Call for rethink on draft EYFS review

A survey of 3,000 practitioners from across the early years sector has found ‘extensive support’ for keeping the EYFS in its current form.

Do the planned reforms to the EYFS add up?
Do the planned reforms to the EYFS add up?
  • Early Education survey finds many in sector not keen on proposed changes to EYFS
  • Consultation closes soon

The research was carried out by the coalition of early years sector organisations to inform Government about practitioners' views.

The response, shared with Nursery World, reveals that practitioners did not see changes to the EYFS as likely to improve children’s outcomes or reduce workload.

They say outcomes and workload would require increased resources to support their work with children and families and engage in the inter-professional work needed to support children’s needs.

Early Education said the draft Educational Programmes are not well-designed to support children’s learning and development throughout the EYFS.

It added that the research evidence summarised in Getting it right in the Early Years Foundation Stage: a review of the evidence (carried out by the Centre for Research in Early Childhood, published by Early Education, on behalf of a coalition of early years organisations) does not support extensive changes to the EYFS, and those it does support are not always reflected in the proposed changes, e.g. increased emphasis on citizenship and children’s rights.

Moreover, Early Education’s response questions whether the Early Learning Goals should be changed at all, given that the pilot evaluation found ‘no evidence that children’s needs were identified earlier; that children’s needs were better met; or that children were assessed more accurately’ as a result of changes to the ELGs. ‘This must surely cast doubt on whether the revised ELGs justify the upheaval and expense of implementation,’ it said.

‘At times the ELGs seem to suffer from a fundamental confusion as to their nature and purpose,’ Early Education said. ‘Assessments are professional judgements about best fit on the basis of a range of evidence, not binary test items based on how children perform on a one-off situation in the classroom.

‘They should be clear enough to ensure consistency of judgement but should not attempt to present a simple tick-list of items a child must have achieved in order to “pass”.’

The response said, ‘Repeated use of the phrase “Children at the expected level will…” was unrealistic if it means all children, regardless of age, etc. If the ELGs are to be an indicator of readiness for Year 1 then every child should be able to achieve them, including the youngest, otherwise the Year 1 curriculum is clearly not appropriate for all children.’

Key comments on proposed changes to the Early Learning Goals (ELGs)

  • A confusion about the nature of the goals – attempts to make them more like standardised test items, which are not consistent with the holistic nature of early years assessment set out in the EYFS and seems to sideline professional judgement and best fit, despite assertions to the contrary. They also fail to deliver the improved clarity, which is given as a rationale.
  • Ensuring the educational programmes do set out the activities and experiences children from birth to five should have within the EYFS – the consultation is not sufficiently inclusive of younger children, and has become more focused on rationales than on activities and experiences.
  • Problems with revised Communication & Language (CL) and Literacy goals – e.g. both should refer to the role of communication and language, especially oral language as the foundation of literacy. There is no reference to how children develop the skills of attention, listening and understanding, which is particularly crucial for younger children.
  • Muddled thinking in Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED). This should be listed first, because it is fundamental to all areas, including CL.
  • The narrowing of Physical Development (PD). There needs to be some recognition of the importance of physical development and movement for developing sensory and cognitive abilities and that children learn through their bodies and senses in active exploration of the world and events. PD includes health and self-care, which should be restored.
  • The narrowing of Maths, in the absence of shape, space and measure. Early Education argues strongly for this ELG to be brought back into Maths.
  • Inappropriate attempts to bring the Year 1 curriculum into Understanding the World, and the worrying sidelining of STEM in the decision to scrap the technology ELG.
  • Misguided revision of Expressive Arts & Design to be about children as passive consumers of cultural artefacts produced by others, experiencing a very restricted range of opportunities to draw, paint and sing, rather than exploring a wide range of media and materials to express their own ideas.

Beatrice Merrick, (right), chief executive of Early Education, said, ‘Practitioners across the sector share the Government’s aims to improve the development of all children’s communication and language and to eliminate unnecessary workload.

‘This is why we want to see significant amendments to the proposed changes to the EYFS.

‘In many cases the rewrites are worse than the current version: less clear, and moving away from what researchers and practitioners tell us is effective.

‘We encourage as many practitioners as possible to make their concerns clear to Government by responding to the consultation.

‘Government needs to listen to the sector, as the success of the EYFS is rooted in its past development through a committed process of co-production, and this needs to be continued if we are to move forward.’

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