I am keen to put a contrary perspective to the article 'Scrap EYFS and devolve Sure Start, says think-tank' (News, 17 June).
The Centre for Policy Studies calls on the Government to abolish the Early Years Foundation Stage, saving £315m a year, because it is questionable whether it encourages good practice or has had much practical effect. The Centre for Policy Studies report said, 'Reception year children now do pre-reading activities instead of learning to read through synthetic phonics. As a result, children from less stimulating environments waste an entire year, falling even further behind their middle-class peers, whose parents generally know better than to delay reading instruction.' It also recommended axing Play Strategy projects, described as expensive luxuries, and playworker qualifications.
I can see that it is expedient for a Government committed to cost-cutting to bill those areas of practice brought in by a previous administration as 'expensive luxuries', but speaking from personal experience, such a statement is factually wrong.
What actually happens is that the EYFS runs alongside synthetic phonic teaching and complements the rigorous learning of core knowledge and skills with engaging and stimulating contextual learning.
It is true to say that at the moment, we have the best of both worlds: engaged children learning to love learning and learning to read. I am sure that there are cheaper options, but I am equally sure that the literacy of our youngest children is not a great area to make damaging economies.
One of the biggest problems we face in education is managing the inevitable tension between the politicisation of our profession and the values we know will provide most effectively for the children in our care. This tension is not partisan; it is borne of the fact that any Government wants a quick demonstrable result, a four-year (at the longest) outcome that will quality-assure a decision and look good in the press.
That is not our mission. Our mission is lifelong learning, some of which is skills based, some of which is about knowledge, and much of which is about orientation and the development of attitude.
To make a horticultural metaphor: Governments are in the business of planting hanging baskets (for a quick show this summer); we in the profession are trying to plant oak trees.
I suggest, therefore, that we take note of professionals whose love of and commitment to the children is interpreted through a lens of experience and expertise, not a right-wing think tank that wants to balance the books and look good for their political lords and masters in the press.
If anyone would like to see fabulous writing and reading from four-year-olds inspired by the EYFS (supported by synthetic phonics), I am more than happy to show the minister or any think tank around St Stephen's at their convenience.
Pete Mountstephen, head teacher, St Stephen's Church of England Primary School, Bath
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EYE ON POLICY STUDY
The Open EYE Steering Group wishes to make it clear that we do not support the report by the Centre for Policy Studies ('Scrap EYFS and devolve Sure Start, says think-tank', 17 June). We know that the EYFS themes and principles have helped many practitioners to develop practice which is appropriate for young children, and we are clear that welfare requirements are necessary to safeguard and protect the interests of young children. In promoting an early start to 'reading instruction', the authors of this report betray their ignorance of how young children learn most effectively.
Open EYE argues for a genuinely play-based approach and a later start to formal literacy teaching. Our campaign focus is to reduce the Statutory Learning and Development requirements to guidance only, and to see an end to the Local Authorities Outcomes Duty. And for the record, we have never referred to the EYFS as the 'nappy curriculum' - it is journalists who are responsible for that!
Margaret Edgington, Richard House, Kim Simpson, the Open EYE Campaign Steering Group
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