Early Years Foundation Stage reform

From Leader Magazine - 2020 Spring Term 1

Last October saw the launch of the government’s consultation on Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) reforms. The consultation seeks views on the statutory framework for EYFS before 31 January 2020.

The introductory paragraphs of the consultation document state the reforms “…follows the commitment from government to improve the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile [EYFSP] with the key objectives for all children, particularly language and literacy outcomes for disadvantaged children, and reducing teacher workload”.

However, running parallel in this document is the realisation of the role parents and carers play too in early language development and reference is made to the three-year ‘Hungry Little Minds’ campaign to support and encourage parents and carers (see https://tinyurl.com/quyf3fs).

Following the consultation deadline, the government intends to introduce the revised EYFS framework as statutory from September 2021, with schools being invited to opt in on a voluntary basis from September 2020. The main proposals in the consultation document are designed to:

  • make 17 Early Learning Goals (ELGs) clearer and easier for teachers to make accurate judgements
  • focus on strengthening language and vocabulary development to particularly support disadvantaged children
  • strengthen literacy and numeracy outcomes to ensure all children have a good grasp of these areas of learning in preparation for Year 1
  • ensure the latest ELGs are based on the latest evidence in childhood development
  • ensure the latest ELGs reflect the strongest predictors of future attainment

Early feedback

The proposed changes have been met with mixed views from professionals and organisations. Some of their concerns are to do with whether the proposals will actually have a positive impact on teacher workload, and perhaps more so, to what extent schools should be expected to prepare children more rigorously for the increasing demands of Key Stages 1 and 2.

On a positive note, early feedback supports the view that teachers should be spending more time with children rather than evidence gathering, and on teachers feeling empowered to use their own judgements when assessing.

Under the proposals, communication and language is reinforced throughout with a focus on the spoken language. There is a strong emphasis on conversation within a ‘language-rich environment’, that is, reading to children and providing them with opportunities to develop vocabulary through conversation, storytelling and role play. This strong focus in the proposals on narrowing the language gap can be nothing but positive and supports some points made throughout ASCL’s The Forgotten Third report – see www.ascl.org.uk/ForgottenThird

Preparing children more for the demands of Key Stages 1 and 2 is, unsurprisingly, controversial and some points made have been on having a greater emphasis on the importance of ‘play’ and the need for the education system to protect children in the early years for as long as possible from the pressure of learning post-reception, especially as schools are increasingly stretched to meet the unrelenting demands of accountability measures.

The consultation asks for views on whether the removal of local authority statutory EYFSP moderation will help to reduce teacher workload and asks for any suggestions for alternatives to this process. So, it is clear that the government is trying to do something to recognise the damaging effects of workload, but schools will, however, still be expected to conduct their own internal moderation.

Additionally, in support of reducing teacher workload further, there is a proposal within the consultation to remove the ‘exceeded’ criteria. This is believed to create additional workload pressures and take attention away from efforts to increase the number of children who achieve ‘expected’ levels of development by the end of reception. This is particularly focused on closing the disadvantage gap.

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 31 January 2020, so if you haven’t already, please do respond online here https://tinyurl.com/w7dm8r9

Tiffnie Harris
ASCL Primary Specialist

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