Michael Freeston, the Early Years Alliance's director of quality improvement, who has been an outspoken critic of the proposed early learning goals, said the combination of the new goals and the new education inspection framework (EIF) meant that ‘Ofsted appears to be endorsing the cleave between early years provision in schools and that which is delivered by the "rest of us".'
While he applauded the proposed EIF's emphasis on curriculum, he was concerned that the school handbook which accompanies it, and which will apply to reception classes and nursery classes in schools, ‘had one reference to the EYFS as a phase children move through – it does not recognise the EYFS as the curriculum’.
Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum event on child development, he then quoted a passage in the schools handbook which reads ‘over the EYFS, teaching is designed to help children remember long-term what they have been taught and to integrate new knowledge into larger concepts'.
He said the new Ofsted framework plus the proposed goals were a ‘triumph for all those who for ideological and ill-informed reasons want the national curriculum to reach down into the early years.’
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Jan Dubiel, head of international development at early years training company Early Excellence, said Ofsted seemed to be promoting a view that learning was about accumulating information, while in the goals ‘reading has been fetishised to the extent it is driving the curriculum'.
'This is a simplistic view of the early years. Early childhood education is a distinct phase of development. Let us be clear - this is not a theoretical belief, this is about the biology of learning and development.
‘The government which claims [policies are] evidence-based is driving this [in a way] which is inappropriate’.
He added, ‘Starting school at five is nothing to do with child development. The rest of the world starts at six and the rest of the world is looking at us and laughing. And that is not just because of Brexit.’
The new Ofsted framework is designed to reduce teacher workload and reduce the culture of 'datafication' and teaching to the test in primary and secondary education. These phases of education share their inspection framework with the early years.
At a separate event last year, the Department for Education’s Susie Owen, deputy director, early years and childcare, said that the overhauled goals were based on evidence, and said, ‘We consulted with a huge range of academics. We are really clear these are draft ELGs. We know how important adult-child interactions are and that is reflected in [the] new ELGs.
‘We are clear this is not curriculum - this is just an assessment. We want to free teachers up to spend more time interacting with their children.’
The new goals are due to come in in 2020 and a full pilot is expected to take place in September.