Early Years Foundation Stage to be slimmed down


Dame Clare Tickell has recommending that the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is radically slimmed down to make it easier to understand, less burdensome and more focused on making sure children start school ready to learn.

Setting out her recommendations in a new report, Dame Clare says that while parents and early years professionals agree that the EYFS has had a positive impact on children’s outcomes and helped to raise standards, in its current form there is far too much time spent filling in forms and not enough interacting with children. She says the EYFS needs to be simplified and made even more accessible for parents and practitioners.

The current EYFS has 6 areas of learning and 69 learning goals. These goals are used to monitor children’s progress while they are in pre-school. At the age of 5 they are assessed against these goals, on a 117 point scale, as part of the EYFS profile.

Dame Clare Tickell said: "The earliest years in a child’s life are absolutely critical. Next to a loving and stable home environment, high quality early years education is one of the most important factors in a child’s development. It’s clear that the current EYFS has helped to improve outcomes and is popular with parents and professionals who welcome a framework that lets them know how children are developing.

But it’s far from perfect. The current EYFS is cumbersome, repetitive and unnecessarily bureaucratic. And it isn’t doing enough to engage parents in their child’s development or make sure children are starting school with the basic skills they need to be ready to learn."

Commenting on the independent report, Christine Blower, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said: “Reducing from 69 to 17 the benchmarks for young children is a victory for common sense. The EYFS had become a bureaucratic nightmare.

“Young children develop at different rates so it is essential the goals set for them are appropriate. They should be play based. The focus on literacy and numeracy risks moving to a formal approach to learning at far too early an age, especially in reception classes.

“The NUT regrets the fact that Sarah Teather removed the requirement to employ qualified teachers in children’s centres. It was a cost-cutting measure that has been to the detriment of, in particular, the most disadvantaged children.

“Cuts to local authority budgets are threatening the very existence of children’s centres and early years provision. This is an appalling situation which will simply lead to an increase in social disadvantage. If the Government is serious about addressing inequality it needs to rethink its cuts agenda”.

Dame Clare’s recommendations include:

  • Significantly reducing the number of early learning goals children are assessed against at age five from 69 to 17.
  • Parents to get a summary of their child’s development, alongside the health visitor check at age two, to help identify any early problems or special educational needs.
  • A new focus on three prime areas which are the foundations for children’s ability to learn and develop healthily: personal, social and emotional development; communication and language; and physical development.
  • Beneath these should be four areas of learning where these skills are applied: literacy, mathematics, expressive arts and design and understanding the world.
  • With the three new prime areas of learning, a greater emphasis on making sure children have the basic social, emotional communication and language skills they need to learn and thrive at school – things like being able to make friends and listen effectively. There should also be a stronger link between the EYFS and what is expected of children in KS1.
  • Freeing the workforce from unnecessary bureaucracy so they can spend more time interacting with children – including scrapping written risk assessments for nursery trips and outings.
  • All early years practitioners to have at least a level 3 qualification (which is equivalent to A level) and the Government should consider applying the ‘teaching schools’ model to the early years.
  • Ofsted should be clearer on what is required of settings when they are inspected to help reduce high levels of paperwork.
  • Independent schools should be allowed to apply to opt out of the learning and development part of the EYFS, and the exemptions process should be made easier.