Early Years Foundation Stage – childminder feedback and English as a second language

Another reader response (I’ve  copied this one out of the comments section and highlighted it here in a new post as it covers the hugely important issue of English as a second language).  Many thanks for taking the trouble, Jaki. F.L.

As a very experienced childminder, I do not agree with Lucy’s comments. In principle, the EYFS is a good thing. However, in practice it has turned into a monster. From a very personal perspective, I have not been in favour of the compulsory part of the EYFS. I feel it is fine for children to “aspire” to various goals, but completely wrong for children to “achieve” goals by a given age.

What happens if they can’t? Are parents/childminders/ nursery staff penalised if they fail? Do children [still younger than compulsory school attendance, remember] start school with a “failure” label. Is it any wonder that we have the highest incidence of stressed out kids in Europe?

I shared the care of a young child with English as a second language with a local Outstanding Ofsted rating Nursery. Her parents were unhappy with the care at the nursery and finally persuaded me to take her on full-time. Her Nursery Report was a work of fiction. A selection of post it notes detailing everything she couldn’t do with little positive comments.

The Nursery were unhappy at sharing their information with me but it eventually transpired that they had told her mum that they couldn’t help her as no-one spoke her language. As she was barely 2.5 at this time, had lived in 3 countries, with 2 different carers, she wasn’t speaking any recognisable language.

As was their legal right, they deferred her entrance into school until she was 5. She was now proficient in English, had superb social skills was full of confidence and was ready to move on and enjoy her schooling.

At the end of her first week in school, I spoke to her teacher who commented on her lack of understanding of number and letters and her failure to understand basic reading skills. I did say they were not a priority in my setting but she was ready to move on to the next stage in her educational progress. Bearing in mind that she still would not be 5 at this stage.

As I home educate, take on children of other home educators, very early reading skills are not something that is important to me. I am constantly being harassed by my coordinator to get the children up to speed and whenever they are proficient in one area, I am told to record what learning steps I am utilising to move them on.

Although Nurseries can have an “inadequate” rating from Ofsted and still claim the early years grant for the children in their care, as a childminder I have to have either an outstanding or a good to claim the grant.

For anyone who has not had an inspection for 3 years [like me[ they have to write a business case as to why they should still be allowed to claim the grant. Some towns refuse to allow childminders to claim the EYFS and the children have to attend nursery to claim the free childcare [15 hours per week can be a lifeline for parents on a low income.]

It is nothing short of bullying tactics to get children into a “testing” culture at the earliest opportunity with success or failure being metered out by largely unqualified, untrained young girls who are the mainstay of nurseries.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I feel the imposition of the curriculum on childminders particularly those on a low income is fairly off putting and is part of a bigger move in the Education sector it seems to indrectly put people off care or teaching – such as CRB checks.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Frances Laing on August 29, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for your comments Lucy. Needless to say I don’t agree with most of them – but shall welcome the opportunity to pick up on points like these as part of the general debate on EYFS and children’s welfare in future blog posts over the coming months so this is just a short initial response to say I’ve read them.

    Writing this blog has been a huge challenge. Not least because as a mother and a journalist there are important issues of privacy, ethics and public interest involved. I make decisions to set (and re-set) clear boundaries about what I say, (and would not say) about my child and my family. These decisions may not be apparent to all readers but they are conscious acts. I do this no doubt with varying degees of success.

    Readers concerned about the welfare of my child please note the following. I did have an awareness that the words I was using to decribe my child were a kind of ’shorthand’ – that’s the reason I placed these words in inverted commas. The meeting did not take place at the council – but in a comfy office at the school and as I mentioned in the post – I had prepared very well and had brought along a large box of craft supplies for her to use. The meeting (which would have been an hour in duration if our local authority rep. had not been late) was followed by a family visit to a green space…we thought it best to stay together on that occasion as a family on one of our days off and I believe this was the best thing for us.

    For reasons of public interest – and due to the nature of blogging – I describe a small part of our everyday experiences here – (I believe these experiences are important – I’m not aware that anyone has trod this particular path before. They are, however as I have said – ‘edited’ – for reasons of privacy.

    This blog is not about me, or my family. Whether or not an individual parent feels stressed, guilty…e.t.c. It concerns the ways in which what the government is doing impacts most, or all families. In that sense I am trying to draw out experiences which are common to many people in different circumstances to ours.

    Of course, every problem that occurs with health and welfare is multi-factoral. Child obesity. Junk food advertising. A lack of spaces to play. It’s all connected.

    The consensus I am seeing so far is that the issues and particular problems which are the focus of this blog are not created or fostered by a single individual. They’re not simply problems of parental ’style’, personal preference, or issues of individual training needs. And there appears to be a huge need to air these issues, as I have already witnessed in the feedback I have received so far.

    The issues are problems with the system. That appears to be my fundamental disagreement with your views and the reason why I’ll come back to the points you raise – not here in the comments section – but in the main body of the blog in what I see is a broader context. (F.L)

    Reply

  3. Posted by Lucy Giffen on August 27, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    I’m still finding everyone’s responses interesting and have also read your letter requesting exemption from the EYFS.
    I can consistently say that the complaints raised by both teachers, childminders and parents are still predominantly to do with the nature of children being labelled “failures” within the framework. This to me has everything to do with the attitudes of the nursery and their “failures” to observe correctly and then treat the child as an individual. It is also a negative trait that many people fall into when they are marking against a ticklist. It is easier to say what a child cannot do than what a child can do if you do not work in an atmosphere that has a positive approach. If a child can’t achieve the ELG it is still the Nursery or Early Years setting’s responsibility to find a way for that child to develop and grow accordingly. It is incredibly lazy on the part of the Nursery to say they cannot help a child.
    The issue of children with English as a second language is also a reason for the introduction of goals for literacy and language. How much harder would those children find joining formal education if they had remained in an early years setting which didn’t encourage a good standard of clear and audible speaking? I spent my Childminding course with adults whose English skills were themselves questionable and who would then be responsible for working within a framework I perceived would struggle to read and fully understand.
    I was also intrigued by your initial response to my comments which highlighted displeasure in your childr receiving labels from your chosen nursery. You yourself also labelled your child as ”confident” “chatty”, “sociable” and “friendly” but fail to see these too as labels as they are agreeable.
    This is an emotive issue as many parents are forced to rely on someone else to provide care for their children’s early years. Children are under stress according to many recent reports but this is not simply the result of the introduction of Early Learning Goals into early years settings. This is to do with parental pressures for their child to succeed, guilt that they are relying on someone else for the majority of their child’s early years care and parents who discuss issues in front of young children which they are not fully capable of understanding. The concept that children are being pressured to achieve too early is not something that children should be bothered by unless parents are passing their own concerns onto their children. I question the appropriateness of a 5 year old or under attending a council meeting regarding their future education.
    Children should be learning through play and within that play there should be a thousand opportunities for a child to develop. Adults, especially parents, should still be the biggest resource of life skills which a child needs in education and the wider sociable world.

    Reply

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