Western Australian teachers are calling for the focus to be shifted from formal testing of young primary school kids to play-based learning.
The State School Teachers’ Union of WA (SSTUWA) is pushing for the State Government to introduce the play-based learning (PBL) model in all schools across the state.
SSTUWA president Pat Byrne said the model proved to be highly effective in improving children’s cognitive, emotional and social development.
“Evidence-based research shows that adult involvement in children’s play can extend learning opportunities within the play itself through the provision of developmentally appropriate play experiences,” she said.
The schooling model being used now expects students, even those in kindergarten, to undergo a series of formal assessments.
“Our members are concerned that the setting of premature targets in early learning is having a negative effect — too much emphasis is being placed on formal assessments for young children at a very young age,” Ms Byrne said.
“Teachers are under increasing pressure to meet assessment outcomes dictated from above by people who do not work with young children.”
A union survey of more than 600 early childhood teachers and workers found more than 70 per cent said it was difficult to introduce the play-based learning model due to the emphasis on formal tests.
As part of its Play is Learning campaign, the union is calling for the Government to scrap formal testing for students below year 3 and introduce more active and physical engagement.
“Our members and early childhood advocates have cited a decline in child-initiated and self-directed play in recent years from kindergarten, pre-primary and year 1 and 2 classrooms as a result of an increasing tendency towards more formalised learning at earlier stages,” Ms Byrne said.
“The biggest issue we have is many people see PBL as ‘just play’, but this is not the case. PBL is when the teacher sets up an environment with a range of activities that spark open-ended inquiry experiences and allow the child to explore what interests them, with the teacher playing a supporting role in facilitating learning when required.”
More than 80 per cent of people who participated in the survey supported the push to introduce the PBL model across the state.
“The curriculum expectations are far too great for younger children, there is a lot of pressure for them to learn,” one respondent said.
“Children are not given the opportunity to discover, create, interact and gain confidence when they are being inundated with an overloaded curriculum.”
Another called for “less pressure on school leaders and teachers to achieve NAPLAN results as this interferes with a focus on play-based learning”.
Originally published as Call to scrap tests for young students