Early Education has today issued a detailed commentary on the revisions to the EYFS Statutory Framework issued by DfE, available for download to ensure that not only our members but the entirety of the early years community can benefit from the in-depth knowledge brought to bear on these drafts, and their potential impact if implemented. Read the Executive Summary below, or download the detailed commentary document in full (PDF file).
Although government has presented this as a review of the Early Learning Goals (ELGs) only, it is far more extensive than this. Effectively it is a rewrite of the EYFS curriculum by the back door, as the Areas of Learning section has been re-written, and the Characteristics of Effective Learning have been made non-statutory [please see update on this]. The DfE claim a mandate to review the ELGs and the EYFSP on the back of the Primary Assessment questionnaire – which is at best dubious given the lack of input from the early years sector. It certainly did not provide a mandate to review the EYFS as a whole. Examples of the changes to the curriculum which would result from the new draft are that Shape, Space and Measure and Technology disappear not only from the ELGs, but also from the Areas of Learning. There are many more detailed changes in the wording of individual areas which will have significant impact. Early Education is keen to help DfE ministers and officials understand the implications of the proposed changes and improve on its current draft amendments to the EYFS Statutory Framework.
We support the Minister’s aims to reduce workload and improve children’s communication and language skills. Unfortunately, the proposed revisions are unlikely to do either.
The minister suggests that workload can be reduced by clearer advice that practitioners should not collect excessive amounts of data, and that their professional judgement can be relied on in making assessments of children’s learning and development. This is welcome but this will be brought about by changes to guidance and improvements to the moderation process, neither of which are directly linked to the changes to the ELGs.
The wholesale changes to the ELGs and the descriptions of what educational programmes should cover for each Area of Learning will involve a considerable workload for practitioners across the EYFS in familiarising themselves with the new versions. We support changes where they improve on the current version, but not for the sake of change, as this creates unnecessary work.
The wording of the new ELGs will add to workload in some cases through the excessively specific nature of the wording (eg “Say a sound for each letter in the alphabet and at least 10 digraphs” could require a tick list of 36 items, for just one sub-section of an ELG) and in others through being too vague (what does “Demonstrate strength, balance and coordination” entail?)
The revised ELGs will not improve children’s communication and language, nor practitioners’ understanding of how to support this. The new version puts increased emphasis on Literacy by increasing the number of Literacy ELGs, at the expense of Communication and Language. The draft goals in their current form are not based in the extensive research evidence about how young children learn language.
The government’s commitment to social mobility and to closing the achievement gap will not be helped by the new draft ELGs, which will exacerbate the current problem of ELGs for literacy and maths being set too high. This will impact most on the children who are summer-born, have EAL or SEND, boys and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Unrealistic ELGs will set up more children to fail. The best way to close the achievement gap is not to set unrealistic targets, but to ensure the ELGs support those aspects of the EYFS pedagogy which best ensure children’s future success: including, and especially, the characteristics of effective learning (CoEL).
The bulleted format of the new ELGs will encourage a tick-list approach, instead of the best fit model which was - and the document states is still - the intended approach, and which is necessary and appropriate to adhere to the statutory principles of assessment contained in the EYFS. The best fit model is based on the principle, to which the new draft gives welcome recognition, of teachers making professionally informed judgements about children’s progress.
It is vital that this draft is now extensively overhauled by those with detailed early years expertise in each Area of Learning.