EYFS: Steiner schools spared Early Years phonics goals

4th September 2009 at 01:00
Government exemption enables unorthodox institutes to postpone formal literacy

Original paper headline: Steiner schools spared Early Years phonics goals

Pre-school children at two Steiner schools will not have to learn phonics after the Government agreed to exempt them from part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

The decision means the North London Rudolf Steiner School and Wynstones School in Gloucestershire can maintain their principle of not introducing formal literacy teaching before the age of seven.

It is thought likely that all Steiner schools that have applied for exemption will have it granted, as their applications were coordinated.

Under the EYFS, pupils in all settings, whether state, independent or voluntary, are expected to start learning phonics - how letters and sounds are linked - by the age of five.

Dick Baker, a trustee of Wynstones, an independent school for three- to 18-year-olds, said the decision validated their approach.

"It's an acceptance that this is a valid teaching method," he said. "It would have been ludicrous for Ofsted, having given us good marks in the past, to come (under the new framework) and say we were now not providing a good education. We would have had to carry on and they would have had to close us down."

The Early Years curriculum, which became law last year, includes 69 early learning goals, ranging from being able to dress and undress to writing simple sentences with punctuation. But the literacy goals have been contentious, with experts, including some involved in drawing up the curriculum, saying that two are set too high.

Children are assessed at the end of the EYFS against these goals, based on observations during the year. Mr Baker said Steiner schools will still have to carry out these assessments, but will be talking to the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency about how the exemption will work.

A government spokesperson said: "To date we have received a total of 19 applications for exemptions from the EYFS. Of those that have completed the process, two applications have been granted modifications andor exemptions from the EYFS learning and development requirements."

l A survey by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, which represents pre- schools and playgroups, found most respondents felt the EYFS had benefited their setting, while just 10 per cent said it was not beneficial.

The charity surveyed 144 members, with 85 per cent saying parents were broadly supportive of the EYFS. But there was concern about the paperwork, with 45 per cent believing their administrative strain had increased significantly.

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