Sector raises concerns about revised EYFS

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The early years sector has been responding to the Early Years Foundation Stage consultation which ended on 30 September.

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The National Day Nurseries Association carried out an online survey and held events across the country to hear the views of private and voluntary settings.

It said that while members believe the EYFS has made a positive contribution since it was introduced, reinforcing high-quality provision for children, they also raised concerns about a lack of focus on the under-threes and the impact of implementing the framework within a tight timescale.

The Government is due to publish the final version of the revised EYFS at the end of March next year for implementation in September 2012.

Other issues raised by the NDNA include the impact of local authority funding cuts on training, and a need for clearer guidance on the roles and responsibilities of Ofsted, local authorities and providers, so that the EYFS is consistently implemented, supported and inspected.

Plans for a child development check at 24-36 months were welcomed, but members asked for structure and guidance so that checks could be implemented consistently.

NDNA chief executive Purnima Tanuku said, 'Concerns about the lack of focus on the youngest children have been a common theme. Focus seems to have shifted to threeto five-year-olds and school readiness, and it is seen as a significant omission that there is little mention of under-threes.

'Providers hope the revised EYFS will empower them to use their initiative and welcome the direction here. However, it is still felt that ambiguity in language and the onus on interpretation of what is appropriate may lead to problems with Ofsted inspection.

'The new Ofsted inspection framework will be critical.'

The Montessori Schools Association's main concern remains the ongoing uncertainty over the level 4 diploma continuing as a valid qualification.

Barbara Isaacs, academic director of Montessori Centre International, told Nursery World, 'We think the proposal (for the revised EYFS) is workable and we will be able to support it, but we need to have our own initial teacher training to support the Montessori curriculum.'

She added, 'I would like to have seen more emphasis on outdoor learning. Children have benefited widely from free-flow and I think this should be highlighted.'

She agreed that there should be proper training for the development check.

'There needs to be more clarity, guidance and appropriate checks so that staff are able to do the check well, given that some children don't start till they're nearly three.'

The Pre-School Learning Alliance said it was 'greatly concerned' about the emphasis on 'school readiness', which could result in 'an intolerable downward pressure being exerted by the schools and the education system on many early years staff and young children' and would lead to a 'formalising and institutionalisation of early years'.

The Alliance also raised the issue that there is no reference to the five outcomes in Every Child Matters, which are enshrined in the Children Act 2004, and underpin the EYFS.

The change from Enabling Environments to 'a positive environment' was also criticised by the Alliance in its response.

'The change from an enabling environment further emphasises this step back from what we know of effective practice.'

In their comments on the revised EYFS, equality champions Herman Ouseley and Jane Lane said it was vital 'to extend the equality aspects of the EYFS statutory framework by requiring effective ethnic monitoring mechanisms to identify any potential discrimination', and for practice guidance on racial equality issues.

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