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September 2012 has seen the revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) come into effect, compiled from an independent review carried out by Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of Action for Children.
Day nurseries and pre-schools across England are now tasked with demonstrating their compliance, with the help of supplementary documents available from the Department for Education.
Revised to achieve a simpler framework for early years providers, key commitments the governments aims for the new EYFS to achieve include: a significant reduction in the level of bureaucracy providers face; a simplifying of key early learning goals (now numbering 17 as opposed to 69); the strengthening of partnerships between professionals and parents; and a stronger emphasis on the ‘three prime areas’ of learning, being communication and language, physical, and personal, social and emotional development.
Children will also receive a ‘Healthy Child review’ at the age of two, carried out by visiting health visitors and designed to outline any further support required in the remainder of the early years period before each child is faced with the challenges of full-time education.
According to the now former education secretary, Michael Gove (replaced in last week’s ministerial reshuffle by Liberal Democrat David Laws), the new framework amounts to “the first phase of deregulation for the early years sector”.
Chief executive of the 4Children, Anne Longfield OBE, is pleased to see the new framework come into effect, commenting:
“From this week, the implementation of the revised EYFS framework will help to free up the burdens of excessive paperwork and bureaucracy associated with the early years workforce. This will help to support the early years sector in driving its own improvement whilst giving children more of the time and attention that they deserve.
“As strategic partners of the Department for Education on their Early Years work we have seen how rigorous the consultation with practitioners has been in devising these revisions. We firmly believe that the reviews to the framework will firmly focus on the most important aspects of Early Years provision such as interactions with children.
“The quality of early year’s provision can have a real impact on a child’s long term school experience as well as their broader life chances. By placing the deserved emphasis upon professionals’ capacity and parents’ involvement, the Early Years Foundation Stage can get children off to the best possible start.”
Chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil Leitch, was pleased to see that children themselves were the key focus of the new framework, saying: “We welcome and applaud the Government’s revised EYFS as it restates that the child is at the centre of the framework and focuses on the needs of young children at all points.
“We also welcome that the EYFS reinforces the Alliance’s core belief of learning through play, and that there will be a reduction in the amount of paperwork and bureaucracy that early years practitioners face.”
One of the elements of the revised EYFS is for nurseries to strengthen their relationships with parents.
Maggie Barrett, nursery manager at The Old Station Nursery in Faringdon, says: “The newly revised EYFS came into force in September and has an increased emphasis on partnership with parents. Since I started, we have already begun to increase parental participation.
“For me the most important aspect of working with babies and children is partnership with parents. By building up a good working relationship with parents we can get a much better picture of each child and ensure that their time at nursery reflects their home life.”
Earlier this year, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) raised the issue of training on the revised EYFS, with chief executive, Purnima Tanuku, claiming the window was “very short” for staff to receive training on the new framework.
Funded training has also been an issue with nurseries undergoing a postcode lottery in terms of free training due to local authority budget cuts.
Stella Ziolkowski, the National Day Nurseries Association’s director of quality and workforce development, revealed that feedback from nurseries showed approximately 40 per cent of local authorities were only partly subsidising their training programmes and a further 35 per cent did not fund any training at all.
Large chains with more money opted to go it alone and ran their own inhouse training on the revised EYFS.
Andy Morris, Asquith's chief executive said: “Asquith has spent four months training up its staff for the revised EYFS but it will take time to bed in.”
Under the revised EYFS, practitioners are also expected to carry out a two year old progress check and many have expressed anxiety about this. The success of the check is very much dependent on nursery practitioners’ knowledge of development as they have to provide a summary of a child’s language and communication and identify children who are struggling, according to the Communication Trust.
Lisa Morgan, professional director for The Communication Trust says its effectiveness is “entirely dependent on practitioners having a strong understanding of how and when children develop language, alongside effective skills in observing how young children are actually communicating.”
Asquith has already devised its own system for the two year old progress checks.
“On the subject of two year old checks, we have put a tracking system in place to support latest EYFS revisions. Every child’s progress is constantly monitored and measured for evolving achievement over each 12 week period,” says Cathy Hart, Asquith’s training manager.
Further consultations are planned to take place this autumn, with Ofsted having announced it will consider making its response to inspection results stricter, having previously considered changing its ‘satisfactory’ rating to ‘requires improvement’, and its ‘inadequate’ rating to ‘requires significant improvement’.