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Government EYFS reforms are a backward step

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Wednesday, 1 July, 2020

DfE has today published its response to the consultation on the EYFS reforms.

It confirms that while the broad framework of the EYFS will remain the same, there has been a complete rewrite of the Early Learning Goals at the end of Reception and the Educational Programmes which describe the Areas of Learning.

Early Education and other sector bodies have worked as a coalition to offer our expertise, support and advice to government over the last two years.  Concerned that the government was not basing its reforms on a comprehensive evidence base similar to the Tickell Review, the coalition commissioned a review of the research literature to inform the process.  We also carried out a survey of practitioners to which 3000 people responded.  Both reports were published and shared with the sector and with government.  Key messages from these reports have been ignored by government.  Practitioners were clear that the EYFS did not need extensive reform.  The literature review emphasised the importance of the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning and the Prime Areas.  It confirmed the interrelated nature of the seven areas of learning and found no evidence that literacy and numeracy should be prioritised over other areas.  It also advocated for the importance of play and hybrid pedagogies.

There is little evidence that any of this was taken into account in the reforms to the EYFS.  Few of the concerns about the EYFS reforms which we previously published have been addressed by government.  We remain concerned that these reforms:

  • will not improve children's outcomes or close the disadvantage gap
  • will not reduce practitioners' workloads

In other words, they will not achieve ministers' stated objectives.

Early Education's Chief Executive, Beatrice Merrick, said:

“The reforms to the EYFS are a missed opportunity to make this world-renowned framework even better, to improve outcomes for all children and to close the gap for the most disadvantaged.  Government has not listened to the members of Early Education and the other sector organisations which came together as a coalition to offer our expertise, based on implementing principled early  years pedagogy with children on a daily basis.  Despite claiming it wishes to reduce workload, the government has made wholesale changes which will create additional work without improving practice.  We cannot imagine why any schools would wish to be an early adopter of an untried framework at the same time as they are supporting children returning to school after COVID-19.  Reception teachers need to be fully focused on meeting children’s needs, not on getting to grips with a new framework or set of Early Learning Goals.”

Early Education has issued advice to headteachers and leaders about early adoption of the revised EYFS.

Notes to editors: 

Early Education (The British Association for Early Childhood Education) is the leading independent national charity for early years practitioners and parents, campaigning for the right of all children to education of the highest quality. Founded in 1923, it has members in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and provides a national voice on matters that relate to effective early childhood education and care of young children from birth to eight. The organisation supports the professional development of practitioners through publications, training, conferences, seminars and access to a national and regional branch network. For more information on the work of Early Education visit www.early-education.org.uk