Parental Exemptions Process: Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements

Today I spent time with the thirty-five page document sent to us by email by West Cheshire Council about the parental exemptions process. We are the first parents in the U.K, (we believe) to apply for a parental exemption to the Learning and Development Requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Yes. It is not easy to understand. The process, like this picture, is long and out of focus. Nevertheless, I promised, dear readers of this blog, that I would chart it for you – so I’ll recap if I may…

Flow chart of exemption application process for parental exemption to the Early Years Learning and Development Requirements

First of all of all we need to understand that NO exemptions are allowed under any circumstances to the Welfare Requirements of the EYFS. We’ve learned that now, it is understandable, and we’re not going to argue with that. (Well, not here at least, although there are points to raise about welfare issues – another time).

We’re applying for a parental exemption to the Learning and Development Requirements. We now know there are sixty-nine of these. Confused already? Bear with me…

I’ve amended the flow chart (which the local authority sent us – it was on page 19) so that readers can see where we are at the moment in this process. See the words: WE ARE HERE.

Having made that bold statement  – we’re often not sure ourselves where we are …erm…it was only after we had the meeting with the school and the local authority (see the second box down on the flow chart) – that the local authority sent us the flow chart and the thirty-five page guidance document…

This prompted a thought. Was there any possibility that they had written it specially for us? It didn’t seem to have a central government logo on it – but perhaps I’m mistaken there…

Anyway this weighty document is called: Guidance for Local Authorities and Providers on Exemptions from the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements” (What happened to guidance for parents?). As I mentioned, it’s thirty-five pages long.

At least twenty-two of the thirty-five pillars of wisdom are addressed to settings applying for exemptions at provider level and don’t apply to parents at all. There’s a flow chart for settings too. But reader, we’re not going to do that to ourselves right now – you really don’t want to see it – it’s even longer than the one for parents. It just shows the sheer effort needed by the two Steiner schools who partially succeeded in the process recently.

So that leaves thirteen pages for parents. Including the flow chart. Right.

Just to remind ourselves about what we said in our exemption process:

Here’s a link to our  second  letter: (the first was very short and requested a meeting.)

And our third letter:

And a fourth. (I’ll leave you to study the local authority replies which also feature on this blog…)

Now. Back to the thirty-five page missive. Selected significant quotes include:

Page 16: Parents can apply for an exemption for their child where they feel that the learning and development requirements of the EYFS conflict with their religious and philosophical convictions, the parent must apply to the provider whose setting that their child attends/will attend.

Page 50

Prior to making an application, parents should discuss their concerns with their provider or prospective provider. In the majority of cases it should be possible to accomodate parents’ religious and philosophical convictions within the EYFS framework. Following discussions with the provider, if parents still feel there is a case for exemption, they should write to their provider, clearly setting out:

  • For each element of the learning and development requirements for which exemption is sought, the reasons why it is felt to be in conflict with the parents philosophical or religious convictions.
  • For each early learning goal and/or area of learning and development which is considered to be in conflict, how the parent would like this to be resolved – either through exemption or modification of specific early learning goals.

 This is where our flow chart (and the process) falls down. For one thing – we wrote to the provider, formally once – before we had our meeting, setting out the required information (although we did write afterwards as well, setting out the same information together with a draft letter from Open Eye). We didn’t bring sixty nine photocopies of our objections with us.

The neat and tidy flow chart appears to contravene human rights law as I understand it. In the third row down – there are  only three scenarios given:

1. Issue resolved – no exemption necessary 

2. Parent and provider agree that exemption seems appropriate

3. Parent and provider disagree, parents seek alternative provider…

These ‘options’ do indeed seem to indicate that where parents apply for an exemption which is refused by the provider they (and their child) will be unwelcome at the setting they are attending. That’s likely to deter parents from applying at all, isn’t it? 

Update: Thursday 17th. September. I’m adding this image/flow chart of the ‘Provider Exemption Process’ for those readers who have the stomach for it:

Provider Exemption Process Flow Chart

Provider Exemption Process Flow Chart

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