Sector unites ahead of Government consultation on EYFS

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A new early years coalition has launched a survey for practitioners and leaders, amid widespread concern about the Government’s planned changes for the Early Years Foundation Stage.

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The group of early years organisations have come together to ensure a strong and unified voice from the sector as the Department for Education (DfE) works on changes to the early years curriculum, ahead of a consultation on the proposals later this year.

They say that early years experts were insufficiently involved in drafting the revised Early Learning Goals (ELGs).

The coalition members include Early Education, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), PACEY and the Early Years Alliance, who have designed the survey to gauge the sector’s views in advance of the Government consultation.

The group wants to hear about practitioners' experience of the current EYFS across the sector, including what helps, what makes it more difficult, and what should change. The responses will be used to put together a report to inform decision-making by ministers and officials about possible changes to the EYFS.

The coalition said it has also been in contact with the DfE to recommend that any future changes to the ELGs and EYFS statutory framework reflect the most up-to-date research evidence and best practice from across the sector.

Other members include TACTYC, the Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network (ECSDN), Early Childhood Forum (ECF), Keeping Early Years Unique (KEYU) and the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).

Meetings will also include observers from the teaching unions and support from specialist groups, including the Early Childhood Mathematics Group (ECMG) and Music Educators and Researchers of Young Children (MERYC).

The survey, which takes around 10 to 15 minutes to complete, is designed for early years practitioners, leaders and managers.

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, said, ‘It’s entirely appropriate to revisit the EYFS and see whether it can be improved, based on evidence that has accumulated since the Tickell Review. Tickell set a benchmark of good practice in consulting with the sector and reviewing the research to ensure that the EYFS was as well constructed as it could be at the time, and any future reviews should live up to that same standard. 

‘We want to ensure that piecemeal changes such as the recently proposed changes to the ELGs don’t compromise the quality of the whole. We’re pleased DfE are engaging with us, and we hope that some of the less well-informed changes to the ELGs will be unpicked before they go out to public consultation to ensure that all changes are improvements on what is currently in place.’

Michael Freeston, director of quality improvement at the Early Years Alliance, said the consultation could bring about the biggest changes to the EYFS since its introduction.

‘My concern is that policy is being devised from a perspective that does not put children first and seeks to extend formal learning down into the early years. This makes it all the more vital that, when it comes to this consultation we are not only listened to but are also around the table, shaping what any changes should look like.

‘The more of us who make our voice heard now the harder it will be to ignore us when the Government sets out the terms of its consultation later this year.’

Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association said that the quality of early education had risen since the introduction of the EYFS and the planned changes could have a negative impact.

‘The EYFS was built on a firm foundation of strong research-based evidence, with a number of sector leaders involved in its development and embraced by the sector.

‘We appreciate that a cycle of review is necessary to ensure that the EYFS is the best it can be, however this cannot be achieved without a thorough review of evidence based best practice and in collaboration with the early years workforce.’

Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, added, ‘There is a strong consensus within the sector that the proposals currently being piloted in 24 primary schools are likely to encourage a top-down, tick-box, one size fits all approach that will not be suitable for many children, especially those with SEND, English as an additional language (EAL) or the summer-born.’

  • You can take part in the survey here.
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