It is always frustrating when a golden opportunity is missed. For
those of us working in the field of early years physical development
(PD), the specification for this area in the new Level 3 Early Years
Educator (EYE) course is a classic case in point.We were delighted by PD being elevated to a 'Prime Area of Learning' in 2012's revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).
At last, we felt this critical area of children's development would receive the status and relevance it so deserves. The accompanying guidelines have been sensible, manageable and accessible, affording practitioners the scope for individual interpretation that best suits the particular needs of their settings.
In short, we could work with these guidelines without encountering the difficulties experienced by those implementing other areas of the EYFS. Independent training providers have been able to design courses that support the guidelines and encourage practitioners to develop their own schemes of work.
At the same time, we were aware of the 'gaps' in Unit 4 of the Children and Young People's Workforce Diploma ('Promote young children's physical activity and movement skills') and have tried to address these in a positive and proactive way. We always hoped that eventually a more interesting and rigorous PD course would emerge.
WHERE EYE IS LACKING
The new Level 2 and Level 3 EYE course specifications have recently been published by their respective awarding bodies. I believe there are some very serious issues with the PD component of both levels that should be addressed.
Considering the fact that PD remains a 'Prime Area' in the EYFS - and that issues concerning obesity, health and well-being for this age group are permanently in the news - I would like to ask the following questions.
- Why on both the Level 2 course and especially the Level 3 EYE course does PD remain an option? Why is it not a core component of these courses?
- Why are these 'options' worth even fewer points than before? For Level 2 only one credit is awarded; for Level 3, only two. Who is going to sign up for an optional course worth so few credits?
- The number of guided learning hours for Level 2 is eight - this goes up to 19 for Level 3, over the course of one year. This is providing the bare minimum, nowhere near what young students just starting out will need to actively support PD as a 'Prime Area' - and what will happen when they get into the workplace?
- Major gaps remain in the content of courses; even the language used bears no relation to that used in the EYFS PD guidelines. For example, young children do not 'exercise' - they 'move/are active', according to the EYFS. The EYE says 'physical skills should include grasps/fine and gross motor skills/movement and co-ordination', but surely these all go together? And what happened to the EYFS's 'moving and handling/health and self care?'
- No mention is made of personal movement skills/music and rhythm/use of apparatus both large and small. Why?
- No mention is made of teaching skills. How to actually deliver active sessions? How to plan a scheme of work? How to adapt to different groups/venues/inside-outside?
- Most importantly, no mention is made of how movement skills are intrinsically linked to overall development. Students must understand why PD is important in relation to other areas - and how movement skills impact on children's early childhood. So why is this not included?
LACK OF IMPACT
My fear is that students will simply view these courses as easy options and the qualifications will have no meaningful impact on their professional lives. They will not have the requisite skill set to design or deliver active sessions - or even the underpinning knowledge that would enable them to effectively support their colleagues with initiatives or projects.
To try to redress this situation, www.activematters.org provides essential information on all resources related to early years PD. It is not a commercial venture, but aims to create a 'learning hub' and platform for all those interested in this field - whether from a sporting, early years, academic or therapeutic background.
Students and practitioners alike are encouraged to submit their work. Local, national, and international projects or initiatives may be supported by our community.