Archive for the ‘Parental exemptions’ Category

Will your child meet the Early Years Foundation Stage 69 Learning and Development Targets?

This short post doesn’t fit in to any particular category – but it’s something I wanted to put on record and share with other parents who might be reading this blog (and indeed teachers, F/friends and anyone else who may be interested in early years education). By now, I know that with a growing readership several parents at our own school will be taking in this information too. Thanks for your time everyone.

I’ve been to a few public gatherings recently where I’ve had the opportunity to speak about the sixty-nine early years foundation stage framework learning and development targets and the fact that we are the first parents in the U.K. (I believe) to have applied (and been refused) an exemption for these.

Of course after you’ve spoken about this – it’s important to be around to listen to what others have to say and engage with the reactions that people have and to answer questions.  You often learn a lot from what other people are saying. Many people (particularly grandparents I’ve met who remember some of the freedoms children used to have) are very supportive. With others it takes time to reach an understanding.

One kindly person  I met asked me with a sympathetic and genuinely caring expression on their face: “Was I concerned about my child’s ability to meet the sixty-nine targets?”. It is fair to say I didn’t understand this person’s question and I think I said that our child is a “complete star” at home and at school. And that’s really true. My sympathetic ‘friend’ in response didn’t understand my reaction in the first instance either…

After some reflection and conversation with other friends I realised that some people might actually be thinking I am an overly anxious parent (that’s a terrible label to use, I feel – but I hope readers understand it is a kind of shorthand which helps me express something important).

At the risk of being accused of too much navel-gazing –  I can honestly say I worry too much about many things (climate change, what the government is doing to education, the recession …to name just a few examples) – but I don’t worry about my child and her achievements. The reason for this is, quite simply – I have (a mother’s?) complete faith in her.

I honestly don’t care if my child wants to be a carpenter(an honourable and I believe potentially lucrative profession nowadays) or strives towards several PhD’s in later life. The main thing to me  is that my child grows up happy, loved, safe, and secure. A certain amount of money and skills will be necessary for my child to do this,  that is true. But you can’t buy true friends with money anyway, you can only buy ‘hangers-on’ as someone said to me recently.

So, I’m writing this post because it suddenly occurred to me that some people  might have gained the wrong impression from our exemptions process. Nope, as I said, there are many things that I am overly anxious about in life – the effects of the compulsory sixty-nine learning and development targets on ALL children being one of them.

  But my ‘upset’ and sorrow about the continuing existence of these targets arises from the potential damage which I believe these compulsory targets are in danger of doing to ALL children. It is true that I often encounter this sense of sorrow at my child’s school. But that’s because I have done my absolute utmost to fight the imposition of these targets and I wish there were two of me to do more. I am convinced that in just a few years politicians will be openly admitting that what they have done was ill-advised. In the meantime though, parents and children like mine have to deal with the consequences of their mistakes every single day.

It is this concern which prompts me to continue to make a stand here with this blog. The exemption application was part of that process.

  I am not alone in my concern as many early years practitioners hold similar views. The record set straight…? This is not about one particular child, this is about all children.

Please consider signing the parliamentary petition. Click on the link at the top of the page on the right.

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Do you know what your child (aged four) needs to do to improve?

Form Filling. Do you know what your child (aged four) needs to do to improve?
Sunday afternoon. I’m tackling that familiar set of tasks befalling parents on a regular basis: making sure school uniform is clean and checking the school bag for forms and notices…in preparation for another busy week. 

I’ve got something to say about this form, readers,  as you can imagine.  I’m sharing the answers we’re  sending to our local authority. It may be useful to other parents – and relevant to an understanding of  the ways in which the sixty- nine compulsory Learning and Development Requirements are negatively influencing our learning culture.

In case the text on the photograph is a little small, here is what the form (on Cheshire West and Chester local authority notepaper) says: 

“Dear Parent…As part of our routine monitoring of schools programme Cheshire West and Chester Primary School Improvement Team are carrying out a ‘Focused Review’ of provision at xxx school during the week of November 30th.

I would like to give you this opportunity to submit any information that you wish to be considered. Replies will be treated in confidence and should be returned to the school office on the morning of Monday 30th. November 2009 marked for my attention. (signed a local authority representative – who asks…

1 . Are you adequately informed about developments and events at school?

2. Does the school take account of your suggestions and concerns?

3. Do you know how well your child is getting on at school?

4. Do you know what your child needs to do to improve?

If the answer to any of the above is no, how could communication be improved?

5. Any other information you would like the team to consider not previously raised?

Here is the text of our reply:

Firstly I offer a small observation. This ‘review’ is truly very ‘focused’ indeed.  The enclosed form appeared in our daughter’s school bag on Friday afternoon and is due back on Monday morning. I doubt that the local authority will be receiving many lengthy (and dare, I say considered) responses. By Friday, many of the parents I know are, (like me) quite frankly shattered and glad to knock off for a while from the demands of school.

However perhaps one word ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers are suited to your purposes.. They will provide you with statistics of a kind. Personally at this point I do not know what purpose is served by  a confidential, routine monitoring of schools programme carried out like this.

At any rate, our answers to these questions do not fit into your (mostly very small yes, or no) boxes. However, we would not like what we have to say to be excluded from your monitoring programme so we’re hoping you will take our views into account regardless.

We prefer to respond to some of your questions in reverse order: 

Q. Any other information you would like the  team to consider not previously raised?

A. We would like to praise our child’s teacher. For the first six weeks of term, our daughter did not leave school without giving her a big hug.  Our daughter is very fond of her teacher, who in turn tries to facilitate learning in the best way she can with a great deal of patience and imagination.

 For small children (our daughter is four years and three months old) – this bond is very special indeed. In fact, many would say, this is the most important thing. So thank you – Teacher (I’ve placed a copy of this blog post in my daughter’s school bag for her teacher’s information).

Local monitoring team please take note: look after this teacher carefully. Good teachers like this are continuing to hold schools and classes together across the country – despite the nonsense our government is currently engaging in (meaning it’s insistence on the sixty- nine compulsory Learning and Development requirements imposed on every child). Which brings us to question 4.

Q.4. Do you know what your child needs to do to improve?

A. We will not answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this question. Our child is aged four years and three months. She does not need ‘to improve’ . She is fine as she is, we know each child develops differently and she will do this in her own time. We have no intention of measuring anything she does in terms of the sixty-nine compulsory learning and development targets (requirements) imposed by government. The compulsory nature and imposition of these targets does not correspond to best educational practice. 

We focus on encouraging our daughter to learn and enjoy her learning. At this stage in her life, along with good food, security, love and care from those around her, this is enough.

Question Three. (Please refer to our answer for Question Four)

Question Two Q. Does the school take into account your questions and concerns?

A. Since the school has refused to allow our parental exemption from the sixty-nine learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage programme, and since this is the most important educational concern we have, I’m afraid we have to answer ‘no’ to this question.  But since, as we have said, these targets are statutory and compulsory ones, we know we would be faced with this situation at other schools too. The ‘solution’ presented by the local authority in the past (i.e. you can go elsewhere…) is presently  unworkable and unrealistic as you know.  Since the EYFS Learning and Development Requirements are imposed well-nigh across the board we would not be able to find another school or nursery setting where the targets do not apply – and certainly not within a fifty mile radius of where we live. 

Question Five. Any other information?

Yes, indeed. To stress the positive, move matters forward (and to assist learning) I enclose the link to a new parliamentary e-petition I have launched which calls for the government to change the Learning and Development Requirements to recommendations only with immediate effect. As part of the reflective learning process which educationalists are expected to engage in, perhaps you would consider joining us with your signature in support. That would certainly go some way to improving communication all round.

We would welcome your support in this matter and you would certainly be in good company. I was very proud and pleased to see Dr. Richard House was the very first person to join me in this petition and we expect not a small number of early years practitioners, concerned citizens and parents will follow his lead.

Here’s the link to that Parliamentary Petition again, I have kept it brief and it  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”. More details

Submitted by Frances Laing of Mother of one child aged four years and three months, writer, blogger, journalist

To sign the petition click on this link:

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

Yours faithfully,

Frances Laing

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

Early Years Foundation Stage – Learning and Development Requirements

I’ve lifted this comment out of the comments section. I was very pleased to receive it, thanks Jo. And no, you’re not making a fuss about nothing. I’m working on another means of taking action, so stay tuned next week for more…

Jo’s words: “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 perfect 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 you are 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.”

The Wall.

Twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Times have changed and so has education. I’d like readers to listen to the words of this song again. After our experiences with the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Goals and the exemption process – I think I’ve finally understood what Pink Floyd were trying to say.

Parental ‘choice’ and Early Years Education

Sanity. September 2009

There’s some truth in the statement that I write to save my life. I don’t mean this blog is therapy. It isn’t. I write partly to understand the structures I encounter on a daily basis with my family. To draw conclusions and to deal with them.

In one sense – this is understandable. There are so many ethical issues to navigate when you write about something which affects your own child.  Few parents have the capacity (or the child care) to cope with juggling journalism and a baby or toddler. Few parents would dare to write openly about their own school. Why not? That’s an interesting question too – and one I’ll come back to…

The  fact that I’m on the coalface puts me and my writing in a very important space, I believe.  As far as I can see, there is a great deal of writing about the theory of ‘Early Years Education’ but much less (or nothing at all?) about the day-to-day realities of living with the system.

If no one (or very few people) are writing about these realities – then vast swathes of people’s experiences are made invisible. They are effectively silenced.

Blogging as a medium is a precious thing. Some people don’t see it as ‘proper journalism’ (although I think this view is much more common in the U.K than it is in the U.S.). There’s no doubt that in order to blog well and hold a reader’s attention  – you need good creative skills. So far this blog is holding up. I started it in early August. It’s been running for a mere two months and already we’re talking getting on for two thousand viewers a month.  Some of these readers are local. Some are national. And some are international. It’s not enough.

When I first heard the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements being described as ‘totalitarian’ I considered this to be a gross exaggeration. (Totalitarian is the word Steve Biddulph – internationally renowed Early Years Expert uses). He has been a psychologist for thirty years at least. He describes reading about the Early Years framework with a sense of horror. See this short video:

 I lived in Germany for ten years and I (still) speak fluent German. I saw the wall come down (that’s twenty years ago now). I studied German history. So the phrase ‘totalitarian’ means something serious and important to me.

 I understand that one of the hallmarks of totalitarian regimes is the complete control of an education system. Complete control of our children (political, financial and cultural) from a very early age – and complete control of their parents – both cultural and economic control.

So I return to the title of this blog post. In the current system – there is no such thing as parental ‘choice’. I have documented the parental exemptions process for the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements. As I’ve said: it is a farce and nothing but a tragic piece of theatre.

The government is telling parents they have a ‘choice’ of school and a choice of whether or not they participate in the Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements. Once again I understand now – this is the ‘Hobson’s choice’ offered by a totalitarian regime.

In this country we are currently facing a severe recession. How many parents can afford the ‘choice’ of foregoing paid work and waiting until their child is five years old before sending them to school or nursery? (This is the only way we currently have of avoiding the EYFS framework).

If the EYFS Learning and Development requirements are compulsory in every setting (except the few Steiner settings which have managed to secure a settings exemption) – where is the choice exactly?

I’d like to describe some fairly basic, factual aspects of our school. I am fairly certain it is a typical school in England, so they are nothing unusual.

We do not appear to have any sort of functioning parent-teacher association. It is not advertised on notice boards and not active on Open days or parent-teacher meetings. As far as I can see this effectively means parents have no decision-making power at all at our school.

Of course – we are given forms whereby we can volunteer to ‘help’ at the school, undertaking jobs as diverse as handing out the library books for the children or helping out in the school office. But there appears to be no democratic forum at all which enables us to voice our opinions or beliefs about our children’s education. Should I be surprised?

My husband and I attended a parent’s planning meeting last night. Half an hour. Mainly logistical points about what to bring to school, what our book bags are for – and then – what we would be doing in the next six months as far as reading is concerned – a description of the Phonics system and a hand out. Space for short questions. (Five or ten minutes for thirty sets of parents). I asked about the provision for left-handedness and right handedness.

My child comes home three times a week with a different reading book in her bag. She is four years and two months old. A fellow journalist remarked recently: they didn’t understand this at all – she is not of an age where she has to undergo compulsory schooling…

No mention of the criticisms of using Phonics at all – or any recognition of what happens to children when they are exposed to ‘Too Much Too Soon’. Of course, stupid me – totalitarian regimes don’t allow you to disagree…do they?

Totalitarianism aims for cultural (and economic) control. Some parents at the meeting we went to actually believe it is commendable for children to conform to the sixty-nine compulsory Learning and Development targets. They’re concerned and want to help their children ‘measure up’.

With a sense of tragedy I’m realising they’re not the only parents in the country who’ve swallowed government propaganda wholesale.

Statement on rejection of EYFS Parental exemption request

Quite a number of readers have asked to see the public statement we made when our exemption request was rejected. The statement was published in the Quaker international journal “The Friend” last week. Here it is:

“The first parental exemption request to the compulsory Learning and Development Requirements of the English Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum has been refused.

Frances Laing, a member of Wirral and Chester (Quaker) meeting, received a letter from her child’s state-funded school saying: ‘the school feels…it would not be possible to make satisfactory accommodation for (your child’s) educational provision and for that of the rest of the children within the delivery of the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum’.

Frances told the Friend: ‘We applied for the exemption on moral, religious, ethical, philosophical and political grounds’. I referred to Advice and Queries in our request: ‘Respect the law of the State but let your first loyalty be to God’s purpose’. I did not believe it was God’s purpose for my child (or any other children under five) to be subjected to the sixty-nine compulsory learning and development targets.

The government has created a straightjacket for all children, and all nursery and school staff. Neither the school nor the local authority could argue with the principles of our objection. Our objections constituted the ‘cogent set of beliefs’ which parliament stated is necessary for an exemption to be permitted on ‘philosophical’ grounds.

The only excuse they could come up with not to accept our request was administrative…they don’t have the resources to deal with an exemption. The truth about the parental exemptions process has now been revealed – it is a farce – and a violation of our children’s human rights.’