The Early Years Foundation Stage, known as the “nappy curriculum”, was introduced last September as a way to track the progress of children before they turn five.

Every childminder and nursery school teacher, both state-funded and private, is required to monitor all of their pupils’ reading, writing, counting and problem-solving schools. But it has divided experts with some saying that  it creates too much red tape for staff and stifles young children’s ability to play and explore the world around them creatively. Others that it brings much needed structure and targets the basics  so ensuring a surer foundation for progression to Primary schools. However there is growing concern about the effects the new requirements may be having  on Childminders . The Tories point to a decline in registered childminders since EYFS was introduced. In March (2005-6) there were close to 72,000 registered Child Minders. The latest figure for March (2008-9) is 60,900. Not an insignificant drop.


The Open Eye campaign, opposed to the EYFS reforms,   directly links the decline in the number of childminders to “the inappropriate bureaucratisation and ‘schoolification’ of childminding that the EYFS introduces.”


Recent Ofsted documentation for childminders explicitly states that childminders have a legal requirement to provide an ‘educational programme’ for their children.


The framework also runs counter to the approach of education providers such as Steiner schools, which do not start teaching the three Rs until children are seven and instead emphasise social and creative development. It also too , arguably, runs counter to much practice internationally. Particularly in Scandinavian countries and is not evidence based .Indeed, EYFS supporter, Bernadette Duffy,  agrees that the literacy requirements of the reforms  have no research base.


Two Steiner kindergartens Wynstones School in Gloucester and the North London Rudolf Steiner School in Haringey  have already been  granted exemptions from some of the requirements of the curriculum, under a lengthy  bureaucratic appeals process overseen by the Department for Children, Schools and Families but also involving local authorities. Most probably over the longer term  all Steiner schools will seek exemption. The Government has always made it clear that schools may seek exemption but the process for seeking exemption is tortuous to say the least and may well deter many providers from applying, given that just 19 providers have so far sought exemption. There may also be a fear  that Ofsted may treat them harshly in inspections if they  do opt out although this is speculative.  The Government claims that the few number of providers currently seeking exemption   is because most stakeholders welcome the changes. Certainly published surveys would seem to back this , although whether respondents  actively back it or are simply resigned to it is not clear.


The Open Eye Campaign, which has campaigned against the changes, claims that  issue of the literacy goals has not been addressed at all, despite continuing complaints and representations from across the early years . The Open Eye Campaign says that the recent Rose Review missed an opportunity to recommend that these controversial goals be held back for at least a year – when  “all the evidence and informed opinion points to it being the correct and appropriate change to make.


Sir Jim Rose was asked to review two of the literacy goals centred on children’s ability to write simple sentences and use punctuation in simple sentences by the age of five – the goals ‘use their phonic knowledge’ and ‘write their own names’. Instead of revising the goals, he  recommended that the Department for Children, Schools and Families should give extra guidance to early years teachers on how to support young children’s emerging writing skills, with examples of how these two goals are being met by children.


The report also recommended that summer-born children should start reception class in the September after their fourth birthday rather than the following January, but also said  that parents’ views should  be taken into account and in some cases children might start school part-time.


Open Eye also  opposes children being encouraged to start education at 4 rather than five,  claiming that there is no evidence to back this approach and claims  it may also psychologically damage some children 


Open Eye had recommended  to the Select Committee’s that  the Department’s attention should be brought  to  ‘the near universal support for the reconsideration of the Early Learning Goals directly concerned with reading, writing and punctuation’.


The Commons Select Committee in its Curriculum report recommended that early learning goals for reading and writing in the Early Years Foundation Stage should be scrapped.

The Committee, which took evidence from early years experts, teaching unions and others, concluded “ We welcome the entitlement that the Early Years Foundation Stage offers, but we are concerned at some of the Early Learning Goals that it specifies. We have heard much evidence to suggest that the specifications relating to reading, writing and punctuation are not appropriate for all children and should be reassessed. We are of the view that the emphasis at this stage should be on developing speaking, listening and social skills. We do not support the recommendation contained in the interim report of the Rose Review of the primary curriculum that children should move to reception class at age 4. Due to their low practitioner-to-child ratios these settings cannot cater for the needs of very young children.”


It is fair to say that The Early Years sector is fairly unsettled at the moment and it will be interesting to see what proposals the Tories come up with. They are lukewarm  we know about the EYFS reforms , worry about the  drop in childminder numbers and feel that private providers are being squeezed out of the market on the back of funding shortfalls, so limiting choice for parents. 

Select Committee Report on Curriculum


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