The past week has seen a deluge of media coverage surrounding the legal deadline for implementing England’s new EYFS, which came into law from Monday 1st September, and with which the entire early-years sector in England has to comply by law, unless they manage to negotiate an exemption from the minister. Open EYE has been inundated with media inquiries, and we have appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme (Kim Simpson), Sky News (Kim and Sue Palmer) and BBC Radio Wales (Richard House) – to name just a few of campaign members’ recent media appearances.
It is most telling that website ‘comment boards’ for responses to EYFS articles in the Daily Telegraph (61 posted comments to date), The Times (22 posted comments to date) and for MSN News (71 postings to date) contain comments that are virtually unanimous in criticising England’s EYFS, for all manner of reasons – and with very few postings actually supporting it. See also the Daily Telegraph report, ‘Pre-school children to start work on ‘nappy curriculum’ of 69 education targets’, 30 August.
It seems quite clear that the Zeitgiest is turning – and Open EYE will be re-doubling its campaigning efforts in the coming weeks and months, as the shortcomings we have highlighted in England’s EYFS begin to manifest. Our eyes will also be open and alert to see how the recently launched Welsh Foundation Stage fares – as in crucial respects, it is very different from, and far more child-centred than, England’s EYFS – specifically:
(1) A gradual, graduated and above-all careful introduction: when the Welsh Education Department saw that there were some initial glitches (in their case, regarding the funding of the new framework), rather than rush on with implementation, they have been appropriately cautious and graduated with its introduction – unlike in England;
(2) The Welsh Foundation Stage crucially runs up to seven years of age – i.e. TWO FULL YEARS longer than England’s – which immediately makes an enormous difference;
(3) The Welsh FS places social and personal development (which includes spiritual development) at its heart – unlike the chronic bias in our own EYFS’s assessment profiling process towards early literacy and numeracy.
(4) Following the Scandinavian model, Wales’s FS quite explicitly places the outdoors and experiential learning at its core – again, a substantial difference in emphasis from the English EYFS.
Scotland has not, as of yet, introduced, or even decided upon, an early-years Foundation Stage – and as in the Welsh case, they are seeking to draw upon the widest international experience before deciding upon what is best for their children. One has to ask why such a systematic and responsible process seems to have been lacking in England’s case.