To the Point - Mixed messages

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With just one month before the EYFS revisions come on stream, it would be fantastic if we were all pulling in the same direction. But instead there is a serious mismatch in some of the messages coming from forces that affect services for our youngest children.

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Consider Ofsted's guidance to inspectors on judging children's achievement and progress. As an author of the revised Development Matters, I know everyone who advised on the project placed great importance on stating clearly that this is not a prescription for every child's pattern of learning and development. It provides a guide to typical progression, which will look different for each unique child.

Guidance for inspectors in PVI settings fits this fairly well, pointing out that the 'broad age-related bands' overlap and 'children will not necessarily progress sequentially through each element'. But inspectors' guidance for schools specifies that on entering nursery and reception, children would be expected to be working within one band, while demonstrating 'all of the elements' in the previous band.

Other worrying examples of mismatch appear in the draft primary curriculum:

  • Communication and Language is at the heart of the EYFS because of its importance across all areas of learning. The draft primary curriculum pays only lip service to this, and oral language hardly appears within the curriculum.
  • There is no equivalent to the characteristics of effective learning in the primary programme - it is all about target-driven learning.

Professor Andrew Pollard advised the Government on the primary curriculum, and has disowned the version that emerged for reasons including fear of 'a significant educational disjunction at the EYFS/Key Stage 1 transition.' He, along with other primary experts, also advised on development of the EYFS - but there are no early years names on the list of contributors to the primary curriculum.

Children in Year 1 are too young for 'formal learning', and we must resist the top-down pressure to move even three- and four-year-olds into inappropriate experiences.

Nancy Stewart is an associate of Early Education.

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