Archive for the ‘parliamentary petition on eyfs’ Category

EYFS Parliamentary electronic petition update. Open Eye Early Years Conference.

 During the election and the formation of the coalition government I’d been keeping a very close eye on the EYFS parliamentary e-petition. The petition had been closed down for around six weeks. During this time the site displayed a message saying that all petition deadlines would be extended to compensate for the closure.

I hadn’t done a lot of work on the EYFS e-petition as this blog continues to get a fair amount of traffic and there was a drip, drip effect anyway –  but I did have a list of prominent educationalists (and parents) who were waiting for the EYFS e-petition to open again in order to sign.

(By the way if you’ve ever wondered why I keep repeating words and phrases like this, it’s due to a magic mechanism called SEO – of course  content is ultimately king – but SEO does help traffic-building. Readers know I like to interrupt serious issues with a picture – so here’s another one of the new boys on the block clutching their shiny parliamentary folders…)

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With the Open Eye conference coming up this Saturday, of course I would have been able to ask a lot more people to support the EYFS e-petition. But our government has now apparently changed it’s mind again – and closed the EYFS e-petition down anyway. (It’s a good job schools don’t do that with things like sports days, isn’t it? There’d be hell to play with the parents, I’m sure).

Anyway, creating an e-petition is fairly simple but it can take up to a week to be processed by No. 10 – so there is no chance of doing another one in time for the conference.

I was disappointed about this at first but then I heard about a BIG, NEW and EXCITING project to be launched by Open Eye at the conference. it’s a bit hush-hush at the moment so stay tuned. I’ve packed my press card and plan to blog (a bit) from London.

 Not reams of copy though – as I’ll need time to digest what I’ll be learning myself too – and I’m not fond of Twitter, I’m afraid, so don’t ask me to text, PLEASE. I’m in it for the long haul after all – my own child is only four and she’ll have to grapple with the politics of education for some time to come. I’m sure the background information I’ll be getting will keep me (and hopefully the readers of this blog) going for quite some time.

 I asked No. 10 for an official statement about the EYFS E-PETITION. Their webmaster said: 

“As mentioned on the website, with a new Government in place a review is taking place of online services, including e-petitions. We are committed to improving the e-petitions process and are looking at ways of ensuring that it functions as part of a cohesive approach to public debate and transparent government. A full announcement on how we plan to use these and other services across Government will be made as soon as this important work is completed.”

 “Existing e-petitions, submitted to the previous administration, will not be carried forward to the new administration as part of this process. We will welcome resubmission on issues of concern to the improved e-petitions system when it is launched later in 2010. As mentioned on the website, with a new Government in place a review is taking place of online services, including e-petitions. We are committed to improving the e-petitions process and are looking at ways of ensuring that it functions as part of a cohesive approach to public debate and transparent government. A full announcement on how we plan to use these and other services across government will be made as soon as this important work is completed”.

So it looks like the grassroots is going to have to try again, doesn’t it? I’ve asked No. 10’s webmaster to let me know when they’re ready for action. Are they up to date with their press cuttings and reading this?

Incidentally, when an e-petition is created, the government is obliged to publish a response to it. Readers may be interested to see what the responses to previous EYFS e-petitions have been. There have been quite a number of them over the past few years. Here are some archive links to some of them, together with responses from our elected representatives:

Link to Anti-EYFS childminder’s  (1,400 signatures)

Anti-EYFS petition government response

Open Eye e-petition 7,800 signatures

Government response to Open Eye e-petition

For more EYFS petitions, see this link to the government’s archive:

I wonder what they’ll have to say about my petition which has appeared on this site? Since it has now been closed we should all get a government response to it before too long. I’ll link to the response here. Before I make my sandwiches for the trip to London here’s a pleasing shot of our “A” team (our elected representatives) in the garden:

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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, 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.

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:

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:

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.”

Beverley Hughes and criticisms of the Early Years Foundation Stage

The Guardian’s ‘Mortarboard’ blog filled up with comments last year. I’m including a link to it here, as this blog clearly shows up the weaknesses of Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes’ position and the sustained and wide ranging criticisms that have been fired in the direction of the Early Years Foundation Learning and Development Requirements.

We need these to be downgraded to recommendations immediately. Of course they are targets. We know they are compulsory – and that’s the problem. The debate has gone on for too long already.

Read the Guardian newspaper’s Mortarboard blog here.