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A review has revealed 'overwhelming support' for Reception to remain part of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), rather than be moved into Key Stage 1.
More than 4,000 Reception teachers, head teachers and school leaders contributed to the Hundred Review, which was launched last year by training organisation Early Excellence.
Respondents had 'unanimous' support for keeping Reception within the EYFS framework – rather than moving it into the more formal national curriculum.
They also said that if Year 1 teachers could adopt the early years play-based approach – rather than their current more formal focus – children would do better.
Jan Dubiel, national director of Early Excellence, said the Hundred Review provided "valuable insights into how effective the Reception year practice works and the challenges, tensions and pressures that early years practitioners face."
Reinforcing commitment and passion
He said: "We are pleased to see such strong support and commitment for Reception year as we know it is vital to a child’s development. The learning behaviours acquired in a child’s early years, such as self-regulation, resilience and empathy, have a significant impact on life chances, and employment prospects in particular.
"Due to the nature of how children learn these important life skills, I am encouraged by the finding that the vast majority of practitioners use observational assessment to gather information about children and that they believe this is how effective assessment should take place in the future.
"The Hundred Review reinforces again the commitment and passion that early years practitioners have for doing the best for their children, and it’s important they receive the best support possible to help them deliver successful outcomes."
The review comes after an earlier report from the Teaching Schools Council, which said that the Reception year "needed an overhaul" as the gap between expectations in the Reception year and Year 1 had grown since the new national curriculum was introduced.
Participants of the review agreed that effective learning in Reception must consist of a balance of child-initiated and adult directed approaches, and that these must be differentiated for children’s levels of development.
Whilst all Reception teachers were found to provide focused daily maths, literacy and phonics activities – the review added that it was not always understood that in order to do well in literacy and maths later on in school, children needed to develop broader skills.
It also found concerns that schools’ senior management teams often put pressure on Reception teachers to move to a more formal approach.
Natalie, an early years teacher from Battyeford Primary in Wakefield, said: "The Hundred Review has been a great opportunity for the voices of people who love teaching in Reception Year and understand best practice to be heard. Hopefully, together we can let children be children and develop their love of learning."
'Children deserve the best start'
The Hundred Review also found there to be a lack of clarity and consensus on key terminology in Reception. In response, Early Excellence has called for a national symposium to be convened to reach shared agreement on definition and application of practice.
With the Government currently consulting on primary assessment, The Hundred Review confirmed that the vast majority of practitioners use observational assessment to gather information about children and believe that this, rather than formal testing, is the “most appropriate” form of assessment for Reception children.
Chris Currie, a headteacher at Dixons Academy in Bradford, and a participant in the Hundred Review, added: "I am delighted that Early Excellence has conducted this Hundred Review. Children deserve the best start to their education possible and the Reception year lays the foundation for building lifelong skills."
Early Excellence is a national leader in early years education, providing a range of services to practitioners including consultancy, training and the provision of bespoke equipment.
The Hundred Review is based on 4,250 responses to an online survey, visits to 44 schools, a series of focus groups and a review of academic research.
For more information go to: http://earlyexcellence.com/hundredreview/