Archive for September, 2010

EYFS review. A consultation or a cover for the cuts?

Dear Readers,

I’ve been away from this particular blog – but by no means idle. I’ve finished writing a chapter for a forthcoming book on the English early years education system. I’ll post further details on the launch as soon as I get them – it might take a while.

The deadline to complete responses to the government’s consultation on the Early Years Foundation Stage is Thursday 30th. September. I’m still hoping to write a response of my own – still grappling with the government e-consultation system though.

Anyone who has ever dabbled in environmental politics will be aware that when a consultation takes place regarding a building project – there are usually vested interests and power politics involved. I don’t think the EYFS consultation is any different in this respect. Yes – it is important to make your views known in the consultation process – but at the same time – most of us are aware of the strange sort of spin-censorship which goes on when the government remains in complete control of the publication of any responses received. This is one reason why I’ve highlighted some of the barriers to participation in the EYFS consultation process in the chapter I’ve been writing. Here is a short extract. Let me know what you think about this and whether you agree with me… 

From the forthcoming book – chapter title: “A Parent’s Challenge to New Labour’s Early Years Foundation Stage”  – this  chapter by Frances Laing:

“One of the criticisms levelled at people who question the EYFS learning and development requirements (and target-setting for under fives) – is that they are ignoring the ways in which requirements (and the system) are supposed to benefit disadvantaged families.

The argument goes like this: middle-class and so-called ‘advantaged’ families have the means to take their children out frequently, to provide them with stimulating activities, to read to them, to buy books and so on: disadvantaged children however are supposed to have more limited access to these things and therefore are in greater need of the so-called structures provided by the EYFS, the learning and development requirements and the English child care system.

This argument ignores several key issues. Firstly – that there is no evidence internationally or nationally to support the notion that the Early Years learning and Development Requirements help children from so-called ‘disadvantaged’ families. Secondly – families on lower income levels according to the governments own reports and studies – are less likely to access child care in the first place.

In August 2010 the Westminster government launched what they called an Early Years Foundation Stage review and e-consultation – one of it’s declared intentions was to address the situation of disadvantaged children and their families.

Disadvantaged parents and families will have difficulty taking part in this consultation at all. Some of the barriers to participation include the following:

• The fact that the consultation is eleven pages long and requires a considerable level of I.T. skills and access to a computer to complete.

• The consultation is inaccessible to parents who do not have English as a mother tongue. (There are a number of these in our reception class).

 • The consultation was launched in the summer holidays when many parents struggle for child care and cannot afford to take the time out to complete it.

 • The underlying assumption that parents are not professionals. Respondents are asked to give responses either as parents or professionals. If you classify yourself as a parent you are not required to answer any of the questions about the learning and development requirements or the educational content of the EYFS. (You can tick the box ‘other’ but are requested to justify your stance.) This approach excludes some parents altogether.

One home educating mother told me she didn’t take part because there was no category for her to contribute her views. (Home educating parents sometimes use child minders or part-time nursery settings. It is also quite common for parents to school age children to change to home education, or for home-educated children to return to school.)

In the pre-amble to the government EYFS review whilst the government pays lip service to the Freedom of Information Act it reserves the right to publish certain responses to the review and not others.

I predict the so-called consultation will be used to justify more cuts. Shortly after the launch of the EYFS review (as a journalist and editor of the blog “A Parent’s Guide to the Early Years Foundation Stage”) I requested an interview with the leader of the review – Dame Tickell. The request was refused.

Another example of the sort of censorship we all struggle with.”