We call for review of early years law

We share a profound concern about England's early years foundation stage (EYFS) legislation, which becomes law next autumn. We believe it to be fundamentally flawed in conception, with net harm likely to be done to children due to the framework's contestable assumptions and unintended consequences.

Young children learn most naturally and effectively through a subtle balance of free play, movement, rhythm, repetition and imitation. An overly formal, academic andor cognitively biased curriculum, however carefully camouflaged, distorts this learning experience; and an early head start in literacy is now known to precipitate unforeseen difficulties later on, sometimes including unpredictable emotional and behavioural problems.

Legally enshrining a model of child development allows no space for very different but equally plausible developmental frameworks. The age bands and associated age-related goals in the EYFS are also quite arbitrary, with little if any coherent developmental rationale; and to impose a compulsory legal framework on what are pre-compulsory school-age children may well have profound civil rights implications.

Caring for babies and toddlers is deeply personal, involving immeasurable qualities such as attunement and responsiveness. A one-size-fits-all framework that needs copious record-keeping risks substituting bureaucracy for care. So we call on the Government to commission an urgent independent review of EYFS, allowing diverse conceptions of child development to flourish without undue compromise, and to reduce the status of EYFS to professional guidelines, free of legal compulsion, so safeguarding the professionalism and freedom of practitioners who have principled objections to the framework.

Many feel unable to speak out against EYFS for fear of career reprisals; others feel helpless to influence government thinking. So the Department for Children, Schools and Familes may be unaware of the level of opposition. We call on practitioners, academics, administrators, teacher-trainers and parents to join our Open Eye campaign for the very heart of childhood.

- For more details or to join the Open Eye campaign, email: r.house@roehampton.ac.uk

Tim Brighouse, Margaret Edgington, Richard House, Penelope Leach, Bel Mooney, Lynne Oldfield, Sue Palmer and others.

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