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Early years review 'too narrow', experts warn

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 16 July, 2010 | By: Helen Ward

They fear issues of over-regulation and crucial transition to Year 1 may be missed

Experts have warned that the scope of the forthcoming review of the early years foundation stage may be too narrow and fail to deal with core concerns.

The coalition Government confirmed last week that it would press ahead with the review of the curriculum for under-fives, which Labour had promised last year.

The early years foundation stage (EYFS) is a single framework covering all pre-school settings which includes a flexible, play- based curriculum and welfare requirements.

It has attracted controversy, particularly over the amount of bureaucracy associated with the way children are assessed at the end of reception. And there are widespread concerns in the sector that the review's remit (see box) will not cover either over-regulation or the transition to Year 1 - both seen as key to the success of this age group.

Nansi Ellis, head of education policy at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said the scope of the review should be broader.

"We are disappointed that the Government regards the EYFS as the years before starting school and to prepare children for school, when research suggests that the EYFS should continue into key stage 1," she said.

"We would like the review to look into education up to at least age six, and overlap with the proposed primary curriculum review."

Her comments were echoed by Margaret Edgington, an early years consultant.

"I am concerned that the review may just focus on nurseries, childminders and pre-schools and not on children in reception and Year 1," she said. "I believe strongly that we must keep the view that early years covers from birth to at least six."

However, others in the early years community have different concerns. Philip Bujak, chief executive of the Montessori St Nicholas Charity, said the review should focus on bureaucracy.

"We welcome this review of an over-regulated sector but would welcome even more a review of the single funding formula that is making Montessori less accessible as an option for parents rather than the Government's stated aim of accessibility," he said.

Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood, agreed. "One of the major problems with the EYFS has been the scope of regulation," she said.

"I hope they relax the levels of regulation, but they still have not grasped the nettle of what children need in terms of preparation for literacy learning. As long as we have to start on literacy as soon as possible, we will have this long tail of underachievement."

There are calls to ensure that the principles of the play-based curriculum are kept during any attempt to smooth out the difficulties.

Anne Longfield, chief executive of the charity 4Children, said: "Initial fears that the introduction of EYFS would cause chaos have not been realised. In fact, it has been welcomed by professionals and parents who recognise that it has improved the quality of early years education."

PROBLEM AREAS

Last week, children's minister Sarah Teather asked Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of Action for Children, to carry out the review. Areas include:

- Whether there should be a single framework for all providers of early years education;

- Evidence about what children need to give them the best start at school;

- Whether children's development should be assessed formally;

- What standards are required to keep children safe and healthy.


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