Voice Official Response: Early Years Foundation Stage reforms

Voice's response to the consultation by the Department for Education (DfE)

Voice Official Response:  Early Years Foundation Stage reforms

Background:  The aim of this consultation was to seek views from interested parties on proposed changes to the statutory framework for the early years foundation stage, including:

  • proposed revisions to the educational programmes;
  • proposed revisions to the early learning goals;
  • proposed changes to the assessment and moderation process for the early years foundation stage profile; and
  • a proposed change to the safeguarding and welfare requirements to promote good oral health.

Read the consultation.

Summary:  Voice responsed to the following questions only.

Voice's Official Response:

Q9. What are your views on removing the LA statutory element of EYFSP moderation?

We welcome the opportunity to engage with and influence any discussion around workload reduction.  Voice has been at the forefront of such discussions with the department previously and is keen to secure workload reduction from all school-based staff where that continues to promote the progress and achievement of all learners.

With that in mind it will be interesting to monitor the introduction of the reception baseline assessment since this has a different focus than the EYFS (EYFS is child centred / Baseline is more data centred).  Should the proposal to remove the local authority statutory element go ahead, what will be the impact on the integrity of the assessment data collected by Government with regards the local and national child developments levels since the data collection would still need to be made? 

Would this lead to a transference of workload from local authority on to schools and teachers for the purposes of quality assurance, or indeed would there need to be annual scrutiny within the school family which would clearly cause greater workload than a ‘once every four years’ external visit. 

Whilst these proposals would reduce the local authority workload, it is apparent that the local authority work with practising teachers to carry out much of the moderation work.  Removing the burden from the local authority may inadvertently deskill practising teachers who are trained and released to moderate at a time when schools are haemorrhaging experienced staff from the occupation.

Q10.  What are your views on whether removing the LA statutory element of the EYFSP moderation will help to reduce teacher workload?

Whether or not the local authority statutory duty is removed School staff will still need to be trained and released to ensure parity within their local areas.  Teachers and support staff would continue to gather evidence to show learners have emerged into, met or exceeded the ELGs.  Surely the evidence burden would remain the same with or without the local authority moderation if schools are consistently recording achievement diligently.  And whilst the framework persists, we would expect that government funding and training would continue to be made available to ensure the integrity of the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The primary driver of workload is not the moderation process per se, it is the fact that moderation and the collected profile data is used as a high-stakes accountability measure for practitioners.  Annual scrutiny within the school family could enable a professional discussion between reception and Y1 colleagues but if it is used as a proxy for accountability then it could cause greater workload than a ‘once every four years’ external visit.  However, annual internal moderation would restore agency to schools and teachers.  It would show trust and dignify their roles by accepting their professional judgements.

But we must also consider the accountability of local authority staff and others responsible for the moderation process.  What is driving them to require a level of evidence which is burdensome and why do they use this as a further accountability stick with which to beat teachers and schools?  Could the Department not confirm their expectation regards workload reduction and eradicate the demand for mountains of evidence?

Surely for workload to truly be reduced there needs to be a change in the perception that this is a high stakes accountability tool.  This requires a strong and unequivocal message from the department that they’re confident in teacher judgements and that local authorities should not read this as an accountability measure.

It is in the gift of the government to reduce the pressure placed on local authorities which is passed on to schools, by decoupling the profile data from the high-stakes accountability system. 

Q11. What alternatives to LA statutory moderation do you think could help to ensure consistency of EYFSP judgements across the ELGs?

It is appropriate for local authorities to have a robust picture of child development in their region so there could continue to be some ‘light-touch’ monitoring to ensure standards in assessment are being maintained.  This would also ensure the skills which have been developed within local authorities are not lost, even if this was for a transitional period. 

A greater reliance on teacher assessment would restore agency to schools and teachers showing trust and dignifying teacher’s roles by accepting their professional judgements but there is much variability in the system – many schools inherit wildly varying data from the multiplicity of home, nurseries, nannies and pre-schools which feed into statutory education.  And yet these settings all work together, in many areas providing peer support and moderating each other in the local cluster.  This area moderation ensures any data is contextualised against local conditions and may be a sensible model to consider.  This would allow for co-operative working between schools to ensure that standards are being maintained whilst reducing the competition which derives from the pressure of a high-stakes system.

Any new process must not replicate the local authority process otherwise workload will not change it will simply move from local authority down to school level.  This may also encourage gaming the system if outcomes feature in teacher performance management and the high-stakes nature of the assessment is not resolved. 

Q12. What are your views on the proposal to remove the ‘exceeded’ judgement from the EYFSP?

Is it the exceeding ‘label’ which is unhelpful, or is it the descriptors which are poorly defined?  Simply removing the descriptor may mean that children are not appropriately stretched and fail to achieve their potential.  However, if it serves no purpose and learners will continue to be supported to achieve and exceed then there should be no detriment to its removal.

EYFS is about every child’s learning journey.  Teachers still need to understand the needs of each individual child and encouraging the more able is just as important as supporting those who are emerging.