It was evident that a single plan was needed.
In 2000, it was reported by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NLT: Early Debate, 28.1.00) that English children were falling behind Japanese children because English children started school earlier and didn't have sufficient development of behavioral and social skills. Teachers found they were spending more time on bad behavior and less time on teaching than did their Japanese equivalents. A study of play-based learning in Nursery School has shown it to be important for preschoolers, and this type of learning might be extended to children up to 6 years old and perhaps even 7 before formal teaching takes over. This thinking was first developed by Rudolph Steiner of Austria, whose Steiner Waldorf approach was instituted in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1919, with many Steiner early years centres presently located throughout the world. The centres focus on three stages - birth to 7 years old, 7 to 14 and 14 to 21. Gareth Lewis, author and advocate of home schooling (2001), lists the following principles as part of the approach:
The Foundation Stage became part of the English National Curriculum in October 2002, and its profile has replaced baseline testing. Updated to the Early Years Foundation Stage in November 2005, it focuses on "the distinct needs of children aged three to the end of the reception year (age 5)" (NLT: Foundation Stage, par. 2).
In the U.S. there was a move in 2003 to cut playtime in order to make more time for testing. This view was not shared in the United Kingdom, however, because researchers found that "shortening school breaks undermined children's social relationships and long-term emotional development" (NLT: elgoals: Primary Play Cut for Testing, par. 2). Controversy surrounding this issue continued through 2004 and a report by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority in 2004 found goals in reading, writing and linking sounds to letters too high. The concerns included increasing pressure from parents to teach three-year-olds rather than letting them learn through play.
Leslie Staggs, director of the foundation stage for the Primary National Strategy, is expected in spring 2006 to publish the results of an informal consultation based on various issues under debate (NLT: earlydebate: Early Goals Out of Reach). Since the inception of the Foundation Stage in 2002, the results are not clear cut and the definition of "readiness for school" debatable. Some believe there is a need for fewer goals and more activity in the play area; others, according to an article by