Open EYE Questions the Latest DCSF EYFS Consultation

February 20, 2009

The DCSF consultation document ‘Early Years Foundation Stage Profile Data Arrangements’ states that it intends to “amend existing regulations to allow local authorities to collect Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP) data and supporting individual child level information from non-funded early years providers”, and to enable “local authorities to collect EYFSP information from schools which are exempt from registration with Ofsted and who are not funded to provide the free entitlement”.

Setting aside the wider question of the degree to which such consultations are ever genuinely open rather than mere rubber-stamping exercises, we first wish to highlight the narrowly defined consultation questions, being deliberately skewed, it seems, towards presupposing precisely that which should be open to consultation. Nowhere in the questions, for example, does it ask ‘providers’ to share their experience of collecting the EYFS profiling data to date, and the extent to which the process is burdensome – an extraordinary omission in a consultation about the efficacy of extending that very profiling assessment procedure, and the ‘costs’ thereof.

Settings which previously used these assessments in a loose and deliberately informal way will now immediately have to bureaucratise and formalise the process  – which will likely fundamentally compromise the quality of attention they can give to their children, and also further institutionalise an assessment process which many believe to be harmful, unnecessary and wasteful. It is therefore untrue and misleading to assert, as the DCSF cost assessment document does, that “There will be no change in burdens on early years providers in completing the EYFS profile” resulting from the proposed changes.

It will also mean that settings such as Steiner Kindergartens, which on principle reject some of the key EYFS learning requirements, will be placed in the intolerable position of having to submit very low or ‘zero’ scores on certain measurement indices which, they believe, it would be abusive to their children for them to measure. It is totally unacceptable that early-years professionals’ professional autonomy be further eroded in this way, and that some settings may well henceforth receive ‘bad marks’ not because they are poor settings, but because they reject on principle the government’s ideological and highly contested approach to mandatory literacy and numeracy ‘requirements’.

The proposed developments also represent a further consolidation and entrenchment of an assessment system that we already know many early-years providers to be finding intolerable to work with, and a major intrusion into the quality of their work with young children. This development also represents a significant further curtailment of parents’ basic right to be able to choose an early-years setting in which their children are not subject to the ‘normalising’ gaze of the State, which a rapidly growing number of parents find so objectionable.

Many believe that the EYFS as currently constituted, with its accompanying bureaucratisation and schoolification of the early-years sector, will have a negative impact on quality provision in the longer run; and these changes actually entrench still further what is already a deeply flawed framework.

Next, the extract in section 3:3 indicates once more that the DCFS does not really understand the significance of demanding the Profile from all children at the end of the academic year in which they turn 5, as they still seem to imply that the EYFS extends to the end of Reception – which it should, but it doesn’t! The document states that the profile will be completed “in almost all cases” by reception class teachers in maintained schools or equivalent classes in independent schools. This is not accurate, as a noteworthy number are completed by nursery settings when their children are still four, as many are five before the 31st August in that year. This is just one more reason why the EYFS should be extended to the end of Year 1.

It is also extraordinary, finally, that in the DCSF’s ‘impact assessment’ document, the costs of the intended changes are merely estimated in crude financial/salary terms, without any consideration being given to the impact of these changes on quality of provision and experience. This lacuna is symptomatic of the mechanistic, utilitarian philosophy that underpins and informs the ‘delivery’ of the EYFS, with its preoccupation with assessment and compulsive ‘outcome-itis’.

The consultation can be completed on line by following this link and clicking on “Respond online” – parents as well as practitioners and local authorities are able to send a submission.

Richard House and Kim Simpson, for Open EYE