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EARLY YEARS DEBATE CONTINUES

The Early Years Foundation Stage continues to invite comment, both positive and negative. The government says the curriculum for under-fives is flexible and play-based and will bring a good standard of professional development to all providers of care and education for this age group. This is backed up by a collection of 69 learning goals that they believe will give all children an excellent start in life. 

It has not been as cut and dried as this implies. Developmental milestones for some spell the end of childhood. Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood and former head teacher, is reported in The Telegraph as saying: “Toddlers are still working at a very emotional level. They should be told stories and allowed to sing and play.” 

Michael Spinney, Chairman of the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) talking on Radio 4, expressed the fear that any curriculum imposed by the government on independent schools “struck at the very root of our independence.” He reserved the independent school right “to design our curriculum according to the needs of our children and what we believe is right and proper in constituting a good education.” 

Developmental milestones for some spell the end of childhood 

Beverly Hughes, the Children’s Minister, recently allayed these fears after discussions with a number of experts including David Hanson CEO of IAPS and members of the Steiner School lobby. New changes announced very recently in the House of Commons will see the EYFS “watered down”. 

The government has always insisted that the goals were aspirations not targets but are now seeming to allow child care providers to apply for exemptions from elements which they view as being in conflict with their principles about children’s learning and development. Campaigners against the framework will be delighted. reports Alexandra Frean in The Times. Many feel that without these concessions there would have been the danger of producing “a tick box culture that relies too heavily on formal learning and not enough play.” 

For countless other nurseries and pre-schools, government guidance in the delivery and monitoring of the under-fives curriculum will prove to be an aid to good practice and, as such, a welcome support 

New changes announced very recently in the House of Commons will see the EYFS ‘watered down’