making a pirate hat during free flow play (choice of indoor-outdoor play) so to support this interest I have set out a small-world pirate ship and planned a focused activity “Message in a bottle”. To take into account his development of problem solving, reasoning and numeracy I numbered each one of the bottles and he had to find certain numbered bottles only (Appendices 1). We value the diversity of individuals within the school and all children are treated fairly regardless of race, religion or abilities. Within our school all children and their families are valued and we believe that all our children matter. The staff: child ratio within the EYFS is 1:13 for qualified teachers, 1:8 for 3-4 year olds with nursery teachers and 1:4 for 2 year olds. The high staff: child ratio helps teachers to work with individual children and in small groups (Dfes 2007).

“Positive Relationships- children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and/or a key person” (Dfes 2007, page5). Developing caring, respectful, professional relationships with all children and their families is paramount (Qcda 2009).

Both The Plowden and The Rumbold Report considered parents as children’s first and most enduring educators and the value of contributions they can make. The reports suggest that parents should be involved in their children’s education and kept informed of their progress (Plowden, 1967 and Rumbold, 1990). The Plowden Report believes that the teacher’s role is to guide and stimulate the children and making sure that when each child displays both readiness and interest in a topic or concept, he/she is given an opportunity to discover. The Plowden Report however also acknowledges the need for teacher-directed lessons to extend the knowledge of a concept (Plowden, 1967). The Rumbold Report recognises the importance of the teacher and child forming positive relationships         and stresses the need for a “Key teacher system”, meaning each teacher is responsible for a group of children. This system would foster more trust and confidence between the child and the teacher as well as between the parent and the teacher (Rumbold, 1990).

Parental involvement within the setting is important and parents should be encouraged to take an active part in their children’s education (Dfes 2007). Although each child has to have a designated “key person” to form a close, trusting and respectful relationship with ,all staff in the setting should aim to develop good relationships with all children, interacting positively with them and taking time to listen to them (Dfes 2007). Respect between staff, parents and children will encourage and support children to become more empathetic and trusting towards others (Dfes 2007). I believe social relationships have a huge impact on children’s attitudes towards others, themselves and learning. Transition from home to school can be smoother and less disturbing for children if parents and the early years practitioner have good communication links built up prior to starting. Good staff-child ratio in my school helps to build deeper bonds with both parents/carers and their children. Happy parents and happy children equal a happy and caring environment. Most parents are interested and motivated to volunteer their time to extend their children’s education in the setting as well as outside. We have various ways to integrate parents such as preparing and supervising a creative activity, dads and their children building a climbing frame for the garden, suggestions on activities at home to further their learning outside of school (Appendices 2).

“Enabling Environments- the environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning.” (Dfes 2007, page 5). This begins by observing the children and assessing their interests, development and learning, before planning challenging but achievable activities and experiences to extend the children’s learning. Good planning is the key to making children’s learning effective, exciting, varied and progressive. Effective learning builds on and extends what children know and can already do. A good balance of “child-initiated” activities (an activity chosen by the child) and “adult-led” activities (an activity chosen by the adult) is essential to an effective Early Years Environment. The Learning Environment should be organised to allow children to explore and learn securely and safely. The environment’s set up must provide opportunities for children to find and locate equipment and resources independently. Providing activities and resources for both the indoors and the outdoors offers children the opportunity to explore, use their senses and be physically active and exuberant as well as develop in all six areas of learning (Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Communication, Language and Literacy; Problem Solving, Reasoning and Numeracy; Physical Development; Creative Development; Knowledge and Understanding of the World). The freedom to move between the indoor and outdoor classroom throughout the school day encourages children to become independent learners and to take some responsibility for initiating their own lines of enquiry and investigation (Qcda 2009).

Both The Plowden Report and The Rumbold Report highlight the importance of a prepared environment to encourage discovery learning and exploration (Plowden, 1967 and Rumbold, 1990). The Plowden Report stresses the free choice of activities and learning through experience (Kerr, 2007). Both reports suggest that observation is of upmost importance to assess and plan according to the child’s existing knowledge, understanding and skills (Plowden, 1967 and Rumbold, 1990). Teamwork and Multi-agency work is essential for the child’s well-being and effective education as mentioned in The Rumbold Report (Rumbold, 1990).

The environment and a balance of free choice and adult choice are main factors within the EYFS. To understand the cycle of observation, assessment and planning is the key to a good early years practitioner and setting. At my school we make regular assessments of children’s learning and we use this information to ensure that future planning reflects identified needs. Assessment in the EYFS takes the form of observation, and this involves the key teacher and other staff members as appropriate. These observations are recorded and filed in children’s individual portfolios to see the learning journey. These portfolios can also contain information provided by parents and other individuals involved with the child. We follow 3 stages of planning: Long term plan, medium term plan and short term plan (Appendices 3). Our planning shows how the principles of the EYFS are put into practice and is always informed by observations we have made of the children, in order to understand and consider their current interests, development and learning needs. All Staff at the school are involved in this effective process.

“Learning and Development- children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of learning are equally important and inter-connected (Dfes 2007, page 5).Play is the most effective way for children to explore and develop learning experiences, which help them make sense of the world. They can try out ideas, pretend to be different people and test new information in their own way. They have the opportunity to think creatively alongside other children as well as on their own. Through play children gain access to the curriculum, developing confidence, independence and self-discipline. Well planned play, both indoors and outdoors is a key way in which young children learn with enjoyment and challenge (Qcda 2009).Active learning occurs when children are motivated and interested. Children need to have some independence and control over their learning. As children develop their confidence they learn to make decisions. It provides children with a sense of satisfactions as they take ownership of their learning (Dfes 2007).Children should be given the opportunity to be creative through all areas of learning, not just through the arts. To support children’s thinking, extend their learning and help them to make connections we have to show genuine interest, offer encouragement, clarify ideas and ask open-ended questions (Dfes 2007). The curriculum for the EYFS should underpin all future learning by supporting, fostering, promoting and developing all six areas of learning. None of these areas can be delivered in isolation from each other. They are equally important and depend on each other. All areas are delivered through a balance of adult led and child initiated activities. In each area there are Early Learning Goals (ELGs) that define the expectations for most children to reach by the end of the EYFS(Dfes 2007).

Both The Plowden and The Rumbold Report stressed that play to be the leading activity of children and one of the most critical learning experiences that shapes the mental processes of the Early- and Primary Years. Like The Plowden Report, The Rumbold Report pointed out that children learn through initiating activities and this active involvement should be with real things “concrete objects”. Play and First-hand experiences help children to understand and accommodate what they have learnt (Plowden, 1967 and Rumbold, 1990). The Rumbold Report advises a flexile framework with 8 areas of experience and learning (Aesthetic and Creative; Human and Social; Language and Literacy; Mathematics; Physical; Science; Spiritual and Moral; Technology) which should be used cross-curricular. The report also highlighted that children grow up with different Technology than in the past and therefore ICT experiences have to be part of curriculum which prepares children for later life (Rumbold, 1990).

Like most schools, my school is centred around learning through play. I believe play is a learning experience and helps children to develop their intelligence and all other areas of development. Children also enjoy playing, which makes it easier for them to concentrate on a task, without considering that they are actually learning about something. The EYFS takes a holistic approach making sure that all six areas of learning are considered when planning an activity or lesson. ICT is an integral part of the curriculum and each classroom now has to have a computer as well as incorporate ICT in activities. My school ensures that children have access to ICT experiences in wide contexts, which is outlined in the ICT Policy (Appendices 4).

Teacher Training plays an integral part in ensuring effective and appropriate education for children. The Plowden Report looked into what kind of training and qualification a teacher should undergo as well as how continuous training should be encouraged in every school. Inset days to have in-house training for all teaching staff should be considered (Plowden, 1967). The Rumbold Report emphasises the importance of schools training early years teachers to have a specialised person in charge (Rumbold, 1990).

The EYFS takes great care in the need of professional development and teacher training. CPD training is being offered to any school and practitioner within the Early Years. The Early Years Professional Status (EYPS) has been introduced a few years back to train teachers specialising in early years. The proposal is that every early years environment has one key person with EYPS by 2015.

Looking closely at the different aspects and principles of the framework as well as the early years practitioner itself both have undeniably been influenced by both mentioned reports. In conclusion I believe that The Plowden Report and The Rumbold Report will always have some kind of influence in education and that their key ideas help ensure that all children have the best start to education possible. I believe it is every early years practitioner’s responsibility to provide the very best for all children in their earliest, most impressionable important and formative years. We should be looking to tap into what they know, love and are interested in so that we can respect and stimulate their learning journey in the best possible ways. This leads me to one of the most important quotes within The Plowden Report “At the heart of educational progress lies the child” (Plowden, 1967:9).                    


  • Cole, J. (2007) Implementing the Early Years Foundation Stage. London: Early Education.
  • Dfes (2007) The Early Years Foundation Stage. Nottingham: Dfes Publications.
  • Gillard D (1987) Plowden and the Primary Curriculum: twenty years on www.educationengland.org.uk/articles/04plowden.html
  • Kerr, A. (2007) Plowden`s Progress. Somerset: Quercus Publications.
  • Plowden J. (1967) Children and their Primary Schools. London: HMSO
  • QCDA (2009) Learning, Playing and Interacting. Nottingham: DCSF Publications
  • Rumbold, A. (1990) Starting with Quality. London: HSMO

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