EYFS REVIEW: Early years sector gives EYFS review a warm welcome

The early years sector has given an overwhelmingly positive response to recommendations made by Dame Clare Tickell in her review of the EYFS.

The report, The Early Years: Foundations for life, health and learning, calls for a slimmed down EYFS, with the 69 early learning goals reduced to 17 and a focus on three ‘prime’ areas of learning: communication and language, personal social and emotional development, and physical development.

Early years practitioners will also carry out a check on children’s development between the ages of two and three-years-old to ensure that children who are at risk of developmental delay or special educational needs get support as early as possible.

Early years and childcare organisations said they were pleased that Dame Clare had listened to the views of the sector.

An accompanying report summarising the evidence which contributed to the review has also been published. More than 3,300 responses were received.

As part of the review, Dame Clare consulted widely with parents, nurseries, early years practitioners and the voluntary sector.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said it was ‘a thoughtful and considered review of the EYFS without changing its core structure.’

Focus on communication and language

He said, ‘We welcome the review’s focus on the "prime areas" of physical development, emotional development and communication as these are the focus of early years provision.
If young children are given the support to develop in these areas as they grow, they will be well prepared to undertake formal learning at school.

We also welcome the separation of literacy from the communication, language and literacy learning area as this should ensure that no children – especially boys – are introduced to reading and writing too early, as such a move could impair their lifelong enjoyment of language and literature.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, the review team had listened to a wide range of views and that the value of the EYFS had been recognised.

‘Overall this is an impressive report that considers all major issues. NDNA and its members were clear that radical change needed to be avoided and we are pleased that the review outlines ways that potentially the EYFS can be improved even further.'

Megan Pacey, chief executive of Early Education, said the review largely reflected the views of early years practitioners working across a range of early years settings.

‘We are delighted that Dame Clare has confirmed that the Early Years Foundation Stage is to remain inclusive and mandatory and as a developmental framework. It is a key tool in the success of any future Early Intervention strategy supporting further integration of early years education and health strategies.

‘Dame Clare has listened to and been informed by the significant amount of evidence submitted to her. She has embraced the enormous success, popularity and potential of the Early Years Foundation Stage while at the same time, sensitively and constructively made recommendations that will help fine tune issues that have been challenging.
'In particular, her recommendations as they relate to the consolidation of the Early Learning Goals as well the simplification of the assessment process to further support practitioners working in early childhood education settings and in Reception and Year One classes, provide the potential to further develop and enhance the practice of all professionals for the benefit of all children and their families.’

Involving parents

Kate Groucutt, policy director at the Daycare Trust, said she was pleased that the review emphasised the need to make the EYFS more accessible to parents. She added, ‘This must be accompanied by practical tools that support parents to play an active role in their child’s learning and development, as we know parents are so keen to do, and help them identify high quality early years services.’

Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4 Children, said, ‘Like many new parents the early years’ curriculum was a little over anxious and occasionally overbearing. But as this review shows, its intentions were good and now a more confident sector is ready to take on more responsibility.

‘The early years’ curriculum broke new ground in recognising the importance of the early years and despite reservations from some, showed a marked increase in quality.

'Recommendations for bringing together health, education and other family support services during the early years are particularly welcome and will be crucial in helping families before problems escalate into crises. I hope that Government also welcomes this report and decides not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.’

Martin Bradley, chair of the Montessori Schools Association, said, the EYFS had helped to ‘sharpen’ practice and assessment in the early years.

He said the association welcomed the findings of the review, particularly where it reduced the burden on pre-schools and the changes to the number of early learning gaols and the new areas of learning.

‘We think the three prime areas of learning have been split in a useful way and we’re particularly pleased about the division between communication and language from literacy.’

He added that the association would be interested to find out more about how a simplified exemptions process would work.

While few Montessori settings have opted out, he said that ‘a significant number’ of children in Montessori settings were exceeding the early learning goals, making the EYFS Profile of ‘limited value’.

The National Childminding Association said it was pleased that registered childminders would  continue to be included in the EYFS alongside other early years practitioners.

Liz Bayram, joint chief executive, said, 'We welcome the recommendations on greater clarity on paperwork, which if taken forward by Government, will guide childminders on the appropriate balance between writing up their observations and supporting the learning and development of the children in their care.'

Shadow children and families Minister Sharon Hodgson said, 'The Early Years Foundation Stage has driven real improvements in the standard of education and outcomes for young children. Dame Clare Tickell is right to call it a "success story".

'Quality early years education delivered by skilled staff is crucial for a child's development and their future success. That is why Labour brought in the EYFS and invested in and modernised early years services.

'Dame Clare has confirmed the "huge amount of support" for the EYFS and that we should continue this successful approach. Now that EYFS is embedded in the system it is right that professionals can look to simplify some aspects of it.'

She added that Labour would hold the Government to account for any changes that reduce the expertise and support young children receive.

'We have already seen hugely damaging cuts to services such as Sure Start and funding to improve the skills and qualifications of early years workers. It is vital that we ensure any changes to EYFS do not lead to further cuts to the quality and reach of children's services.'


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