EYFS REVIEW: children's minister confirms guidance is on the way

Catherine Gaunt
Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Early years practitioners will receive guidance on implementing the revised EYFS, children's minister Sarah Teather has confirmed.

In the Government’s response to the revised EYFS consultation, the Department for Education said that there would be supplementary information and practice guidance to accompany the new framework, in response to a call from the sector for more support to deliver the reformed EYFS.

It said that ministers accepted the need for further materials and that the department would work closely with the early years sector to produce separate materials to underpin the new framework.

More than 2,300 individuals and organisations responded to the online consultation on the revised draft EYFS over the summer.

Planned materials include:

  • guidance and examples for teachers on completing the EYFS Profile
  • best practice models for presenting information from the two-year-old progress check
  • a chart covering child development from birth to age five, covering both prime and specific areas of the early learning goals
  • a summary of the EYFS for parents.

The DfE is also considering whether to produce jointly with the early education and childcare co-production group a shorter version of Development Matters.

The Government’s official response also defended the use of the term ‘school readiness’, the presence of which in the revised EYFS had caused some consternation among early years experts and practitioners.

Acknowledging that ‘a significant minority of respondents’ had questioned the emphasis on school readiness, the department said that ‘this anxiety is unwarranted because school readiness should be understood in a broad sense…In their first few years through exploration and play, children learn to walk and run, to talk and understand, and learn to relate to others, as well as begin to read and write and use numbers. These are all important elements of "school readiness" that are reflected in the new early learning goals.’

A one month consultation, published alongside the Government's response, is seeking views on changes to the early learning goals, particularly in mathematics and literacy, which have been amended in light of feedback from the sector to the initial EYFS consultation. The consultation is required by the Childcare Act 2006, because changes are being made to the learning and development requirements.

The response also stressed that the EYFS recognises ‘the central importance of play in children’s learning’ and that children need to be introduced to formal learning in their foundation years in a way and at a time appropriate to their individual level of development.’

Respondents to the consultation had asked for more guidance in an appropriate balance between adult-led and child-initiated play.

The Government’s response said that they would ensure that there would be ‘a clear and strong emphasis on play’ in the final framework.

Nutbrown Review

The response also confirms that the call for evidence for the review into early years and childcare qualifications led by Professor Cathy Nutbrown has been extended until 24 January.

An interim report will be published in early March and the final report in June 2012.


Two-year-old check

The need for supporting guidance for practitioners on how to report the findings of the progress check to parents was raised by respondents to the consultation and in workshops.

The DfE said that in particular practitioners had called for further guidance on child development between birth and the age of five and that this would be provided in the birth to five development chart.

There was also a suggestion from practitioners that there should be a standard template for reporting the outcome of the progress check to parents.

However, the department has decided against this, because they say the framework is prescriptive enough and that many settings already share similar information with parents ‘and we want to build on good practice’.

However, the DfE said that it has asked the National Children’s Bureau to produce a selection of examples and good practice models to support practitioners to carry out the progress check.

In the longer term, the department is also working with health and early years experts on the feasibility of a single integrated review at the age of two, bringing together the early years progress check with the current health visitor review.

‘If testing of models is successful this would be introduced in 2015,’ the response said.


 Outdoor play

The importance of outdoor play will also be strengthened when the final EYFS is published. In its response the Government said that it has decided to remove the caveat that suggested that ‘poor weather conditions’ might mean that requirements for children to play outdoors every day might not need to be followed.

In response to calls from practitioners and parents who wanted their children to play outside, it said, ‘We propose to remove "poor weather conditions" from the draft framework, to ensure that the importance of outdoor play is absolutely clear.’

Commenting on the Government’s response, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather said, ‘People working in the early years, teachers, parents, and other professionals are supportive of our proposals which slim down the Early Years Foundation Stage, focus on children’s healthy development and make sure they are ready to learn when they enter Year 1.

'Building on consultation feedback, our changes, including the progress check at age two, will support families to give children the best possible start in life. We want to help young children achieve to the best of their abilities so they are not falling behind before they even reach school.

'As well as learning to speak and communicate, young children also need to learn through play how to read and write and use numbers. This is a vital foundation for future success at primary school and beyond.

'People working in the early years will get additional guidance and information so they feel confident to deliver the new EYFS. And a summary of the EYFS will be available for parents so they know what their child will be learning and what they should expect from their child’s early years setting.’

Sue Robb, head of early years at 4Children, said that the Government’s response showed that the children’s minister had listened to the sector and refined her initial proposals to make them more relevant and easier to implement, and reflect the sector’s viewpoint.

‘We particularly welcome the new proposals that extend early learning beyond formal approaches to include play and child-initiated learning. Introducing stronger definitions of play and making access to outdoor learning a requirement for all children every day can ensure fun and enjoyment are at the heart of their learning and development.

‘Simplifying the bands of development and producing a clearer, broader definition of school readiness will make the delivery of the EYFS less bureaucratic and ensure that practitioners spend more time interacting with children to give them a rounded and enjoyable early education.

‘We also welcome the importance given by the minister to the contribution of parents in the consultation and hope the new guidance to be issued for mums and dads will encourage even more parents to be actively involved.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, ‘There are areas where there will be a need for further training and development and NDNA is pleased that the Government has recognised this and plans on providing support to early years providers and practitioners to work with parents and underpin the new statutory framework.

‘The strong message from our members has been that it is critical for the new EYFS to be implemented in a way that is both understandable and usable and NDNA would like to see the Government and local authorities working closely with providers to make this happen.

‘The further one month consultation on the EYFS that has just been launched and the forthcoming new Ofsted inspection framework will also be critical and NDNA will be involving its members actively in these consultations, as well as providing support through training, resources and information.’

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