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: http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/parentsguideeyfs/

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

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