Leaders of teachers groups fear that the pre school national curriculum will encourage a tick box culture in nurseries

A new national curriculum for all under-fives risks producing a "tick-box" culture in nursery schools that relies too heavily on formal learning and not enough on play, teachers' leaders will claim today.

The new Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS), which becomes law in the autumn, lays down up to 500 developmental milestones between birth and primary school and requires under-fives to be assessed on writing, problem solving and numeracy skills. It will apply to about 25,000 nurseries, plus registered childminders in England.

Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that it was not yet clear how the early years curriculum would be evaluated by the schools inspectorate Ofsted. He said, however, that there was a danger that teachers could allow compliance with the new framework to become more important than creativity.

"The curriculum itself is not the danger," he said. "The danger is that external examiners will develop a tick-box attitude to every aspect of the curriculum to see if staff have done it."

He added that the worst thing for the early years curriculum would be for it to be a "compliance curriculum".