Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Changing the nappy curriculum

Much as been made today on blogs and in the newspapers about the DfE's proposed review of the EYFS ( Early Years Foundation Stage).   For the uninitiated, this became mandatory for early years providers for children aged between 0-6 from September 2008.  For all the brouhaha it caused at the time, it's not new really.   It replaced 2 earlier frameworks which provided guidance for children aged 0-3 -Birth to 3 matters- and Foundation Stage curriculum which covered children aged 3-6, ie up to the end of Reception class.  One of the aims of the EYFS was to provide a seamless 'curriculum' or framework with age appropriate developmental goals against which a child's progress could be measured.   This is actually important because if a child is not developing within the expected age phases between 0-3 in particular, additional support from external agencies can be sought.  The record-keeping it requires also means that there is evidence to provide to those agencies where necessary.

What many of the articles I have seen today miss is that the EYFS is a framework for learning and it is meant to be PLAY-based.  I stress that because it's easy to characterise it as 'testing for toddlers' when in fact such practice is not part of the guidance and would be considered on any Ofsted inspection to represent very poor practice.  However, it does require appropriate observation of the child and planning in accordance with the child's interests and yes, it requires childminders to do this too.  Why not?  Would we be happy if they simply placed the child in front of a TV all day?  And if not, what do we want and how do we want to monitor that it is taking place?  

As I mentioned above, the EYFS for 3-6 year olds replaced the previous Foundation Stage curriculum and while the themes have changed the 13 developmental areas have remained the same.  Children score points on a scale of 0-9 against these 'curriculum' areas, which sounds very calculating when we are talking about toddlers and reception classes. 

However, it was well established before EYFS a score of 6 points or more across the curriculum areas ie 78 points in total at the end of Reception class, is the best indicator we have of GCSE and subsequent education/career success and life chances.  A score of less than that is almost a clear predictor of educational failure, welfare dependency and in some cases depending on the area involved (eg Personal Social and Emotional Development) can predict how likely that child aged 6 is, to end up in prison.

I for one am happy with the EYFS; it's not easy and it takes a lot of time and effort on the part of the carers or teaching staff involved with those children aged 0-6 but are we saying that those children are not worth it?
And yes, childcare and early years education is not cheap to provide and nor should it be.  We should value the people who put the work into helping our very young children develop a lifelong love of learning.  The question of who bears the cost is another matter for another time.

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