By Lynne Oldfield
‘Why stage a protest now?’ and ‘Why protest at all?’ asked Nursery World’s editorial when we launched the Open Eye campaign against the Early Years Foundation Stage becoming compulsory (6 December).
Why protest now? The early years sector has been moved from non-compulsory, funding-linked desirable outcomes to compulsory, law-linked learning requirements in the space of ten years. Concerns have certainly been expressed in regard to the six learning goals, but until September 2008 the concerned could choose not to comply by sacrificing the possibility of funding. That choice is about to be removed and replaced by the force of law. The Government will succeed in imposing its own educational paradigm on movements such as Steiner and Montessori. After the low-key consultation process, an exemption for non-compliance for ‘providers who base their provision on alternative approaches which conflict with the statutory requirements with respect to learning and development’ was changed to exemption possibilities only on a ‘short term basis for providers who lack the capacity to meet the full requirements’ (of the EYFS). Why protest at all? A well-trained and experienced early years educator with an understanding of the emotional, cognitive and physical development of four-year-olds must protest at being forced to accept a ‘legal duty’ to ensure that four-year-olds in their care begin to achieve before entering compulsory schooling the ability to ‘read more complex words using phonic knowledge’; ‘read a range of familiar and common words and simple sentences independently’; ‘use phonic knowledge to write simple regular words and make simple sentences’. And this is before we even begin to consider questions of parents’ rights to choose, diversity agendas, civil liberties and ‘undue authority’ of the state, and more importantly, the loss of childhood.
By Lynne Oldfield, director of London Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Training, co-founder of Open Eye and author of Free to Learn. First published in Nursery World.