'Nappy curriculum' is leaving a nasty smell

18th February 2011 at 00:00

In its uncritical endorsement of the EYFS, Ofsted is making the same elementary "category error" that is repeatedly made in pronouncements on the framework.

This error takes a number of forms, but most important is the routine failure to make any distinction between process and content. Early-years practitioners will understandably welcome an officially sanctioned framework for their work for a whole host of reasons which are quite independent of the actual content of the framework itself.

These could include the way it responds to practitioners' hopes for security and enhanced-status career paths, and the way in which it empowers practitioners to organise and systematically think about their work in a phase of child development, which always threatens to degenerate into uncontainable chaos.

These and many other laudable functions are undoubtedly amply fulfilled by the EYFS as a monolithic entity. Yet many commentators believe this to be in spite of, rather than because of, the framework, many specific aspects of which are deeply problematic and contradictory.

If it is to be remotely useful and authoritative, Dame Clare Tickell's forthcoming EYFS review must transcend superficial sound-bite thinking and get right to the heart of what has been useful about the framework - and what hasn't. Undiscriminating pronouncements like that of Ofsted are distinctly unhelpful in encouraging the kind of subtle, discriminating analytical thinking that an effective review of this kind will necessarily require.

Dr Richard House, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education, Roehampton University.

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