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