FAQs and Video

Updated January 2011

If you’re needing a speedy introduction to this topic, you can do a lot worse than watch this five minute You Tube video commissioned by Open Eye (the campaign for an Open Early Years Education) and directed by Fergus Andersen. It features Dr. Penelope Leach and the then President of the NUT Birmingham. The video was made a few years ago now, but many points contained it are still as relevant as ever. Updates on the Open Eye site. Video: Too Much Too Soon:

Q. What is the Early Years Foundation Stage?

A.  According to Teachernet (a government run site):

“The EYFS sets standards for the development, learning and care of children from birth to five. All registered providers of Early Years care are required to use the EYFS statutory framework”

According to the government “EYFS is based on around four themes each of which is linked to an important principle. A unique child – every child is a competent learner from birth who can be resilient, capable, confident and self-assured.

  • Positive relationships
    Children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and/or a key person.
  • Enabling environments
    The environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning.
  • Learning and development
    Children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates and all areas of learning and development are equally important and interconnected.

Q. That sounds like a good idea. So what’s the problem?

A. Whilst many child care practitioners understand that there are positive elements of the EYFS framework – (Dr. Penelope Leach for example has praised some of it as ‘brilliant’) – the problem for many starts with the sixty-nine learning and development requirements and the EYFS profiling which follows. On the face of it these may appear to be a very small part of the EYFS programme. But they are crucial.

A good place to gather some background  on this is by watching this excellent video, available on YouTube at this link:

Too Much Too Soon – the crisis facing Early Childhood

Q. So why are you writing this blog?

A. My child is now five. She first started going to child care with a childminder, before the EYFS programme became compulsory part-time when she was two. At first I was supportive of the programme. But then I began to ask more questions. The crunch came when my daughter received a ‘nursery report’ at the age of three. I did not recognise my child from the report. I decided to find out on what basis the report had been compiled and started writing about what I had found. See articles published in “The Friend” the international Quaker Journal.

 Every parent has the right to inspect their child’s nursery and school records and so that is what I did, using the Data Protection Act.

I read what I could about the criticisms of the Early Years Foundation Stage – and using my skills as a journalist – began writing down our experiences to get at the truth of the matter. I talked to Early Years Practitioners across the country who represented different educational philosophies. Most of them said – something was drastically wrong with the system. I received messages from many who were afraid to speak out for fear of losing their jobs, or feared being bullied by others. Some were just despairing.

I believed there was a huge disparity between what the government said was happening and the reality on the ground. I had trained as a teacher in Adult Education – and was used to writing a reflective, educational journal. And so I blogged.

Q. Together with your partner, you are the only parents in a state funded school in the U.K. to have applied for a parental exemption to the EYFS learning and development requirements for your child. You were refused. Why did you apply and on what grounds were you refused?

 A. We applied as a matter of principle, in the interests of our child and to do our bit to change what we believe is a culture of education which is increasingly damaging for young children. In theory, parents have the right to apply for an exemption on philosophical grounds as I have documented on this blog (I published all of the letters and the forms with personal details removed – see the August entries on the blog for more). In practice however, we believe we were a thorn in the government’s side and that our local authority simply wanted us to go away. We didn’t. Although we had the required ‘cogent set of beliefs’ – we were told the resources weren’t available to put the principle into practice. Unlike other processes, there is NO right of appeal so the only recourse we might have had is a judicial review. Solicitors fees of over £49,000 are beyond the reach of the majority of parents.

As anyone can see from looking at the relevant blog post on the parental exemptions process, it is extremely bureaucratic and requires a lot of resources. I would describe it as ‘tortuous’. The experience taught us that whilst in principle the government says parents have a choice about this, in reality this is no choice at all.

The settings exemption process is different from the parental exemptions process. People have described this too as ‘tortuous’ – and it requires a lot of resources too. Nevertheless, some settings allied with Montessori and Steiner educational philosophies have succeeded with it. They had to. If they had not pressed ahead and gained settings exemptions they would probably have had to close down. Is that what we are calling parental choice?

Q. Are you affiliated with Steiner philosophies?

A. In a word, no. We support the idea of quality state schooling. At the same time we try to parent using the best resources and listening to the best practice and research we can. I have my own criticisms of Steiner philosophies, but I refuse to reject them wholesale. As I’ve said before the likes of Dr. Richard House write a great deal of good sense and as a  parent I feel it would be extremely foolish to reject good sense and good practice – simply because they originate in a school philosophy that I would not choose for my own child.

Q. Does the EYFS “impose learning goals on children before they reach the age of five?”?

A. I’ve been advised that in fact, to be really accurate (and to use EYFS terminology) we should be saying the EYFS “sets statutory learning & developmental goals for children to reach by the end of the academic year in which they reach five”.

  To be factual again, I’m told some children reach 5 before they leave nursery so in a sense those children are expected to meet the goals, so maybe it’s just semantics!

As for children with a birthday in the summer term – (who may be nearly a whole year younger than other children in their class and summer born like our child) – they will complete their last term in reception year and still be four years old.

Q. What is Early Years Foundation Stage Profiling?

A. When your child reaches the end of their first year at school, you will probably receive a detailed report, known to teachers as the ‘Early Years Foundation Stage Profile’.

For the stated purpose of the profile see this Department of Children, Schools and Families link:

http://nationalstrategies.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/node/83972

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4 responses to this post.

  1. As a nation I believe we should be ashamed we have stood back and let the government impose learning goals on children before they reach the age of five. There is no evidence in any other developed country to support targeting babies is beneficial . We are putting our Early Years Practitioners in a place no one should be, a place which is detrimental to our small children and it has to stop. The longer this EYFS situation continues the more we are storing up problems for future years, children who by the age of 11 have no concept of how to be child and are continually targeted and assessed and in many cases branded on their records as failures. Babies, toddlers cannot smile at the same time do not recognise sounds at the same time every child is unique ,we are wasting thousands of pounds and hours of time on this nonsense but it will not end as those who make money from it will ensure parents are brain washed into believing it is the right thing to do so it continues to cause much distress to parents if their child does not fit into the pattern politicians demand.
    +1

    Reply

  2. Posted by Frances Laing on April 17, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Thank you so much for this comment Margaret.
    Best
    Frances

    Reply

  3. As a nation I believe we should be ashamed we have stood back and let the government impose learning goals on children before they reach the age of five. There is no evidence in any other developed country to support targeting babies is beneficial . We are putting our Early Years Practitioners in a place no one should be, a place which is detrimental to our small children and it has to stop. The longer this EYFS situation continues the more we are storing up problems for future years, children who by the age of 11 have no concept of how to be child and are continually targeted and assessed and in many cases branded on their records as failures. Babies, toddlers cannot smile at the same time do not recognise sounds at the same time every child is unique ,we are wasting thousands of pounds and hours of time on this nonsense but it will not end as those who make money from it will ensure parents are brain washed into believing it is the right thing to do so it continues to cause much distress to parents if their child does not fit into the pattern politicians demand.

    Reply

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