Archive for the ‘parent's guide to early years foundation stage’ Category

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 Fourteen. Early Day Motion 1285 day five.

Stop League Tables for Five Year Olds International Petition Launch day fourteen. Close to a thousand signatures and an article by journalist Helen Ward in the Times Educational Supplement today:

Anger builds over league tables for five year olds.

If you haven’t signed the petition yet please do so at this link: “International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds”. Forgive me for repeating myself – I believe it helps people to find this information on the net. 

As far as the Parliamentary Early Day Motion is concerned, it’s day five since it was created and already ten M.P’s have signed: Early Day Motion 1285 was put forward by the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas M.P and reads as follows:

“That this House opposes the Government’s proposal to begin publishing school league performance tables for England’s five year olds on a school by school basis; believes that such an unprecedented development puts both young children and their teachers, parents and carers under unwarranted stress that is distinctly unhelpful, especially for children at such a tender age; further believes such tables to be divisive and unnecessary; and calls on the Government to abandon its plans to expose young children and their schools to the pressures of the league table system”.

Here are the EDM signatory scores so far to date: (With the Green Party clearly in the lead)

Labour Party – 9

Social Democratic and Labour Party (Belfast South) – 1

Lib Dems – Nil

Conservatives – Nil

EDM 1285  
Lucas, Caroline    10 signatures
  Campbell, Ronnie   Caton, Martin   Corbyn, Jeremy
  Flynn, Paul   Lavery, Ian   Lloyd, Tony
  McDonnell, Alasdair   McDonnell, John   Meale, Alan

We need over two hundred signatures to achieve a debate in Parliament so please ask your own M.P to sign. 

Petition link: Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds

Early Day Motion 1285 Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

If you would like to ask your own Member of Parliament to sign this Early Day Motion – you may want to make use of some of the petition text as background – it is best to personalise your email/letter and include a comment of your own. 

To see the petition background text click here: International Petition to Stop School League Tables for Five Year Olds.

To find your M.P’s email address and contact details click here:

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

Government review of Early Years Foundation Stage. Interview with Sarah Teather Children’s Minister

Nursery World conducted a lengthy interview with the Children’s Minister Sarah Teather this week. See this link:

Sarah Teather on the  Review of the Early Years Foundation Stage

Half term – politics, academies, PTA, eyfs parliamentary petition, coalition government and a child’s first year at school

As the coalition government sets about it’s business – coalition agreements on education and schools are analysed in the mainstream press but official statements on the future of the Early Years Foundation Stage compulsory Learning and Development Requirements remain noticeably absent.

The e-parliamentary petition system was de-activated by the U.K. administration around six weeks ago (due to the election, they said). But the election is over and the system hasn’t been restored. This has meant all the people who’ve approached me during that time wanting to sign the e-petition on the right of this page have simply been unable to register their protest. Democracy in action?

Yet another reason why people should meet together in person with academics to discuss the best strategies to adopt for early years education. The Open Eye conference I shall be attending in London next month seems to be gaining in importance all the time.

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Parents and children are in the thick of all this, as usual – mopping up a political mess. Many schools face an uncertain future due to budget cuts. Will the proposed plan to create more academies draw money away from state schools? Meanwhile there is a noticeable absence of discussion about education itself and the naked emperor of the compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage learning and development requirements.

Namely this: in any other field of research or government – you would expect government policies to be based on the best available international research consensus. Here we have an international research consensus telling us there are no advantages to pushing young children to read and write at a very early age (as the EYFS compulsory learning and development requirements are doing). And this consensus is being ignored by our government.

On the ground here, there are some rays of sunshine. For the first time ever – we have a Parent Teacher Association. The first meetings were well attended – full of enthusiastic, discerning (and critical) parents. I can’t say much about this here obviously, but it’s a positive development and I feel I can say we’re working on joining the National Parent Teacher Association. This site must be useful for any parents to look at, there’s so much useful information on it, including a nifty “Ten Pointers to Success” for your PTA – so I’m including the link here.

On the internet there’s been some discussion about the ways in which academies might benefit children under five. Some are under the impression that if parents create their own schools they can avoid the pressures of the compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage Learning and Development Requirements. Unfortunately this isn’t the case. As the law stands all settings are required to meet the demands of this compulsory system – unless they undergo the tedious, labour-intensive and as things stand – tortuous process of applying for a settings exemption. So we need to change the law. Easier said than done, isn’t it? I’ll let readers know as soon as the petition is up and running again…

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?

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.