To the point - What matters most

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If new practitioners are trained in a new qualification that doesn't even mention play, will they be the informed professionals that children deserve?


Not so many years ago, there was no EYFS. In fact, there was no curriculum guidance for the Foundation Stage, Birth to Three Matters, or even the earlier Desirable Outcomes. In those years I sometimes described the core of what I strived to offer children as a 'play and talk curriculum'. And though we now have a national framework, I would still be fairly happy to sum up an effective approach under that description.

Frameworks come and go, but what matters most to children and what will help them to learn and develop remains a steady undercurrent. So does it matter that the current Government plans to tinker with the EYFS? Part of this urge for change comes from wanting more available, cheaper childcare. I believe it does matter, if it comes to removing quality requirements such as enough space to run and play.

There is a move not only to change or remove some requirements, but to downplay guidance on effective practice. This is explained as 'leaving it to the professionals', which we might believe was the reason if we saw evidence that the Government gives credence to professional views. I suspect instead it stems from a desire to take the focus away from play, and downgrade the child-centred approach described in EYFS guidance such as Development Matters.

The push is for structured learning activities to be 'delivered' to children, not for children and adults together to playfully experience the thrill of making sense of the world.

It is true that in the past, with no guiding framework, many children flourished in rich early childhood environments. But others were stifled by dull and limiting approaches, and many opportunities to support and stimulate their learning were lost because practitioners may not have known how children learn best.

If new practitioners are trained in a qualification that doesn't even mention play, will they be the informed professionals that children deserve? If there is no underpinning description of high-quality practice, what will guide them? Yes, there is no one-size-fits-all picture, and professionals think for themselves about how best to respond to particular children and contexts, but there is growing research evidence supporting the power of some central features - such as play and talk.

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