Sunday, 4 March 2007

What's wrong with the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)?

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is the new statutory framework for early childhood education and care in England. Like most recent initiatives around early childhood in the UK, it started with a pretty sensible idea - to bring together all the different guidelines and legal requirements which cover children from birth to about 6 years olds. I say about 6, because the framework runs up to the end of the child's first year in schooling, at which point the youngest children in England are just coming up to 5, and the oldest just coming up to 6 years old.

Instead of picking through all the draft documents (EYFS) I'd prefer to ask one simple question.

Is it right for a government to legislate for what babies of six months old should be learning in nurseries and with childminders about maths?

Well, they'd prefer you to call it "problem solving, reasoning and numeracy". And they'd like you to think that because you can't ever have any concept of number, for example, unless you have grasped and reached hold of something as a baby, therefore mathematical learning can be traced back to babyhood. So it is to be laid down - in law - that there must be objects for babies. They must be displayed in a bright and attractive way. And the babies' responses must be noted down.

It's a significant enlargement of the territory covered by legislation. And it brings the bureaucratic instruments still further into the lives of young children. You can also be sure that it is costing quite a bit to devise all these guidelines, implement them, inspect them...let alone the costs of time and effort for childminders and nursery nurses to do the work.

There will, of course, be plenty of money to be earned by early years consultants and trainers when these guidelines are brought in. I'm not expecting to hear much criticism from most of them.