Archive for November, 2009

First parent applies for parental exemption to the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements for their child

Just caught up with a link to this interview I gave to James Tweed Childcare journalist about our experiences as the first parents in the U.K. to apply for a parental exemption. Follow this link:

For our statement on the refusal, click here.


A movement with a history. Opposition to the EYFS learning and development requirements

Just a short post with a reminder of how long the resistance to the EYFS learning and development targets as been going on and the diversity of peoples associated with the movement. For a fraction of this movement’s history look back at Alex Frean’s piece in the Times, May 2008.

Do you know what your child (aged four) needs to do to improve?

Form Filling. Do you know what your child (aged four) needs to do to improve?
Sunday afternoon. I’m tackling that familiar set of tasks befalling parents on a regular basis: making sure school uniform is clean and checking the school bag for forms and notices…in preparation for another busy week. 

I’ve got something to say about this form, readers,  as you can imagine.  I’m sharing the answers we’re  sending to our local authority. It may be useful to other parents – and relevant to an understanding of  the ways in which the sixty- nine compulsory Learning and Development Requirements are negatively influencing our learning culture.

In case the text on the photograph is a little small, here is what the form (on Cheshire West and Chester local authority notepaper) says: 

“Dear Parent…As part of our routine monitoring of schools programme Cheshire West and Chester Primary School Improvement Team are carrying out a ‘Focused Review’ of provision at xxx school during the week of November 30th.

I would like to give you this opportunity to submit any information that you wish to be considered. Replies will be treated in confidence and should be returned to the school office on the morning of Monday 30th. November 2009 marked for my attention. (signed a local authority representative – who asks…

1 . Are you adequately informed about developments and events at school?

2. Does the school take account of your suggestions and concerns?

3. Do you know how well your child is getting on at school?

4. Do you know what your child needs to do to improve?

If the answer to any of the above is no, how could communication be improved?

5. Any other information you would like the team to consider not previously raised?

Here is the text of our reply:

Firstly I offer a small observation. This ‘review’ is truly very ‘focused’ indeed.  The enclosed form appeared in our daughter’s school bag on Friday afternoon and is due back on Monday morning. I doubt that the local authority will be receiving many lengthy (and dare, I say considered) responses. By Friday, many of the parents I know are, (like me) quite frankly shattered and glad to knock off for a while from the demands of school.

However perhaps one word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers are suited to your purposes.. They will provide you with statistics of a kind. Personally at this point I do not know what purpose is served by  a confidential, routine monitoring of schools programme carried out like this.

At any rate, our answers to these questions do not fit into your (mostly very small yes, or no) boxes. However, we would not like what we have to say to be excluded from your monitoring programme so we’re hoping you will take our views into account regardless.

We prefer to respond to some of your questions in reverse order: 

Q. Any other information you would like the  team to consider not previously raised?

A. We would like to praise our child’s teacher. For the first six weeks of term, our daughter did not leave school without giving her a big hug.  Our daughter is very fond of her teacher, who in turn tries to facilitate learning in the best way she can with a great deal of patience and imagination.

 For small children (our daughter is four years and three months old) – this bond is very special indeed. In fact, many would say, this is the most important thing. So thank you – Teacher (I’ve placed a copy of this blog post in my daughter’s school bag for her teacher’s information).

Local monitoring team please take note: look after this teacher carefully. Good teachers like this are continuing to hold schools and classes together across the country – despite the nonsense our government is currently engaging in (meaning it’s insistence on the sixty- nine compulsory Learning and Development requirements imposed on every child). Which brings us to question 4.

Q.4. Do you know what your child needs to do to improve?

A. We will not answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question. Our child is aged four years and three months. She does not need ‘to improve’ . She is fine as she is, we know each child develops differently and she will do this in her own time. We have no intention of measuring anything she does in terms of the sixty-nine compulsory learning and development targets (requirements) imposed by government. The compulsory nature and imposition of these targets does not correspond to best educational practice. 

We focus on encouraging our daughter to learn and enjoy her learning. At this stage in her life, along with good food, security, love and care from those around her, this is enough.

Question Three. (Please refer to our answer for Question Four)

Question Two Q. Does the school take into account your questions and concerns?

A. Since the school has refused to allow our parental exemption from the sixty-nine learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage programme, and since this is the most important educational concern we have, I’m afraid we have to answer ‘no’ to this question.  But since, as we have said, these targets are statutory and compulsory ones, we know we would be faced with this situation at other schools too. The ‘solution’ presented by the local authority in the past (i.e. you can go elsewhere…) is presently  unworkable and unrealistic as you know.  Since the EYFS Learning and Development Requirements are imposed well-nigh across the board we would not be able to find another school or nursery setting where the targets do not apply – and certainly not within a fifty mile radius of where we live. 

Question Five. Any other information?

Yes, indeed. To stress the positive, move matters forward (and to assist learning) I enclose the link to a new parliamentary e-petition I have launched which calls for the government to change the Learning and Development Requirements to recommendations only with immediate effect. As part of the reflective learning process which educationalists are expected to engage in, perhaps you would consider joining us with your signature in support. That would certainly go some way to improving communication all round.

We would welcome your support in this matter and you would certainly be in good company. I was very proud and pleased to see Dr. Richard House was the very first person to join me in this petition and we expect not a small number of early years practitioners, concerned citizens and parents will follow his lead.

Here’s the link to that Parliamentary Petition again, I have kept it brief and it  reads as follows:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to change the sixty-nine compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements (targets applied to children from birth to five in nurseries, schools and other early years settings) to recommendations and guidelines only”. More details

Submitted by Frances Laing of Mother of one child aged four years and three months, writer, blogger, journalist

To sign the petition click on this link:

Yours faithfully,

Frances Laing

Launch of parliamentary petition on Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements

Firstly, thank you to the many early years practitioners and parents who continue to help and support us with these issues. At last, I have been able to launch a parliamentary petition. This reads as follows:

“We, the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to change the sixty-nine compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements (targets applied to children from birth to five in nurseries, schools and other early years settings) to recommendations and guidelines only”.

To sign the petition, follow this link:

I have also put together the following brief for those who would like more information. Copy follows:

The wording of this petition has been kept short, to secure the widest possible consensus on this issue.  

The following background information is addressed to you, the person (and/or parent) who is considering adding your signature to this petition. You may not agree with everything written here, but I hope differing approaches and philosophies will not prevent you from signing the petition itself.

I am the mother of one child aged four years and three months. Dedicated parents engage in life-long learning about their children and the education systems with which they are involved. As we know, the Early Years Foundation Stage is a compulsory curriculum for children from birth to five. It’s the first time the government has imposed such an extensive compulsory legal framework on early years settings. 

As we can see from the response to a previous EYFS parliamentary petition our elected representatives and their spin doctors are still trying to tell us that opposition to the sixty-nine compulsory learning and development requirements is a minority concern. This is not the case. Opposition is broad and spans many educational philosophies, teachers organisations, state-funded and private schools. Quite a number of head teachers have spoken out on this one. 

Having consulted widely with trusted and respected early years experts and talked to hundreds of parents – we realise that as far as the sixty-nine Early Years learning and development requirements are concerned – the government has made a mistake. A mistake that we feel it does not want to admit to for fear of losing face and/or the next election. 

Just one child’s well-being is more important than party politicking or political egos – and here we are speaking of literally thousands of children’s well-being. We will not be pushing our own child to fulfil the sixty-nine compulsory learning and development targets dictated by government because from our own observations and from what we have learned – these simply do not correspond to best early years educational practice.  

We believe the government’s failure to act on the issue highlighted in our petition is clearly counter-productive for an education that is sustainable and which honours the intuitive qualities that are essential in the early years. 

 The government needs to listen now to dedicated parents and expert early years practitioners and act quickly. We demand that the sixty-nine learning and development requirements be downgraded to recommendations and guidelines only, with immediate effect. 

Many expert early years practitioners believe that the compulsory nature of the sixty-nine learning and development targets does not only not help children learn in the long run, but can often be counter-productive and harmful. 

For these reasons my husband and I requested a parental exemption from the sixty-nine EYFS learning and development requirements on ‘moral, educational, religious, political and philosophical grounds’ for our child. To my knowledge we were the first parents in the U.K. to do this in a state-funded school. Homeschooling is not an option for us.  

As a writer, a blogger, a journalist and a trained teacher in Adult Education, I have documented our progress and our experiences with the parental exemptions process. I hope the resulting blog reflects a parent’s eye-view which is not yet represented in the mainstream press. Judging by the feedback and support I’ve received from parents I meet every day at the school gates – I feel it does. 

We believe the EYFS sixty-nine learning and development requirements give parents a highly misleading and potentially damaging view of their children’s development and learning (a view shared by expert professional opinion). We consider these goals to be developmentally inappropriate for many children at such a tender age, often generating unintended negative consequences for their later education and reinforcing rather than reducing a climate of failure. 

We see the wider context: our request for a parental exemption to the sixty-nine targets was refused. Not because what we were asking for was morally or educationally unsound (or because we did not have the “cogent set of beliefs” required by parliament – (I am a Quaker and my partner is an atheist and socialist). The grounds on which our application was refused indicated the resources were simply not available to provide an alternative. We regard this as a violation of our human rights and further evidence of a dictatorial system. 

The only way to challenge the parental exemptions procedure at present is to conduct a judicial review, costing many thousands of pounds. Of course, most parents would not be in a position to do this. 

In a recession many parents cannot wait until their child is five or six to send them to school or nursery as they need to continue in paid work. Since the EYFS is a compulsory curriculum at schools and nurseries across the land – there is little escape from these potentially damaging targets for the children of these parents, not even for private schools – unless the whole setting has managed to secure a settings exemption (as some Steiner schools have partially succeeded in doing), a process which is lengthy and extremely difficult to negotiate. 

Compulsory schooling does not start until a child is five years old. We enjoy books very much with our child at home but since this curriculum has been imposed on us against our will – to the detriment of our child – we have stopped filling in the reading record book sent home from school with our child each day (and we understand we are not the only parents to be engaging in this act of civil disobedience). We will do this for as long as necessary and until we feel our child is developmentally ready to start reading. 

Copy Ends

Early Years Foundation Stage – Learning and Development Requirements

I’ve lifted this comment out of the comments section. I was very pleased to receive it, thanks Jo. And no, you’re not making a fuss about nothing. I’m working on another means of taking action, so stay tuned next week for more…

Jo’s words: “I am so pleased to have found this site, which I was directed to after I emailed the Open EYE team in support of the cause. I too am struggling with thinking about the education of my son (who is 3) and at some point his brother. He is not in any form of preschool as I, like you am severely worried about the pressure EYFS puts on schools its teachers and the children even from this young age. I believe trying to get children to achieve such high unachievable goals from such a young age is just lining them up to fail before they have even started…

I would, in a perfect world put my son into a Steiner school ( even though I do recognise they are not all exempt from this either) but we live an hour away from the nearest one and so this is not really a viable option. I just wanted to show my support for what you are doing and saying. It is comforting to know there are others who think the same as we do about education, as most people I come across seem to think I’m just causing a lot of fuss about nothing.”

Being a parent in a target-driven culture (Early Years Foundation Stage)

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In the last two weeks everything seems to have moved very fast. Last week I attended my daughter’s first parent’s evening. We made it very clear how we felt about the learning and development targets of the Early Years Foundation Stage which are being imposed on us.

It was an upsetting evening. We’d put enormous effort into applying for the exemption – and were refused – not because our application didn’t stand up – (we applied on religious, moral, educational and philosophical grounds)…but basically because the school said the resources weren’t there to make alternative arrangements(see previous posts). So we had no choice but to deal with the situation – which is not the same as saying we accept it. We don’t. We are not going to push our child to meet targets which are not backed up with a sound educational basis and research. I’m sounding like a broken record at this point, I know.

Practically speaking – what this means for us is that we sometimes don’t fill in the reading book (with it’s targeted readers geared towards the EYFS Learning and Development Goals) which is sent home with our child. Our child is still attending non-compulsory schooling – so we are not obliged to as far as I can see.

We read stories together every night, but our child is just four and three months and we are not going to do anything which comes even remotely close to destroying her love of words. We really feel that striving towards some externally-imposed (and compulsory not optional) targets is not the way. So I have said to the school that what the government is doing (and what our local authority is asking schools to achieve) is counter-productive in that sense.

On a brighter note I was really glad to get away for the weekend with family and child and had registered for the “Being a Quaker Parent” course at Woodbrooke Quaker College. Although our group agreed on a confidentiality clause there are some aspects of this weekend that I can write about. See Questioners Garden Time for links to food and sustainability.

We looked at how, as parents we can deal with a target-driven culture in general. A fellow parent recommended a book to me which I shall try and chase up. I will try to post the title here.

At the school gate yesterday another parent pressed a newspaper cutting into my hand. I managed to find the link to what she was showing me on the Times Online website.

It’s a letter written by the Head of Infants of Radlett prep school in Hertfordshire. Further evidence I believe that the compulsory nature of the EYFS learning and development targets are not the way.

I’ve heard some people who support the EYFS learning and development goals say that their teachers can ‘bend’ the requirements so that they don’t have a negative effect on their children. My response on this is to say, well ‘yes’ but these compulsory targets don’t just affect the relationship between teacher and pupil – they also affect the relationship between peers and between parents. I’ve already met parents who’ve swallowed the government propaganda wholesale and actually believe that if their child doesn’t meet the targets on time, they have failed as parents and their children will be disadvantaged in life.

Peer pressure can be a positive thing but in this instance it quite definitely isn’t. When these issues come up I’ve had to explain to my child that she is nearly a year younger than some others in her class and that it is perfectly fine for her to be doing different things. I’m careful to praise her achievements whatever she does.

The Wall.

Twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Times have changed and so has education. I’d like readers to listen to the words of this song again. After our experiences with the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Goals and the exemption process – I think I’ve finally understood what Pink Floyd were trying to say.