Letter from West Cheshire and Chester Council

Received this letter on Monday regarding our parental exemption to the EYFS Learning and Development Goals from the local authority. West Cheshire Council is apparently very keen on ‘transparency’ and ‘clear communication’ so we’re certain they won’t mind the letter being published here for readers to see, comment on and evaluate. Comments via the comments box please…

“Dear Mrs Laing,

Thank you for your letter dated 26th August to Cheshire West and Chester Council. You outlined the request that you have made to xxx school for your child to be exempted from the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). I was initially made aware of your request during early August and I read the short letter that you sent to the school at that time.

The council believes in transparency and clear communication and I am attaching here the national guidance that we and the school are following with regard to your request. We believe that the booklet is clear enough about this process but will reflect on your suggestion about a local booklet about the exemption process for the future.

We support the principle that you have a right to make this request because you feel that the learning and development requirements of the EYFS conflict with your philosophical convictions. Your request is a matter for the school to decide and I understand that they have already met with you and a council officer representing myself with regards to EYFS advice. I understand that the school is now considering your request and will be making a decision on the matter soon. As you say, there is no formal timescale required by national guidance. This is a matter for the school, however we will introduce a local guide timeline for the future.

I am sorry that for the occasion of your meeting that an officer of the council was late. You mention that they had not read the letter. I had read the letter however and considered it more appropriate for the officer to attend and hear your views first hand. The advice to the school about your request is from myself and based upon your two letters, feedback to me following the meeting with you and my in-depth knowledge of the EYFS and it’s successful use across Cheshire West and Chester and many other local authorities in England.

The school is under no obligation to grant an exemption.  If they do not wish, or do not feel able, to alter the provision made for your child, it is open to them to refuse to do so, and to ask you to either accept the provision as it stands or to seek an alternative provider. This is what the national guidance advises.

In Cheshire West and Chester we are fully committed to the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). We acknowledge how much that it has supported our practitioners to think about children’s learning from birth and helped them to provide broad, rich and balanced care, development and learning opportunities for babies, toddlers and young children. Our own Early Years Foundation Stage Team is nationally recognised and works hard to support practitioners, leaders and managers across all sectors including Childminders to develop high quality for every child in Cheshire West and Chester. We believe that the EYFS is a better framework than what was in place previously and have a deep knowledge of how to support our practitioners to use it in a principled and reflective manner that respects children.

Across EYFS settings there will be different degrees of structure, freedom and autonomy given to children, reflecting the values and principles of the provider. This means that parents may find that an alternative provider approaches EYFS in a manner more suited to the parent’s own values and beliefs. We believe that across Cheshire West and Chester there is a wide range of high quality provision to choose from which allows for such a range of approaches. Our Family Information Service (telephone 0800 0852 863) advises parents about providers to consider in any given area. If your exemption request is not granted by the school, please use the the service to find out about alternative providers to consider.

Where an exemption is granted for an individual child from all or part of the EYFS we will do our best to help any school or private, voluntary or independent setting to still provide high quality early childhood education and care. Whilst the local authority has discretion to decide whether or not to fund the setting to provide the free EYFS entitlement to individual children who are exempt from one or more of the learning and development requirements, Cheshire West and Chester Council will not be withdrawing funding for individual children in such cases. We are committed to all of our eligible 3, 4 and 5 year olds accessing high quality care, development and learning. We welcome the statutory EYFS as the means to do this but where it is not possible to use the  EYFS we will still fund that child because this is such an important time for building children’s lifelong skills, knowledge, beliefs and attitudes. I hope that this reassures you.

Thank you for taking such an interest in the EYFS and how to improve it. I know that you have already experienced a year of the EYFS in Cheshire West and Chester and am confident that you will be able to find a setting that continues to suit your philosophical beliefs within the borough.

Best wishes”,

xxx

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