Wednesday, 28 March 2007

More on the Early Years Foundation Stage

After many hours spent fiddling on the Early Years Foundation Stage website I am starting to like some aspects of the EYFS, like the fact that there are so many documents and links to stuff all collated together so I don't have to spend hours searching or flicking through huge folders.

I also spent time looking at the research quiestionnaire currently being used on parents of two year olds in nurseries. This is such a horrible piece of work, by NATCEN . I'm told that it was put together by leading academics at Oxford and other universities (and I was told this in the kind of way that means, so don't think someone like YOU has got anything worthwhile to say about it). It asks questions like (these are not exact quotes) "Does your child follow the rules when you play games at home" and "Does your child follow instructions obediently". So whatever the academic pedigree, put together by someone who doesn't spend a lot of time with two year olds. I think I would have felt rather despairing if someone had asked me this when my daughter was two and wondered if I really had got everything wrong.

So in the light of all that ,the principles and poster for the EYFS seemed cheering.

But the section with the grids is horrible, as well as being silly. There is too much of it. It isn't sensible to take the curriculum for reception-aged children and drive it right the way down to babies. All in all, anyway, I think it mainly misses the point that what is needed in early childhood education and care is - better qualified staff - more time for training and development - and better pay. It's terrible that many nursery staff would earn more at their local supermarket. And not surprising that staff turnover is so high, despite the many dedicated people out there doing their very best in often difficult circumstances.

This is what I wrote to the Sure Start magazine on the subject:

I wanted to add a couple of things to your feature "Firm Foundations". The quotations attributed to me don't exactly reflect my views.

I am not completely in favour of the approach taken by the new Early Years Foundation Stage. I think that Parliament made a mistake when it legislated (in the Childcare Act) for six areas of learning running from Reception down through the Foundation Stage. To take one example, this approach means that early years settings are now required to plan for babies to develop their "problem solving, reasoning and numeracy". I think that this gives all the wrong messages. Babies need emotionally responsive, close and loving care when they are at nursery. Not numeracy.

Secondly, though it may seem a minor point, at Kate Greenaway Nursery School and Children's Centre we don't do anything called "Breakfast Club". This morning, working with the early team, I was lucky to enjoy spending time with a couple of babies who came in at the start of the day after an early rise and breakfast at home. They wanted to start playing and enjoying the sand area straight away. Equally, some older children came in at 9am and started off their day with a bowl of Shreddies. "Breakfast Club" makes it sound like we start off the day with one kind of provision, focussed on breakfast. We don't.

I am pleased to see that the guidance sections of the EYFS promote just this type of flexible provision for children. The new poster which comes with the pack gives an excellent and accessible summary of the principles, too. I hope that practitioners will not get bogged down in the pages of grids outlining ages and stages, but will be encouraged by the guidance to keep developing creative, play-based and exciting early years education and childcare.