More important reader responses – Early Years Foundation Stage

This is what Faith has to say:

Response to Lucy Giffen’s comment.

I am a teacher of some 20 years and whereas I feel positive about the four themes of the EYFS (A Unique Child, Positive Relationships, Enabling environments, Learning & Development) and am happy to use the EYFS practice guidance, I am frankly appalled by the mandatory goals set by the DCSF for the non-compulsory pre-school sector. Are we so enlightened that we can ‘require’ practitioners to get children in their care to meet goals for which many are known to be developmentally unready? Are we so knowledgeable that we can expect practitioners to have all children ‘well on the way towards the early learning goals by the time they start school?

Much of the early years of childhood is about unconscious learning and, though learning is important, it happens quite naturally both at home and nursery if the environments are enriched with learning and developmental opportunities and where the adults involved create emotionally warm environments and put the nurturing of well-being as a prime factor.

Lucy’s statement that early years practitioners will now be encouraged to work towards consistent goals is contrary to any concept of ‘a Unique Child’. It is also in contradiction to the EYFS claim that “children learn in different ways and at different rates”. Plus the statutory framework does not encourage practitioners it “requires them to deliver”.

I think most early years’ practitioners and childminders welcome any positive support that helps them to provide high quality experiences related to the natural developmental stages of young children. What is a major concern is that the mandatory learning requirements are a ‘step too far’ and can only lead to children’s reports, such as described by Frances for her own child, with evidence more related to pleasing the EYFS requirements than meeting the real needs of ‘unique children’. Personally, I think we are wise to be cautious.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Lucy Giffen on August 20, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Your response has raised many interesting points which I would like to respond to.

    I agree that with any introduction of a new system there are flaws that will need to be worked out and all children involved with the EYFS would benefit from them being resolved. I disagree that the early learning goals are narrow – and the practice guidance states that “the statutory early learning goals establish EXPECTATIONS for MOST children to reach by THE END OF THE RECEPTION YEAR. By the end of the EYFS, SOME CHILDREN WILL HAVE EXCEEDED THE GOALS WHILE OTHERS WILL BE WORKING TOWARDS SOME OR ALL OF THEM“ (my highlighting). Having only ever known the EYFS in it’s current format I think that DOES take children’s varied development pace into account. The quote above highlights this. Assessment is about viewing the current situation and then building a development plan that achieves the goal. A good nursery or childminder should be doing this and continually building on their “reports”.

    Children are unique whether they are achieving the same goals or not – it is always the methods that a child uses to get there that a good practitioner should be observing. Your personal examples highlight to me that there is a problem with the observer and their methods where the child is taken in isolation. Not the EYFS. A good practitioner should know whether a child is capable of the goals by having a close relationship with the parents. It sounds as if your nursery doesn’t have a good policy on parental inclusion.

    I am also degree educated – in teaching, with a 1 year old son. I’ve chosen to be a childminder so that I can stay at home with my son rather than place his development into the care of people who hold a lower level of education than mine. In general, early years staff are not highly educated and are low paid if they work in nurseries. To presume that they are effective and capable of good observation and scaffolding a child’s development is amiss. The benefit of my choice is that I have the opportunity to provide other working parents with a high quality, consistent provision for their children. It was always my intention to provide unconscious learning experiences and ensure that children in my care grow and develop into confident, happy children oblivious to their own “assessment records”. I also plan to develop my role as a childminder to one where I hold the EYPS and work to lead and improve the work of other childminders.

    Sadly, there are thousands of out of work, stay at home parents out there whose children will not come across the EYFS and it’s Early Learning Goals until they start in Reception year. These are the parents whose children would benefit from such a framework in their child’s early years. They are the children who currently don’t even have the advantage of someone knowing where they stand against their peers before they start formal education.

    Currently my parental gut instinct fears the years beyond the EYFS where the choices available for education are limited and an emotionally warm, homely environment difficult to find.


    • Posted by Frances Laing on August 21, 2009 at 9:46 am

      Many thanks for this Lucy, I appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the time. Will come back to the points you raise.


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