Open Eye Conference (June 12th.) and the Early Years Foundation Stage

As a family we’ve come a long way since we applied for and were refused a parental exemption to the learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage legislation in our state-funded primary school.

It was back in August last year that I first became aware of the existence of the organisation Open Eye – the campaign for an Early Years Education. I wish I had known about them previously – it would have helped us a great deal when our daughter was younger (she is now four years and eight months old).

I’d discovered the Open Eye video directed by Fergus Andersen – which I’m posting again here. Some of the footage looks like it was shot at a previous Open Eye meeting and features parents’ views on the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements and the Profiling.

I understand the video is now being used as a training tool in colleges and early years education settings. I have a vivid memory of the meeting in which we discussed our application for a parental exemption to the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements. As I described in the archived blog post – the EYFS parental exemption meeting was attended by the then headmistress of our primary school at the time (together with the manager of the nursery unit attached to the school. Now we have a new headmaster – with a new approach).
The local authority representative was half an hour late at least – the headmistress was apologetic of course – being a trained teacher in adult education myself – I suggested we all spend the time watching the Open Eye video – which I felt was the best way of introducing the issues involved. So I managed to get the headmistress and the nursery manager to watch it. At the time I honestly thought that anyone who had seen it and taken in the issues, couldn’t help but act on what they were seeing. I was wrong.

Naively, perhaps, I expected them both to make some comment about it – if only to say how well crafted this film is. They didn’t. In fact, significantly they said nothing at all about it. Nothing at all.  I find that remarkable but indicative of the dangerous and restrictive power structures which some early years staff are experiencing.

In contrast I’m not usually prone to spontaneously bursting into tears – but I generally well up when I watch this video. Given what’s at stake, I think emotion is appropriate.

Regardless of what happened with the exemption process I’m really glad that our former headmistress and the nursery manager watched this video and that the three of us, myself, my Other Half and my child were there to witness it. Both the head and the nursery manager were made aware of criticisms of the EYFS learning and development requirements – in future neither of them will be able to say they didn’t know about the issues raised. 

Ultimately the government can no longer maintain there is no demand for parental exemptions to the EYFS learning and development requirements.

The Open Eye conference takes place on June 12th. in London and I’m very glad to say my ticket is secured. I’ve continued to engage with our daughter’s school and her dedicated nursery teacher in our state–funded school. Last week I handed in a note with the conference information on it and the suggestion that the school pay for someone to go to the conference. I doubt they will send someone but at least now they have the information.

So teachers, parents, nursery practitioners, specialists…look forward to seeing you there? Here’s the video I’ve talked about in this post – amongst other speakers it features Dr. Penelope Leach – Sue Palmer and a representative from the National Union of Teachers who explains how and why the children in her class will not be in a position to meet the (age inappropriate) EYFS-related targets for that year. There’s more to say about this year’s conference line-up but I’ll come back to that one.:


3 responses to this post.

  1. I’ve found your blog via BMB.

    I think I can offer an interesting perspective, as I’m a Brit living in the US. The attitude to preschoolers where I am is so different to the UK. (You may have talked about this in a previous post – sorry if I’m repeating you.) For a start, they don’t start full-time school till the year they turn 6. There is much more flexibility, so that a child who is a summer birthday can be held back a year, and start when they are already 6. It’s only recently that Kindergarten (ie for 5 – 6 year olds) has become a full day, so there are still plenty of parents around whose older children were doing half days at that age.

    The obvious thing is this. That by the time they have finished primary school, it doesn’t matter whether they started at 4, or 6. And it won’t have made a difference whether they could do some of those things that Penelope Leach read out at the age of 4 or not. I know this is not a new thought, but I am living the experience, so I feel I have something to add to the debate.

    It’s obvious to me that what happened was that the government decided that it needed to free up mothers to take jobs. So they wanted to subsidise child care. But for (misguided) philosophical reasons, they felt more comfortable subsidising “education” (because we all know that education is a good thing, right?) So that set in train a whole circus of inspections, and standards, and curricula, and suddenly we were in an emperor’s new clothes situation. Why would you send your child to the preschool that has received a mediocre assessment when you could choose the one down the road that has received an excellent assessment?

    I will be browsing back through your blog. I’m sorry if this comment repeats things you’ve already said – it probably does. If you want any information on the US experience, please do contact me.


    • Posted by Frances Laing on April 26, 2010 at 4:57 pm

      That’s really interesting Iota – really good to hear perspectives from other countries – stay in touch and thanks for taking the time to comment


      • Posted by Frances Laing on April 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm

        P.S. for those who don’t know BMB stands for British Mummy Bloggers – I’ve been trying to put a logo on this blog as it is an important blogging network for parents – will get there eventually.

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