Petition

The Open EYE petition on the 10 Downing St website is now closed, and the government has published a response.

You can view the petition and the list of signatories here, the official government response here, and Open EYE’s reaction to that response here.

Here is the full petition text:

We, the undersigned, petition the Prime Minister to commission an urgent independent review of the compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) policy framework, and to reduce the status of its learning and development requirements to ‘professional guidelines’. We recognise the government’s good intentions in its early-years policy-making, but are concerned about the EYFS legislation, which comes into force in England next September. Our concerns focus on the learning and development requirements, as follows:

1. They may harm children’s development

2. They will restrict parents’ freedom of choice in childcare and education

3. Their assessment profile requirements may place an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on those who care for young children

4. Recent evidence suggests that government interventions in education generally may not be driving standards up and may be putting too much pressure on children

——official petition text ends——

Additional information

The following is intended to explain further the thinking behind the petition. However, please note that only the text above forms the official petition wording – which means that even if you are not entirely certain about what follows, as long as you agree with the wording above, you can sign the petition.

1. There is significant evidence to suggest that introducing formal education too early is damaging to some children in both the short and the long term, especially to boys. Consequences may include the development of unpredictable emotional and behavioural problems, unwarranted levels of stress, damage to children’s self-esteem and erosion of their enthusiasm for learning. Research has shown that 5 year olds drilled in reading and writing were outstripped four years later by children whose first year at school was more socially interactive and stimulating. Such evidence suggests that in practice (notwithstanding the reassurances offered in the legislation) the approaches to teaching that will be encouraged by broad-brush EYFS targets – such as that by the age of 5 children should “begin to form simple sentences, sometimes using punctuation” - are likely to be those which may be harmful to young children.

2. The EYFS will be mandatory across all settings – childminders, nurseries, playgroups, schools (including independent schools). We appreciate that the Government’s intention is to ensure the same high standards everywhere, but we believe that this could be better achieved by investing the necessary resources in comprehensive staff training across the field. We do not accept that the EYFS encapsulation of child development reflects the views of professionals worldwide, nor do we accept that it is acceptable to mix developmental milestones with aspirational outcomes.We note that the law allows for the Government to make regulations regarding exemptions to EYFS. However such exceptions are to be made only at the request of individual parents, and it will therefore be impossible for parents to find a childcare or educational setting which takes a different approach to the EYFS and therefore does not teach to its learning and development requirements. This is an unprecedented restriction of parents’ freedom to choose how their children are cared for and educated. It may actually increase the use of informal care, with accompanying lower standards in some cases.

3. The EYFS profile demands that carers assess children against 117 different assessment points. With less than a year to go until implementation, arrangements for carers to receive training and ongoing support are seriously inadequate. Without such training and support there is unlikely to be any consistency of assessments and random “box-ticking” is a real probability. Even once trained to do it, assessment and recording will add significantly to the workload of those who care for and work with young children. It may skew the way staff observe and interact with those children, and the paperwork required will certainly take up valuable time that could otherwise be spent with them.

4. Recent evidence – including the reports of the Cambridge Primary Review, and the latest OECD PISA report (the “international league tables”) – suggests that government-driven changes in education have been largely ineffective in driving up standards and may at worst be adversely affecting both educational standards and the quality of children’s educational experiences. We see no reason to believe that the EYFS learning and development requirements would break this pattern. In conclusion, we believe that this unprecedented legislation could lead to harmful long-term consequences and therefore contradicts the responsible “precautionary principle” which should surely be exercised in all early-year state policy-making.

To sign the petition, please visit the Downing St website.

11 Responses to Petition

  1. trivena codman says:

    as a childminder, i feel that this would put a lot of work onto myself . I work on my own and all this writing and oberservation on every child would amount to a lot of work. We dont get the same pay as teachers and schools also see us a threat

  2. Tom Shea says:

    Please let us know when the petition goes live. The whole concept of being descriptive NOT prescriptive is being constantly undermined by a set of increasingly difficult regulations and strategies that defy any kind of joined up logic.

    The best provision is a shared community (not deprived or special needs or any other form of seperatism) in a mixed economy – led by expert practitioners who know the importance of learning not teaching – high challenge low risk – respect and open support – child like not childish.

    And a real strategy is one which would bite difficult bullets – close poor provision – only financially support people who are paying good salaries to good staff teams – share resources – not compete.

  3. Mary Dawson says:

    Please allow our children to be children and learn through play and exploring. We should take a look how other countries provide care and education for their young ones and stop putting presure on them to learn at such and early age.

  4. Ashley Ramsden says:

    This contravenes the free actions that belong to any parent. Please take notice of the damage done by other counties and bodies who once advocated this approach

  5. Jen DeSilva says:

    The increased emphasis on teaching academics to the under fives and stimulating cerebrums as early as possible is misguided. Under fives should be learning through exploratory play, every day life activities, creative activities, social role playing and music and movement. Placing too much emphasis on seated activities requiring fine motor control and promoting cerebral development before other skills are fine tuned such as gross motor, postural control, attention, social skills and sensory integration may result in kids who over rely on their cerebrums but who lack body awareness, understanding of the world and their place in it and whole language comprehension and expression.
    Steering children to perform a skill they are not developmentally ready for can be detrimental for self esteem and adversely effect future responses to learning opportunities. They may learn to anticipate that the task will be ‘too hard for them’, producing feelings of inadequacy.

    Children should be allowed to develop at their natural pace and teachers should be guided by the child’s observable readiness. They should not to have their curriculum be dictated by government imposed performance standards. Teachers should instead be empowered to teach using a variety of approaches to suit the learning needs of each individual child.

    If the teaching method is imposed by government then:

    a/ parents will lose the right to choose the teaching environment to suit the needs of their individual child.
    b/ children with a dominant right brain learning style (the creative child who needs kinesthetic and visual approaches) will not achieve to their fullest in a very left brain environment such as the traditional classroom with emphasis on reading writing and arithmetic (left brain environments appeal to logic, language and auditory verbal learners). Most kids need a combination of right and left brain activities.

    If performance standards are imposed by the government then:

    a/ Teaching will become academic outcome focused and process may become secondary to the end result
    b/ academic achievement will take precedence over lifeskills, social skills and creative and freeplay
    c/ Art, music and movement activities will be reduced on programmes. These are key activities at this early stage of development when body and sensory systems are still immature.
    d/ kids will be required to sit at desks for longer than their bodies and minds are ready for

    I hope that government reconsiders this legislation and amends to allow for parental choice. Parents should have the right to choose that their children learn through play rather than be pressured academically at this early stage in their development.

    Jen DeSilva, Parent, Occupational Therapist and Certified Yogakids Teacher

  6. Nick Godwin says:

    As a former Steiner Waldorf teacher, and now a care manager at special needs college for 16+ year olds, I am dismayed at this panic driven measure devised by legislators with obviously no understanding of the developmental processes of young children, and the long term damage that will be inflicted on future generations of children if this measure is imposed on nurseries in the UK.
    There is ample evidence that formal schooling is most effective if it is introduce at stages that best suit the child rather than the economic ambitions of government.
    This is another exaple of the thinking that considers ‘quantity’, i.e. total years spent learning to read, as overriding ‘quality’, i.e. considering judiciously how a policy will impact on those who will be most affected by it – the children.
    My own prediction is that if this policy is enacted, we will reap a harvest in years to come of dramatically increased numbers of teenagers with learning and emotional difficulties from having been denied the opportunities to develop appropriately at the relevent age through play and imitation and, instead, force fed instruction they are simply not ready to digest or manage.

  7. Demelza Rouncefield says:

    I agree to sign the petition agaisnt the government enforcing 3year olds to start reading. May childhood remain!

  8. Michael says:

    Children develop differently, at different stages and any attempt to classify this development in some sort of typography will lead to some being held back and others being advanced erroneously. It will also lead to children being unneccessarily pressurised as child care workers badger them to do things to ensure that government targets are adequately met. Anyone who diagrees needs only to look at the stress under which children are currently in mainstream schooling which appears to value quantifiable results over qualifiable development.

    EVERYONE should fight the EYFS with every fibre of their being. It is not only detrimental to childhood development, but the pressures it will lead to will qualify as little more than state approved child abuse. Under no circumstances should the EYFS be implemented as anything other than a set of state approved guidelines for child development. Development cannot and should not be measured by tick boxes. Any attempt to do so is as misguided as it is unethical and wrong.

  9. Please let children enjoy their childhood and learn about the world through play!

  10. mary kirk says:

    The increased emphasis on teaching academics to the under fives and stimulating cerebrums as early as possible is misguided. Under fives should be learning through exploratory play, every day life activities, creative activities, social role playing and music and movement. Placing too much emphasis on seated activities requiring fine motor control and promoting cerebral development before other skills are fine tuned such as gross motor, postural control, attention, social skills and sensory integration may result in kids who over rely on their cerebrums but who lack body awareness, understanding of the world and their place in it and whole language comprehension and expression.
    Steering children to perform a skill they are not developmentally ready for can be detrimental for self esteem and adversely effect future responses to learning opportunities. They may learn to anticipate that the task will be ‘too hard for them’, producing feelings of inadequacy.

    Children should be allowed to develop at their natural pace and teachers should be guided by the child’s observable readiness. They should not to have their curriculum be dictated by government imposed performance standards. Teachers should instead be empowered to teach using a variety of approaches to suit the learning needs of each individual child.

    If the teaching method is imposed by government then:

    a/ parents will lose the right to choose the teaching environment to suit the needs of their individual child.
    b/ children with a dominant right brain learning style (the creative child who needs kinesthetic and visual approaches) will not achieve to their fullest in a very left brain environment such as the traditional classroom with emphasis on reading writing and arithmetic (left brain environments appeal to logic, language and auditory verbal learners). Most kids need a combination of right and left brain activities.

    If performance standards are imposed by the government then:

    a/ Teaching will become academic outcome focused and process may become secondary to the end result
    b/ academic achievement will take precedence over lifeskills, social skills and creative and freeplay
    c/ Art, music and movement activities will be reduced on programmes. These are key activities at this early stage of development when body and sensory systems are still immature.
    d/ kids will be required to sit at desks for longer than their bodies and minds are ready for

    I hope that government reconsiders this legislation and amends to allow for parental choice. Parents should have the right to choose that their children learn through play rather than be pressured academically at this early stage in their development.

  11. Viv Channing says:

    FE teachers in all subject areas often work with those who find reading and writing difficult and unenjoyable. Performance target will only aggravate this.

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