Walsh, G. (2006) An Appropriate Curriculum for 4-5-year-old Children in Northern Ireland: Comparing Play-based and Formal Approaches

Playful structure: a novel image of early years pedagogy for primary school classrooms

Journal Article


This paper reports on an investigation into the quality of the learning experiences for 4–5‐year‐old children in Northern Ireland schools in the context of the debate about play‐based and formal approaches to learning and teaching. Detailed observations were carried out in 70 Year 1 classes: 38 in traditional Year 1 classes where the Northern Ireland National Curriculum is being delivered, and 32 in Enriched Curriculum classes, where a more developmentally appropriate, play‐based and child‐centred curriculum is being piloted. The quality of the learning experience in each class was assessed using a structured observation schedule, i.e. Walsh and Gardner’s Quality learning instrument. Overall the Enriched Curriculum appears to be providing 4–5‐year‐old children in Northern Ireland with a higher‐quality learning experience. The children are given more opportunities to act independently, are engaged in more challenging activities and are more learning disposed, and they show higher levels of emotional, social and physical well‐being. The findings are discussed in terms of what constitutes an appropriate curriculum for this age group.

Output Information

Glenda Walsh, Liz Sproule, Carol McGuinness, Karen Trew, Harry Rafferty & Noel Sheehy (2006) An appropriate curriculum for 4–5‐year‐old children in Northern Ireland: comparing play‐based and formal approaches, Early Years, 26:2, 201-221, DOI: 10.1080/09575140600760003

Published Output URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/09575140600760003

Published: 19/01/2007