The Early Years Foundation Stage Review

Version of article from August 2018 members' magazine Your Voice

By Deborah Lawson, General Secretary, Voice

Before the announcement in June that revised Early Learning Goals (ELGs) were to be piloted in a small number of schools from September, there was concern across the early years sector about the review itself.  

Those fears – fuelled by Ofsted’s publication of Bold Beginnings at the end of 2017 – were of inappropriate narrowing and formalising of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and reducing play-based learning, leading to a ‘schoolification’ of the early years – something which is abhorrent to early years professionals. 

The announcement about reception baseline assessment (RBA) increased concern further. [Further details here from NFER.]

We were aware from members, and through social media, of those concerns and of the online petition demanding a halt to the EYFS review until sector specialists could conduct it.

We had raised some of those same concerns directly with ministers and DfE officials.  By meeting officials during the review period, I was able to establish that some of the concerns were unfounded.  Sector specialists are involved in the review and it was apparent that officials were listening keenly to the sector’s concerns. I did, however, say that lack of information does stimulate rumour and speculation, and good communication better aids engagement and acceptance during a period of change.

DfE officials were keen to emphasise that the pilot was the start of a full consultation process and that they are committed to a full and meaningful consultation with early years experts, practitioners and teachers. This is something we will fully engage in.

The EYFS profile IS:

  • a reliable and valid assessment and record of a child’s development at the end of the EYFS (end of reception year) which informs parents and practitioners what a child can do, based on the expected level of development at the end of the foundation stage.

The EYFS profile is NOT:

  • a school accountability measure, and the DfE will not publish school-level results of the EYFS profile.

The number of ELGs remains the same, as do the prime and specific areas of learning.

The ELG changes proposed, and which will be tested in the pilot, include:

  • a greater focus on language and communication skills, to include comprehension with word reading and writing;
  • a change of focus in maths to achieve a deeper understanding of number, counting from 1-10 rather than 1-20;
  • mathematical patterns replacing concepts of space and shape;
  • self-regulation and building relationships rather than making relationships, self-confidence and self-awareness; and
  • gross and fine motor skills replacing moving and handling and self-care.

It is good to note that teacher workload has been considered in relation to the proposed changes, which also aim to cut down on paperwork and the perceived need to evidence everything. 

It is especially pleasing to note in the EYFSP handbook for pilot schools that practitioners are expected to use their professional judgement, based on their knowledge and understanding of what children know and can do. This appears to indicate not only that officials took on board Voice members’ concerns, but that our continuous promotion of the benefits of teachers’ professional agency is once again being recognised and valued, and that reliance on data (collection) alone does not produce a complete picture of children or their development.

In summary, the pilot appears to seek to harmonise, for children and early years teachers and practitioners, the transition between EYFS and Key Stage 1.  If this can be achieved to the benefit of children and practitioners, this could be a welcome development. 

I would welcome members’ thoughts and comments on this, especially from those in schools involved in the pilot.

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