Archive for the ‘EYFS’ Category

In which the writer considers the EYFS Review and only narrowly avoids the use of expletives…

It’s fairly standard these days for a government review to be ‘leaked’ in a targeted way to the press – before it is published. That’s how certain media machines work. Your average PR agency with any clout – knows that public opinion can be influenced by providing journalists with crease-free copy before the event. That is not to say that journos won’t regard ready made press releases with a critical eye – but your average hack is always pushed for time – there are huge cuts in the print industry and very little investment in investigative reporting – early years education is not an easy thing to write about and few writers are paid to be steeped in it.

Several articles on the Early Years Foundation Stage Review popped up yesterday. Amongst them in: Nursery World: Children and Young People Now and The Guardian

The Children and Young People Now piece tells us: “the government-commissioned review of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) was informed by 3,300 submissions from organisations and practitioners…”. No parents then?

In fact there were some parents – and I was one of them. Since this blog draws on nearly two years work – and is now a historical document I hope a look back at previous blog posts can fill in some gaps here and put Dame Tickell’s Early Years Foundation Stage Review into context.

For those who missed the background – the EYFS ‘consultation’ and review has been marketed as something which will ultimately assist ‘disadvantaged’ children and their families. You will notice that I placed the words ‘consultation’ and ‘disadvantaged’ in inverted commas there…that’s because for lots of reasons documented in previous blog posts such as this one  I believe very few if any parents of ‘disadvantaged’ children would have been in a position to take part in the review. I might be wrong – but I don’t think so at this point. Ultimately perhaps we shall never know, as the publication of consultation responses is managed by the government – I can’t see any evidence to show that they will not cherry-pick consultation responses and publish them to suit themselves.

I suppose I came close to expletives yesterday (see my comments after the Guardian piece) when I read that the 69 targets were to be cut to just 17. In the year in which my daughter started in reception class – we lodged a request for a parental exemption for our child. I understand we were the only parents in England to do so. It was very clear to us that there were too many learning and development requirements – in the exemption interview we were asked to voice our objections to all of them. All sixty-nine of them. We thought this was a ridiculous request and a mechanism which simply served to silence dissent. The exemption process for parents is tortuous and I’ve documented it in some detail. See previous posts.  

What is never mentioned is that in fact every parent has the human right to apply for exemption (according to decisions made by parliament and documented on this blog) – but this right is no right at all – a school simply needs to say they don’t have the resources to provide alternative provision. And it would take a judicial review to change that situation – and how many ‘disadvantaged’ parents have the thousands of pounds needed to fund that?

And now, two years later here is the government commissioned review with an admission that they were wrong and that something about these targets-in-all-but-name needs to change. The near expletives in my Guardian comment (which I’m not apologising for) – came with the realisation of the damage the government has done to a whole generation of children.

And then there is the suggestion that children as young as two will be subjected to ‘developmental’ tests. To address this point – I say the following. We live in a country where many parents and children are put under immense pressure to perform. The pressure arises, not just between friends, neighbours, through television and the media (and later at school) – but because many parents lack confidence. Their ability to be confident in what they are doing is often whittled away yes, by the media, the parenting industry (all those companies trying to sell you products for your child)  and those around them –  by the false expectations that people increasingly have about what children should be doing by two. Those who really know children, will have seen children who are not talking by two, or barely walking by two and have no issues later at all. People nowadays are increasingly expecting too  much too soon.

And there is something else – I’m going to use some anecdotes for this one. I was shocked recently to see two mothers with six month old children (one of whom was quite clearly already overweight) – feeding their children whole bars of chocolate. An older auntie commented on this – and asked what the mother’s health visitor would say about that. The mother said with a proud boast: “Oh, I don’t tell her”.

And that says it all as far as I am concerned. Surely we should be aiming at building trust between health visitors and parents and a space in which parents feel they might be able to acknowledge real issues and ask for help if it is needed. I don’t think that ‘policing’ parents of two and a half year olds in this way is going to help build this trust. 

There were other important voices to be heard on the EYFS review this week:

Margaret Edgington, Richard House and Kim Simpson of the Open EYE campaign made a public statement on the EYFS review yesterday:
  
‘We welcome the move to a framework which is simpler, less bureaucratic and more easily understood. We also welcome the retention of the statutory welfare requirements and the general approach to early learning which the EYFS promotes.

However, Open EYE has consistently campaigned against the compulsory learning and development requirements for such young children, who do not legally have to attend any form of provision. Simply reducing the number of goals is not nearly sufficient, and there is still likely to be too much emphasis on measuring children against a narrow set of targets. The suggestion that some 5 year olds should be judged as below expectations on the proposed 3-point scale is particularly deplorable, and is rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding of the great diversity of young children’s development.  It will inevitably increase early labelling with the consequent impact on children’s confidence and self-esteem. We will continue to campaign for there to be no compulsory requirements for children below statutory school age.’

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture to finish. Bearing in mind that children in England already have to go to school much earlier than in many other countries such as Finland (countries which maintain much higher educational standards) –  compulsory school-age in England is four – I find  the targets and testing picture for a child between birth and five years disturbing. Here it is:

Age of Child and test implemented:

1) Two and a half:   ‘Developmental’ check carried out by health visitor

2) Between birth and the age of five: 69 learning and development requirements  to be fulfilled (now reduced to 17)

3) In the year in which a child turns five: Early Years Profiling carried out by reception teachers.

4) Early Years Profile results would have been fed into League Tables for Five Year Olds on a school by school basis (plan recently withdrawn by the government but indications that so-called Super League Tables will re-introduce it).

5) Reading/PhonicsTest at Five (not just six as the government would have it) but five – since a fair proportion of children are summer born like my own daughter. My understanding of this test is that if children fail it, it will be repeated in the term that follows.

Our young children are still being observed, tried and tested at every turn. What they need is support and space. And a quote from the Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds petition:

“We’re supposed to love them not treat them like employees”.

Update the same day – an insightful comment from A. (who asked me not to publish names). Thanks A! Comment copy follows:

” Thank you and good luck with your camapaign.   A quick story…..one of our boys was asked to leave the library where he was sitting Key Stage 1 tests some years ago. He couldn’t manage the  paper (‘late’ reader). He couldn’t de-code words and writing was a real struggle. He was 7 years old.   ‘There, there dear, you make your way back to the class and do some drawing for a little while’ said the well-meaning teacher (or something along those lines).   He was – and is – a very ‘bright’ boy, whatever that means!   But this early experience – and the requirement to ‘perform’ –  really knocked him back and set him apart from his peers.  He felt stupid and he felt a failure.  He hated ‘tests’ and clammed up immediately.   A few years later – and with lots of support from us as parents, he regained his confidence and he’s now set to achieve mainly As in GCSE exams.    There was never a big problem – it was just too soon at 7 years.   His brain wasn’t ready.   GCSEs are just the first hurdle –  ASs and A2s are another ball game altogether –  and then the whole issue of universities and university fees etc  Our son aged 17 has applied on-line for part time jobs at Tescos, Sainsbury and others –  he has 11 GCSEs – mainly A grades but he gets rejected on-line – he is already losing confidence and dreading the rejection.  It’s especially worrying for him now his friends have managed to get jobs.  Our youngsters deserve a chance when they are very young – and they also deserve a chance when they are teenagers entering the adult world.  Why not offer him a job?  If he doesn’t perform he can be asked to leave – but for goodness sake give the kid a chance!   There is no perfect system but we need to be open to ideas and we need to listen to a range of views from parents as well as the ‘experts’ who teach. Most people have life experiences they can bring to the debating table,  but for some reason people are not very open-minded.”

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Early Years Foundation Stage Review: Demonstration 26th. March, 2011.

Demonstration Against the Cuts. Saturday 26th. March, London.

The results of the Early Years Foundation Stage Review have been announced today. Rest assured readers, I do intend to share my thoughts with you all on this front – as soon as I can. However, in the meantime – I’m sharing this photograph – sized up so that you can see the detail of it. 

We were three of the (four hundred thousand) people on the demonstration on Saturday, travelling in a Unison coach. My daughter wore this waistcoat with an important message on the back. We mingled with the NUT contingent on the demonstration and hundreds of people read the message, photographed it, commented on it and talked to us about it. One teacher on the demonstration liked the message so much that she gave my daughter an NUT banner as a present. The banner reads: NUT: Education Cuts Never Heal.

Later that week my daughter took the banner and some photographs into school. Taking part in the demonstration, talking to people and being with friends – was very motivating for her. She especially enjoyed reading all the marvellous and colourful banners from everywhere in the country. 

It was a day about making the connections. The people reading our message made the connections straight away, especially the teachers and the many nursery assistants and classroom staff at the demonstration. And the accompanying messages were very simple: that the league table plan was, and is – ridiculous and far too costly – that with people power – we can achieve change and bring the coalition government down – that we don’t need more league tables, more testing and more bureaucracy – that our coalition government has no mandate from the people to do what it is currently doing and what the government is doing is not backed up by common sense or research evidence – despite what they are trying to tell us with their patronising, slick, media machines.

And we were there on Saturday and saw the demonstration with our own eyes. Nowhere did we see any hint of aggression or violence from the crowd. But for my daughter it was an illustration of the police state we are living in. We saw the helicopter overhead which accompanied us along the entire route. We saw the police (sharpshooters?) – craning their necks from the Westminster windows. We noticed how our mobile phone signals were interfered with for at least two hours in the vicinity of Westminster – how we were herded off along the embankment and how the nearest tube station to Westminster was closed to us at very short notice by the police.

And we noticed the gaps in reporting of the event when we returned – the alternative narrative which didn’t come across in Commander Broadhurst’s pseudo-friendly Tweets to us all: Conflating numbers: have 149 people really been charged with violent offences: no.

And because it is important and highly relevant in terms of accessibility and equality – I’d like to thank one kind person from the coach who waited for us at the tube station and indeed on every corner helping us with our trolley on the demonstration. With multiple sclerosis in the family and a small child – we experience attending such events as a huge challenge and without some solidarity from those around us it is very difficult – and four hours walking is a long stretch for little legs too.

And so the issues stay remote for the Eton school boys that say they are ‘governing’ this country – but they come together in our lives. They are real for us. We made a splash on Saturday. And now the TUC needs to listen to the membership – the majority are clearly ready for radical action – not just another demonstration.

See also today’s Guardian piece: UK Uncut arrests threaten future protests, lawyer warns

Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds International Petition Day Eleven.

Here’s a wee post for anyone who might be just about to approach the head of their school to ask them to sign this petition to “Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds”. (I’m happy to report, our own head is supportive).

The official position of the National Association of Head Teachers reads as follows – on Foundation Stage Profile and Target Setting:

“The Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) is a way of summing up each child`s development and learning achievement at the end of the Foundation Stage. It is based on ongoing observation and assessments in all 6 areas of learning and development. Its primary purpose is to provide Year I practitioners with reliable and accurate information about each child`s level of development at the end of the foundation stage. It is manifestly not a mechanism for outside bodies (LAs, SIPs, Ofsted) to use as a stick to berate a school`s performance or target setting procedures. It is therefore the use to which some outside bodies use such recorded information that is challenged…

…The FSP is for organising children`s learning, not target setting.The forthcoming NAA Report will recommend training for all stakeholders, particularly in the inappropriate use of profile data. There will also be inter-LA moderation conferences. (NAHT has asked for schools to be included in these)…Statement 2008

Could it just be that we have a united front on this one?

Sign the petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds

Read the National Association of Head Teachers Press Statement in full here:

‘Big name’ signatory list to date – (approaching a thousand signatures in just over a week):

Michael Rosen, Caroline Lucas M.P., Margaret Morrisey O.B.E, (Parents Outloud), Dr. Penelope Leach, Oliver James, Susie Orbach, …Dr. Richard House, Margaret Edgington, Tim Gill (writer – former Director of the Children’s Play Council and seconded to Whitehall to lead the first ever Government-sponsored review of children’s play) , Sue Palmer, Neil Henty (Editor of Early Years Educator Magazine EYE), Clare Sambrook (Journalist), Dr. Jan Georgeson (Early Years Lecturer Univ. of Gloucester), Professor Kevin Brehony (Prof of Early Childhood at Roehampton University), Professor Stephen Sterling, Melian Mansfield, Dr. Murray White, Dr. James D’Angelo, David Lorimer (Director, Sci. And Medical network), Professor Greg Brooks, Marion Dowling (a former HMI and President of Early Education now a Vice President).

Lydia Keyte – Chair of the National Charity What about the Children? and Jane Reddish, Trustee.

Sue Greenfield – Senior Lecturer Early Childhood Studies Roehampton University

Coalition government, Michael Gove and the Early Years Foundation Stage

There are advantages to being an older parent. You watch political developments with a certain, patient stoicism. Without panic. You’ve seen  (most of it in different guises) before, after all.

In our household we’ve lived through a whole lot of political history. I was in Germany for ten years and lived through the fall of the Berlin Wall. Proportional representation became second nature. As did the realisation that coalition governments make  agreements on policy  – agreements which they often choose to break. My other half was a young man in Britain when Thatcher was around. So no false hopes  about the Lib-Dem coalition there either.

As far as this blog is concerned – we want to know about the future of Early Years education. We’ve looked at the Lib Dem Manifesto and what the Lib Dems were saying about the Early Years Foundation Stage. They were talking about a ‘slimmed down’ version of the Early Years Foundation Stage – as far as proposals for reform are concerned, this could mean anything and nothing – let’s face it.

So let’s look at what Michael Gove had to say about Early Years Education in the Guardian on Tuesday. Michael answered a reader’s question:

Q. In the light of the Rose and Cambridge reviews of primary education, what do you see as the priorities for the early years?

Wendy Scott, Keswick, Cumbria

 Here is Michael’s answer: “It’s critical that children spend time before they arrive in school in a warm, attractive and inclusive environment, where they can learn through play, master social skills and prepare for formal schooling.

The central priority for the first years of primary schooling must be learning to read. Unless children have learned to read, they can’t read to learn. Which is why we will improve teacher training to provide authoritative instruction in the implementation of systematic synthetic phonics. The most detailed academic studies – in Clackmannanshire and West Dunbartonshire – show that in these two relatively disadvantaged Scottish local authorities, systematic synthetic phonics teaching effectively eliminated illiteracy. So we will do everything we can to support teachers in getting reading right so that children can then go on to enjoy a broad, balanced and wide-ranging curriculum.

Readerare you thinking what I am thinking on this one? Michael wrote: “Unless children have learned to read, they can’t read to learn”.

Where is the awareness of current international research standards (as mentioned in the previous post)? I’d like to see those “detailed academic studies – from Clackmannanshire and West Dunbartonshire”. How do these relate to Dr. Sebastian Suggate’s research, I wonder…

Is this the study Michael Gove is referring to?

http://www.ltscotland.org.uk/buildingbridges/casestudies/scottishborders.asp

And what about the hundreds of childminders who have left the profession due to the overly bureaucratic nature of the compulsory EYFS learning and development requirements?

Coalition government, Sats and the Early Years Foundation Stage

I broke the news that we had a new Prime Minister (called David Cameron) to my daughter over breakfast today. She was disappointed.

She wanted her acting headmaster to be Prime Minister because she “liked him”.  

“There’s an argument for that”, I said, simply. (He laughs a lot and is very good at listening to small children).

I emailed No. 10  with congratulations today (and a request that the e-petition system be restored now that a new government has been formed).

Wanting to signal our opposition to the Sats tests and our solidarity with teachers who are boycotting the tests I found a quote by Michael Rosen and tied it to the back of my Pashley tricycle so that everyone would see it on their way to school:

Michael has joined Authors against Sats. The quote reads: 

“…We have neglected cognition to a point that we have politicians talking about schools as if we all know how children learn. Do we? Do they? Central to learning is the LEARNER. The learner is the one who makes the meanings, so the question is what environment can we create in which they can best make meaning? It’s through discovery, investigation and invention. What we see are diktats, instructions from Central Government directed at practitioners. That’s counter-productive.”

I believe Michael hasn’t voiced an opinion about the compulsory Early Years Learning and Development Requirements yet, I’ve emailed him too to ask if he’ll sign the e-petition when it is up and running again.

In the meantime I’ve received an important and interesting comment from Dr. Sebastian Suggate’s office about reading aloud. (He’s the one who has conducted important new research which shows that children do not benefit from being forced to learn to read early – (my words not his) – read the comment from Dr. Sebastian Suggate here

Find out more about Authors Against Sats here – and read Michael Rosen‘s Mumsnet web chat on Sats in full here.

Are Early Years Foundation Stage Profile scores being used to predict Sats results in YOUR CHILD’S school?

Time for Change. Picture by Frances Laing

Measuring things can be very useful, can’t it? Especially for small children. A tape measure is fun to use. Clocks tell us when it’s time for tea…(or in this case – hot chocolate in M and S). 

But (and it’s a big but) – targets can also distort the way we perceive our fellow human beings. I’ve come across considerable evidence to suggest that Early Years Foundation Stage Profile scores are currently being used to predict Sats results in some schools across the country.  

Why should I care about that?, you’re asking, when I’ve  got enough on my plate as a parent already in this fast-paced culture of ours? Here’s why:

Imagine you’ve logged on to one of those online bank accounts where you can input your pay, and all your direct debit amounts and then when you press a button you can predict how much (or how little) money you’ll have left at the end of the month after you’ve paid your bills. Using one set of profile  scores to predict another is a bit like doing this. Except your child is not a bank account – they’re a human being.

Think about your child’s education. Your little one is in the reception year at school. They may be only four or five years old. School report day is tabled in to the calendar for the end of term. You’ve read up a little bit on Early Years Foundation Stage Profiling and you’re expecting to hear something about this on the last parent’s evening of the year at school. 

If you’ve been following this blog so far, you’ll have your criticisms of the compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements which culminate in the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile to be completed in the year in which your child turns five.   

Now imagine the senior leadership team at your child’s school. It is consistently striving to improve standards (in fact, Ofsted polices it’s efforts in this direction on a regular basis). Your SLT team looks at profile scores very carefully – monitoring them to see whether they’re going up by satisfactory degrees during the course of an academic year. 

 Your school team is conscientious. In fact they’re so conscientious they decide to employ what they believe to be the most accurate statistical methods available to find out more about what is going to happen to their school (their staff and their funding) in future years. 

So they use the Early Years Profile Scores of a particular group of children to predict what the groups Sats results will be at the end of their children’s time at Primary School. 

A reasonable way of going about things you might be thinking. But there are several problems with this approach aren’t there? Firstly, I believe schools are not supposed to do this and secondly – in using Early Years Foundation Stage Profile scores to predict Sats results – your child’s first school years are reduced to a statistical probability – using a system that is flawed in the first place. Are you with me so far?

Surely, if Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Scores are being used  to predict Sats results, a range of fairly disastrous developments in your child’s educational career are likely, aren’t they?

 Let’s take two different scenarios…(leaving aside the issue of whether or not your child’s abilities and talents are being accurately measured, which if you ask me, given the nature of the EYFS learning and development requirements and the profiling is simply not the case) –  in the first scenario – imagine your child’s Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Scores are low compared with the other children in their class. If these scores are used to predict later achievement – aren’t the staff who read the results inevitably going to impose low expectations on your child?

Conversely, if your child’s Early Years Foundation Stage Profiles are high compared with other children in the class, then higher Sats scores may be predicted. Doesn’t this create unnecessary performance pressure from the start?

 Two days until the General Election. Shortly after that the next round of Sats tests will be talking place. Major teaching unions have launched a boycott against the Sats tests and they’re backed by many parents.

Sats reform must be linked to reform of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

P.S. This old-fashioned clock looks good doesn’t it? Like some attempts to measure children inappropriately in schools though, it broke down very soon after ‘purchase’ and we needed to exchange it…

Homework at the age of four?

Our school is ‘reviewing’ their current Homework policy – ‘looking to identify set days on which homework will be set and collected in by teachers’. We’ve received a note in our daughter’s school bag. There’s a table to fill in and a comments box:

The table looks like this. (There are boxes for parents/carers to tick ‘please tick appropriate box with regard to time spent on homework activities’ – and a comments box at the end of the sheet of paper for additional comments).

—————————————————————————————

Homework Focus     Not enough     Correct Amount        Too Much

Spellings

Reading

Maths

Topic

———————————————————————————————

‘Homework’ is a subject very relevant to criticisms of the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements and the EYFS profiling which I believe is completed at the end of a child’s first year at school and so I’m sharing our responses to this ‘homework’ questionnnaire with readers of this blog. Here they are:

Firstly, we’re really glad that a school such as ours should be reviewing their homework policy. This may be a positive development. It must be a difficult and time-consuming task coordinating the facilitation of learning for a large number of children. We can see the need for practical ways of doing things.

However, as parents we can’t help thinking that a tick box system like this is not the answer. Whether you are conducting a simple survey like this, or compiling research evidence for a  Phd – answers and results received from questionnaires depend on which questions are asked in the first place.

So let’s look at the assumptions behind the form. The tick box we are faced with appears to assume that all parents agree it is a good idea to give a child of four or five  ‘homework’ in spelling, reading, maths and/or a topic.

As parents our approach is as follows: our child is four, and at the moment we feel that the six hours of formal learning she receives at school is quite enough. When she gets home – we would like our daughter to play. And to learn through free play. At four years and four months that is her job. (And at five, her needs may be different).

At the moment though, we try to provide activities and resources for her to do this. Reading stories, visiting the city library, constructing buildings with blocks e.t.c. visiting our allotment, growing vegetables, spending time with grandma and grandad. Talking to people/friends/neighbours. Walking. Listening to music. Dancing. Making the tea together. Stroking and talking to the cats. Sitting by the fire drawing pictures. Doing nothing in particular. Watching a film. Just having the time to “be”. And so it goes on. Everyday life.

Our situation provides evidence of the essential weaknesses of the system of Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements (and the accompanying EYFS Profile with the profile points which nursery teachers are required to gather evidence for at the end of the first foundation year at school). Namely the following:

In our daughter’s class (of thirty or so children – not sure of the exact numbers) – the children vary in age. There will be summer born children like our daughter – currently aged four. But there will also be older children in the class too. Sometimes children that are nearly a year older than our own child. Children who are five years old, for example (or older?)

It is quite clear to us that these children will inevitably find themselves at a different developmental stage than our own child. And that is absolutely fine. Each child develops differently and we would like to think they can do this at their own pace.

However, at present, as far as  ‘homework’ is concerned – the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage targets and the EYFS profiling appear to mean that teachers are expected to bring each child up to the same standard. The profiles are statutory. They are an obligation for the school.  

And as far as we know, the same homework ‘tasks’ are being put into the school bag of each child in the school (Update: Apologies for this very obvious mistake readers – of course I meant to write  ‘in the class’ here and not ‘in the school’. The ethics of blogging demands that I leave the original sentence as it stands and introduce an update here. F.L.) . We’re assuming that each child in our child’s class is given the same ‘homework’  to do in their school bag each week.

As far as the ‘Super Spelling’ session is concerned (detailed in a previous post) parents are asked to ‘practice’ spellings at home, which will be ‘tested’ in school). Once again, this appears to show that the same criteria are being applied to all children in the class across the board, regardless of age and developmental stages. 

As parents – what we are being asked to do by the school is to judge our child according to the same criteria which are also being used for much older  children. We are not willing to do this, it is educationally and developmentally misguided.

Our child is a full year younger than some other children in the class. She is also of non-compulsory school age. She is not required to complete homework as far as we can see.

There is more than enough evidence amongst early years practitioners and researchers internationally to show that pushing young children too hard too soon does not benefit them in the longer term and may put them off learning altogether.

All of these issues leave us all with practical problems to solve. Issues like these will be shared by many parents across the country.

How many parents in state schools open their child’s school bag to find ‘homework’ and a ‘reading book’ ?

 How many of these parents suspect that their child is just not ready for the work which is being set for them?

 How many of the parents who feel this way are assertive enough to do or say anything about this?

 How many (or how few?) of these parents are able to write the realities of this situation down and publicise it?

 We are both working parents. In a recession we suggest that there may be many parents out there who cannot afford to wait until their child is five to send them to school.

So given all these issues – including the educational ones – we, as parents are faced with several dilemmas.

 Do we ignore the ‘homework’ which is placed in our child’s bag each week (as we feel much of it is age inappropriate)? If we do this, what happens to our child when she is AT school?

We are not obliged to practice spellings with our child at home which will then be ‘tested’ and ‘marked’ each Monday at school. (Although the ‘testing’ and the ‘marking’ goes under a different name). Our child is of non-compulsory school age.

In writing down feedback for our school and all others interested in the future of education it has often been inferred that we are somehow overly-anxious parents who are concerned that our child will not meet the Early Years Profile ‘targets’. (And we know they are ‘targets ‘in all but name).

To set the record straight  (again) – the opposite is the case. Our child is confident and happy. She learns well partly because we have given her the space and time to learn – to learn in her own time – when she is ready. We have complete confidence in her abilities.  Our vote of ‘no confidence’ is firmly placed in the boxes marked ‘system’ and ‘government’

During the course of the past two weeks I have received some feedback from early years practioners across the country. Two separate sources. The first said:

In order to complete the 69 ELGs the child must first achieve the 39 DM targets or they can’t be awarded the ELGs (Early Learning Goals) and some authorities are putting pressure on reception teachers to achieve all 9 points (117) which include NC levels. It is actually a post code lottery what expectations and criteria are placed on teachers and children…

And the second source: “There is considerable pressure on reception teachers to raise achievement in the EYFS.  The ‘Local Authority Outcomes Duty’ sets targets for local authorities to meet. In other words they have to increase the scores on the EYFS Profile, which is completed at the end of the Early Years Foundation Stage, when children are aged between 4 years 10 months and 5 years 10 months  (and have to ‘narrow the gap’ between the 20% of children who perform least well and the rest) – this year difference in age is obviously very significant.  It is true that different Local Authorities are interpreting this pressure in diverse ways and are applying different rules/expectations to practitioners. These could be described as the ‘unintended consequences’ of EYFS, but I’m not sure how unintended it all is.  The reality is – it is a postcode lottery. Some local authorities (LAs) have more experienced early years advisers, who are able to resist and mediate the pressure, and other LAs do not. There is also pressure from OFSTED inspectors who have been given some guidance, I only discovered today, which says things about ‘age expected levels’! This is not actually in the EYFS… 

My own parting thoughts on this. I had occasion to go into the school reception office the other day – I glanced at the behavioural standards for children and the school which are framed and displayed on the wall. They included the phrase:

“We do not cover up the truth”.

As parents we have experienced the shortcomings of the Early Years Foundation Stage learning and development requirements system first hand. 

We are now experiencing the shortcomings of the Early Years profiling system and the difficulties this presents for children, teachers, parents and schools.

I believe the truth has already been been covered up for far too long.