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LETTER OF THE WEEK

HOW TO OPEN EYES

I didn't find the article by Margaret Edgington, Richard House and Lynne Oldfield helpful (Analysis, 13 December).

In fact, I think such sabre-rattling will damage confidence in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

This framework is not flawless and, yes, it needs understanding and intelligence to be used. But berating the EYFS and scaring practitioners will not help improve practice.

I want practitioners to understand how the comments in the 'Development Matters' column in the EYFS can help them to improve their understanding of child development. I want them to have professional development that works from an explicit, clearly articulated and debated set of principles. I want them to learn how to build the self-esteem of children and their colleagues and use resources within the EYFS to inform this.

I also want practitioners to have high expectations and when children have yet to achieve the Early Learning Goals, I want them to use the EYFS to reflect and consider that maybe it's weaknesses in the quality of learning and teaching. Every child has a right to have practitioners who are critically reflective and analytical about the outcomes that children do achieve.

We need the Government to realise that more focus on process leads to better outcomes and that a drive to focus solely on outcomes does not lead to a better process for children.

Tim Vaughan, by e-mail

- Letter of the Week wins £40 worth of children's books.

FOR THE WORKFORCE

Richard House argues for principles of diversity and choice in the early years curriculum and against prescription (Analysis, 13 December). In principle, I agree, but in the context of the UK's particular history of early years provision, I think his objections to the statutory status of the new EYFS are wrong.

From the point of view of children themselves, the choice is not between high-quality curricula frameworks or a single government-imposed statutory framework. Rather, it is between a single framework underpinned by clear principles but with scope for flexibility and interpretation, or the uncertainties of a largely unqualified or under-qualified early years workforce working in a predominantly market driven, cost-conscious nursery sector.

My own research is focused on babies and children under two. For this age group, there is the greatest risk but also the greatest opportunity. Central to optimal outcomes is the importance of warm, responsive and sensitive care from consistent adults. In nursery, the EYFS makes it a duty to ensure each baby and child has this through the key person approach, hitherto only a recommendation. This is an enormous step forward. The challenge now is one of effective implementation, providing the support and resources to enable nursery workers to implement these crucial relationships.

This challenge to the EYFS risks preserving choice for the few, while cutting loose the majority to sink or swim. What really matters is to make the EYFS a stopgap as we move towards an early years workforce of fully trained pedagogues.

Peter Elfer, senior lecturer in early childhood studies, Roehampton University

PUT CHILDREN FIRST

I'm sorry to hear one as inspirational and creative as Margaret Edgington say, 'I don't know any child who will learn phonics through play - it is incompatible' (Letters, 6 December).

Children can learn phonics through play in a myriad of ways. All it takes is creativity and observation. For example, the child who notices that the carriages on the train he rides are labelled a, b, c, d. When he adds this to a drawing, doesn't it inspire you to put letters on the toy train carriages? Where might that lead? Ordering letters, spelling out names, noticing their initials. Letters and sounds are all around us and children notice them.

The EYFS is here and there is nothing I can say to change it. So it is time to get on with putting the child's needs first.

I never was going to be dictated to by the EYFS - rather I will use my cunning to ensure that my best practice is justified by the framework. The EYFS is only a framework. What we need is for you to help us paint the pictures that go in it. Please let's be positive.

Alison Cook, childminder, Sheffield

- Send your letters to ...
The Editor, Nursery World,
174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP
letter.nw@haymarket.com
020 8267 8402.

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