Call for major overhaul of ELGs with early years experts

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Early Education says that the Government’s revision of the Early Learning Goals has far wider implications and is in effect a re-write of the whole EYFS 'by the back door'.

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Early Education criticises the removal of the Early Learning Goal for Space, Shape and Measure from the revised Mathematics goals

In a detailed 31-page commentary Early Education says that the publication of the new goals has much greater implications for the early years sector, and that the current draft requires major changes.

It says that the draft revised EYFS framework is ‘effectively a rewrite of the EYFS by the back door, as the Areas of Learning section has been re-written and the Characteristics of Effective Learning have been made non-statutory’.

Early Education is calling for an extensive overhaul of the draft by experts in each Area of Learning.

Published two weeks ago, the Department for Education has confirmed it will be piloting the revised Early Learning Goals (ELGs) in Reception in 25 schools from September.

It has said that there will be a consultation with the sector in 2019, after the pilot.

As we revealed last month, the DfE was already under fire after a Freedom of Information request revealed little early years sector representation among those involved in reviewing the ELGs.

Early Education has provided a detailed breakdown of each Area of Learning and the revised ELGs, highlighting changes that have been made to the early years curriculum in the pilot framework.

For example, the removal of Shape, Space and Measure and Technology, which have disappeared from both the ELGs and the Areas of Learning.

The document says, 'The current ELG as it stands is largely inappropriate and could perhaps be fine-tuned with input from early maths expert groups. Shape, space and measure must be included in the ELG to avoid a narrowing of the EYFS curriculum.'

It adds that there are many more detailed changes in the wording which will have ‘a significant impact’ on the EYFS.

Early Education says, ‘The DfE claim to have a mandate to review the ELGs and the EYFSP [EYFS Profile] on the back of the primary assessment questionnaire - which is at best dubious given the lack of input from the sector. It certainly did not provide a mandate to review the EYFS as a whole.’

It also says that while it supports ministers’ aims to reduce workload and improve children’s communication and language skills, ‘the proposed revisions are unlikely to do either’.

it criticises the revised version for its increased emphasis on Literacy, which now has more goals, at the expense of Communication and Language, which are not based on ‘extensive research evidence about how young children learn language’.

Workload

Early Education also disputes the DfE’s claims that the new goals will reduce workload for teachers and practitioners, because:

  • The wholesale changes to the ELGs and the descriptions of what educational programmes should cover for each area of learning will involve a considerable workload for practitioners across the EYFS in familiarising themselves with the new versions.
  • The wording of the new ELGs will add to workload in some cases through ‘the extensively specific nature of the wording, e.g. ‘Say a sound for each letter in the alphabet and at least 10 digraphs’, which it claims could require ‘a tick-list of 36 items’ for one sub-section of one goal.
  • The wording of other ELGs is ‘too vague’, e.g. ‘Demonstrate strength, balance and co-ordination’.

Early Education also says that the new ELGs will do nothing for social mobility or to close the achievement gap, and will exacerbate it because the literacy and maths goals are set too high. This will impact most on the children who are summer-born, have English as an additional language, or special educational needs and disabilities, boys and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The bulleted format of the new ELGs ‘will encourage a tick-list approach, instead of the best fit model which was - and the document states still is - the intended approach, and which is necessary and appropriate to adhere to the statutory principles of assessment contained in the EYFS.’

Concern about the direction that the review of the ELGs was taking also resulted in a petition, started by early years consultant and trainer Kym Scott, which called on the DfE to halt the review of the ELGs until a panel of suitable early years advisers was put together received more than 5,000 signatures.

The DfE has said that a full consultation will take place at the end of the 2019 academic year and that it will work closely with the early years sector and experts on this.

The Education Endowment Foundation, National Centre for Social Research and Action for Children will be delivering the independent evaluation of the pilot to trial the revisions to the EYFS Profile from September – July 2019.

The DfE said, ‘We know that teachers and practitioners want greater clarity on what to teach in Reception year, and as part of the pilot we will explore what support and guidance teachers think would be helpful. This will include the future of non-statutory guidance such as Development Matters.’

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