'Early years needs funding, not reform', survey finds

Majority of educators are positive about impact of EYFS – but claim they are held back by 'rubbish' government funding

Children in an early years classroom

The majority of early years educators support the early years foundation stage (EYFS) in its current form but say more funding is needed to improve children's learning, a survey has found.

The findings come as the government is planning to roll out controversial reforms to EYFS on a national scale.

Survey responses suggest that many of those working in the early years sector feel that the reforms are unnecessary and not the best use of resources.

More than 80 per cent of people working across the sector believe that the existing framework supports the prime areas of development (personal, social and emotional; physical; and communication and language), according to survey findings.

And 60 per cent of those surveyed think children's development is supported by the specific areas of learning (mathematics; literacy; understanding the world; and expressive arts and design). 


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However, the report found this enthusiasm was "set amidst deep-seated concerns for the context in which the EYFS is operating".

A coalition of early years organisations including Early Education, TACTYC and the Early Years Alliance surveyed more than 3,000 practitioners to gather their views on the framework.

The majority of the respondents (72 per cent) had worked in the sector for more than 10 years.

It concluded that those in the sector are generally satisfied with EYFS in its existing form, but many identified an "urgent need to develop resources".

One practitioner, from a maintained nursery school, said: "Funding in the EYFS has been rubbish over the past five years, particularly in deprived areas. Parents often need as much support as their children in knowing what to expect and how to help them.

"The closure of many children's centres had negated this. Primary schools are result driven – awful. No wonder there are so many screwed-up children and teachers. Where has all the fun gone?"

A private nursery manager added: "EYFS doesn't need to be changed. What must be enhanced are practitioner skills, training and funding available to settings to increase salaries and attract higher-calibre teachers."

The report concluded: "The strong message from responses to this survey is that it is not the EYFS which is preventing this from happening, but that a lack of funding and perceived demands for paperwork are restricting the effectiveness of the sector."

The government was recently criticised for inviting schools to adopt the EYFS reforms from the beginning of the next academic year despite a public consultation on the changes still being open at the time.

Beatrice Merrick, chief executive of Early Education, said: "We hope that ministers will listen to what early years practitioners are telling them, and not devote further resources to trying to fix something that isn’t broken. 

"The messages are really clear that tinkering with the EYFS statutory framework isn’t going to achieve what ministers hope for. The sector would welcome the opportunity for dialogue with ministers and some fresh thinking about what will really make a difference to children’s future life chances."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “We want teachers and practitioners to have more time interacting with children to develop their early language, providing them with the best platform to fulfil their potential at school.

“The reformed early years foundation stage framework will support children’s well-rounded development as they move through the early years to more formal schooling, and reduce teacher workload.

"We are inviting schools to adopt the changes early, from September 2020, giving them the opportunity to strengthen their practice a year ahead of statutory implementation.”

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