The revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) has been given a tentative welcome by the early year’s sector. This, in part, is due to the introduction of Personal, Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development and Communication and Language.
The early years sector will have to adhere to this framework as it will be mandatory from September, the aim is that it will unify and instigate change amongst practitioners to improve current practice. Practitioners will be the ones interpreting and putting into practice the EYFS, it aims to be flexible and malleable whilst encompassing most, if not all areas. This is why the revisions and response from the early year’s sector has been so influential.
Author and early years consultant Penny comments that “…the other reason I am happy with the EYFS overall is there is a clear requirement for providers to plan for individual children and what they plan must be “challenging and enjoyable”. That should put an end to activities that are not stimulating but boring or not age appropriate. I am delighted to see that…”
So why is the welcome tentative? In short, there are still a range of issues that the early year’s sector feels hasen’t been thrashed out, issues like clarity over wording and the legal requirement of some words and context. There is also an issue that despite attempting to reduce paper work the EYFS may in fact increase or maintain the already high level, this falls mainly down to report keeping and whether government will allow practitioners to keep records in their own way or rather that they will have to follow local authority or Ofsted guidelines.
There is also concern that the reduction in early learning goals (EGLS) may not have actually reduced the content, or are even a good idea in themselves. The early years sector also raised questions over the focus of learning, be it through books, or on science etc. Even down to the gender bias of the document – does it fairly reflect both a boys and a girls interests. There are even questions about geographical location bias, has the EYFS been written to accommodate both the urban and country based children.
Finally, the inclusion of a two year old check to spot children that may require additional support is viewed as extremely important by the early year’s sector, but again a call to clarify the guidelines for how the children should be assessed or how their development should be tracked. This could mean an additional pressure for ALL children to be achieving certain levels, whilst not taking into account each child’s individual needs, actual age or health. All of which gear up to the EYFS requirement of school readiness and a more formalised learning (which is disputed and supported through a number of statistics – without any definitive answer of whether formality of learning actually achieves results). This in turn may mean that the practitioner becomes driven by targets and could lose focus on the child as an individual. Are physical requirements such as walking or talking formalised? Or mainly based on a child’s individual development, could this be applied to things such as numeracy or literacy in the educational sense?
So this tentative welcome is, in summing up, welcomed as the early years sector want a clarified structure and guidelines which they can interpret and use to enable the best care for the child possible, and in theory the current EYFS seems to tick these boxes.