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.


2 responses to this post.

  1. 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 prefect 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 your 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.


    • Posted by Frances Laing on November 26, 2009 at 8:37 pm

      Thank you so much for this. I really appreciate it. This site (and the issue) has been hard work. You’re not making a fuss about nothing. Drip, drip water on a stone.
      Kind regards


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