Sunday, 6 July 2008

Early Years Foundation Stage: more to debate

I think there is at least some good news in the announcement that the government is reconsidering two aspects of the new EYFS.

I think that it is pretty clear that some of the Early Learning Goals are over-ambitious (to be nice). They show a lack of knowledge about child development. In passing, it is also worth noting that these ELGs are not new, they have been part of the Foundation Stage for a number of years now.

It isn't likely that children, by the end of their reception year, will all be writing sentences and using punctuation correctly. Because of the school-starting age in England (the year in which a child is five years old) some of those children will have only just had their fifth birthday. Some of them won't even be five until the summer holidays.

Many children will be developing and learning perfectly well, without yet writing and punctuating. In most of the rest of Europe this would not be noticed, because their formal education would not yet have started. So the fact that year after year, a substantial proportion of English children do not meet these goals, should not be much of a surprise. Scrap them. Both. Let young children have a proper early education of movement, music, poetry, and creativity.

As far as planning to exempt some early years settings from meeting the requirements of the EYFS - I am much less sure. My take on this, is that it has come about following intensive lobbying from private schools and private nursery providers. Many of these providers are perfectly fine, and some are absolutely excellent. But others want to continue to take big government subsidies - from the Working Tax Credit, and from the nursery education grant - without doing anything about the poor experiences they offer young children. I've visited one too many private nurseries in damp London basements where children get the occasional sniff of stagnant air in a playground that feels like it's at the bottom of a well. Where staff work incredibly long shifts, with few breaks, and tend to leave after just a few months.

The Steiner and Montessori associations have worked out how they can live with the EYFS. So why the special exemptions for others?

Before I finish - why does the Telegraph continue to refer to the curriculum for the Reception Year in primary schools as the nappy curriculum? Not long ago, the children of Telegraph-reading parents would be off to boarding school aged seven. Are they keeping their children in nappies now to five?