Despite what has been achieved in the early years, there are mounting concerns with regard to children’s behaviour and attainment – particularly for disadvantaged children and those with special educational needs. Bold Beginnings, published by Ofsted in 2017, refers to the difficulty of the transition between Reception and Year 1 as the early learning goals are not aligned with the national curriculum.
I believe that this is much deeper than alignment and that we need to boldly redefine early childhood education– as per our manifesto (see below). This means re-writing the early years curriculum from birth to 7 years taking into account the needs of children now and in the future.
Current revisions of the early years framework retain the same old areas of learning as though they were written on tablets of stone – our proposal for a new Key Stage 1 is a bold beginning that aligns with the rest of the key stages. Some independent schools are already taking this step as they have the freedom to disapply from the EYFS. We now need to enable all schools and settings to make the same journey.
In our new book, Early Childhood Education Redefined, we highlight the unreliability of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile data, with its strange way of calculating a ‘good level of development’ equivalent to giving the same numerical value for blowing your nose as knowing your sounds.
But this is more than just about our book, this is about taking action. I hope that people will support our manifesto, which is underpinned by effective pedagogy already defined in the Start Right report of 1994, authored by Sir Christopher Ball (see below).
Those working in schools and settings, inspectors, politicians and parents, indeed society as a whole, must avoid taking the route of blame. If we hold hands and learn together, we can make the changes that are needed for children now an in the future.
Early Childhood Education Redefined – Manifesto
- Provide parents with relevant education and training in order that they can support the development and learning of their children.
- Replace the current Early Years Foundation Stage with the new KEY Stage 1 devised by Pat Preedy covering 0 – 7 years.
- Implement the principles of early childhood pedagogy first iterated in the Start Right report of 1994.
- Stop the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP); combine teacher/practitioner assessment with standardised assessment against national norms in language, mathematics and physical development.
- Provide the funding and resources required to implement the changes required.
Start Right Features of Effective Early Years Pedagogy
- Many and varied opportunities for children and adults to talk and communicate about learning.
- Learning activities which are concrete, real and relevant to the lives of young children.
- Educators who acknowledge and utilise purposeful play as a powerful medium for learning.
- Adults who support and develop each child’s self-esteem and identity, involve themselves in learning activities and extend children’s learning by asking and answering questions, and by stimulating the child’s curiosity, imagination and wonder.
- Opportunities for children to choose from a variety of activities, materials and equipment.
- Provision for large groups, small groups, individual and solitary activities;
- Outdoor experiences on a daily basis.
- Periods of uninterrupted time to enable children to explore and engage in activities according to individual need and involvement.
- A balance of movement and rest in the daily programme.
- An achieved aim of ensuring that learning is fun.
(Start Right Report, 1994)
This is an edited extract from an address at Blenheim Palace on 18 January to launch Early Childhood Education Redefined by Professor Pat Preedy, Kay Sanderson and Sir Christopher Ball, published by Routledge.