Open EYE believes that the government’s response to our petition on the Downing Street Website is inadequate and fails to address our concerns about the learning and development requirements of the EYFS.
We have issued a press release outlining our reaction, the full text of which is as follows:
Open EYE Condemns the Government’s Response to its Downing Street Petition on the Early Years Foundation Stage
In December 2007, a Downing Street petition expressing concerns about the government’s impending Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) was launched by the Open EYE Campaign for Open Early Childhood Learning, along with Open Letters published prominently in The Times and the Times Educational Supplement. A response has finally been received from the government to the petition, which was signed by approaching 10,000 citizens, when hard-copy signatories are included in the total.
In our original petition, it was argued that the compulsory EYFS’s Learning and Development Requirements ‘may harm children’s development; they will restrict parents’ freedom of choice in childcare and education; and their assessment profile requirements may place an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on those who care for young children’. In the light of these concerns, we urged the Prime Minister ‘to commission an urgent independent review of the mandatory EYFS policy framework, and to reduce the status of its learning and development requirements to “professional guidelines”.’
Because of the overwhelming support our core concerns have attracted, we feel strongly that the government’s response to the petition is wholly inadequate, and does not begin to address the concerns that have been raised not only by our campaign, but independently by early years experts, practitioners and parents across the country. In effect, they have ‘brushed aside’ those concerns when they could, at the very least, have acknowledged that they were worthy of consideration and review.
Open EYE’s rejoinder to the government’s response falls under seven headings. To summarise, we assert:
first, that the aim of ‘ensuring that every child in [practitioners’] care is able to benefit from the advantages that good quality and consistent care provides’ cannot be achieved by legislation or published guidance – rather, it is achieved by sensitive and knowledgeable practitioners, which we do not have in every setting in England at the moment;
secondly, that the government’s invoking of ‘research’ to support its case is at the very least misleadingly one-sided, and, at worst, a complete denial of the mass of international research which offers a more balanced and different view of early childhood development with its subsequent enhanced learning outcomes – such as the Scandinavian models;
thirdly, that there is a considerable gulf between the vested interests working for, and in collaboration with, government, and those vociferous concerned voices who have no other motivation than that of ensuring that young children are enabled to enjoy their childhood free of the pressures that come from a goal-driven system;
fourthly, that one of Open EYE’s central concerns, the requirement to teach towards inappropriate literacy and numeracy goals, is comprehensively ignored in the government’s response;
fifthly, that with extraordinary complacency, the government statement ignores the collateral impacts of the local authority outcome requirements, and the well-documented negative effects they are already having on both the quality of practitioners thinking, and on early-years practice on the ground;
sixthly, that the Government deliberately misleads when it claims that ‘the only statutory requirement to write anything down is that practitioners must complete an EYFS profile for each child in the year they turn five’. Why, then, do many recent OFSTED reports ask providers to: ‘explore ways of recording observations of children’s progress, linking these to the Early Years Foundation Stage and identifying children’s next steps in learning’? (OFSTED inspection of a childminder – 18.11.08);
finally, that the Department’s so-called ‘exemptions procedure’ is a fig-leaf of an exercise, which has been quite deliberately, even cynically designed in order to deter anyone from applying – and those that have applied for exemption are already being refused.
There are many other tell-tale indicators that we could invoke, like the precipitate and sustained decline in the number of registered childminders since the pending introduction of EYFS.
As it passes its first birthday, Open EYE will be redoubling its efforts to persuade government and other political parties to review the mandatory requirements for learning and development set out in the EYFS framework. Specifically, over the coming months, Open EYE will be:
assisting and supporting any early-years provider who wishes to seek exemption from the EYFS, and will monitor and publish the detail of the procedure, in order to expose to public scrutiny the extent to which the process is open and achievable;
holding lobbying meetings in Parliament to galvanise and build upon the almost 100 MPs who have signed Annette Brooke’s Early Day Motion # 1032;
pusuing the theme of ‘schoolification’ of the early years, couched as it is within the wider cultural concerns about children growing up prematurely in modern society;
pursuing the accumulating research showing the negative effects of Information and Computer Technology (ICT), on young children, and strongly challenging its uncritical and enthusiastic enshrinement in the EYFS framework;
taking up major and mounting concerns about boys’ development and learning, and ways in which the compulsory EYFS process is imposing developmentally inappropriate demands upon them.
Open EYE has always consistently maintained that our issues are not with the Welfare Requirements (which are essential for safeguarding children) or with the Guidance aspects of the EYFS (which can be a valuable resource for all those involved in caring in the early years). We are, however, dismayed that the government’s response to our substantial petition and cacophony of concerned voices does not begin to address the challenges we have raised about aspects of the EYFS. We also conclude that, as the government with all the resources and expertise at its disposal is unable to make even the beginnings of a viable defence of its legal framework, this strongly suggests that it is indeed fatally flawed – and Open EYE will continue to attempt to persuade government to realise that our concerns are genuine, and have childhood firmly placed at their centre.
PRESS RELEASE ENDS