Early-years revamp risks muddle and 'more red tape'

5th August 2011 at 01:00
Nursery managers and LA advisers voice their fears about slimmed-down framework

Slimming down the early years foundation stage (EYFS) risks making it too vague and could lead to confusion and more paperwork, nursery managers and local authority advisers have warned.

The new framework proposes that the current 69 learning goals for children at the end of reception are reduced to 17 and that an assessment for two-year-olds is introduced.

But the lack of detailed guidance could lead to teachers overcompensating and producing more paperwork, especially if Ofsted is due to carry out an inspection, experts have said.

A consultation event on the proposals run by the charity 4Children, the Government's strategic partner on early years, discussed three key aspects of the proposals: assessing characteristics of learning, safeguarding, and the new assessment for two-year-olds.

Speaking after the event, Megan Pacey, chief executive of Early Education, which supports early-years practitioners, said: "The proposals are so vague, there is a real risk that in stripping it back to nothing the new framework will create more bureaucracy in the long term.

"If people don't know what is wanted they may over-provide. I don't get a sense that people have any more confidence in how to use the EYFS, and it is in that uncertainty that bureaucracy breeds."

Event participants said the move to assess characteristics of effective learning were welcome. The Government's plans for EYFS say the assessment should cover children's play, creativity, and whether they are active learners.

Judith Stevens, of Early Learning Consultancy, told The TES she welcomed the fact that practitioners would have to tell parents about their child's learning characteristics. But she said: "My concern is that the financial constraints in local authority teams weaken the support for these changes."

The risk-assessment procedures are to be changed to ask providers to "determine where it is helpful to make some written risk assessments".

The participants said this did not make it clear whether or not providers have to make written risk assessments. Some said they would appreciate greater detail on policies covering mobile phone and camera use.

The Government has also proposed that all looked-after children aged between 24 and 36 months are assessed on their personal, social and emotional development; physical development; and communication skills.

The assessment should focus on areas where practitioners are concerned about children's progress, but it is to be left to them to decide what else should be included in the summary.

The EYFS was introduced in 2008 as a single framework for all those working with pre-school children.

It originally set out six areas of learning which lead to 69 early-learning goals. A profile of each child was created at the end of reception which involved rating them against 13 nine-point scales. The coalition Government asked Dame Clare Tickell to carry out a review of the EYFS which suggested that the early-learning goals were reduced and the profile simplified.

The government response to the review is open to consultation until 30 September.

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