Beatrice Merrick takes you through the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Reforms and what it will mean for your setting…
From September 2021, there will be changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), applicable to all early years providers from birth to five.
For all childminders and PVIs and many schools there’s no need to worry: you have a year until the changes become statutory, so you have plenty of time to get to grips with the changes.
However, schools were given the option to be early adopters from September 2020 before Covid-19 hit, and despite having since been given the option to opt out again to focus on supporting children’s return in the autumn, some may still be planning to go ahead with early adoption.
If you work in a school make sure you know whether or not it is an early adopter.
The EYFS is a well-respected framework around the world, and a survey of practitioners we carried out in 2019 confirmed that practitioners did not think it needed much in the way of reform.
So it’s good news that the overall structure of the EYFS will remain the same. Key components that remain include:
The safeguarding and welfare requirements also stay the same, apart from a small amendment to add a duty to promote good oral health.
Much remains the same, but there are changes and the devil is in the detail.
For instance, the COETL are weakened in the new framework. The current framework says: “In planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners must reflect on the different ways that children learn and reflect these in their practice” and then sets out the three characteristics.
The new framework says: “In planning and guiding children’s activities, practitioners must reflect on the different rates at which children are developing and adjust their practice appropriately.”
This is muddled, as the COETL are about how children learn, not how quickly.
Moreover, the requirement to report on the COETL in the EYFS Profile has been watered down to a choice instead of a requirement.
Recent research emphasises the importance of the COETL for children’s future learning so if anything they should have had a greater emphasis.
The COETL should remain a key focus for your observations, so adding a comment in the Profile should not be time-consuming, meaning there is no need to discontinue this important practice.
In the new framework, the explanation of the relationship between the prime and specific areas is not as clear as before.
The current framework says: “Practitioners working with the youngest children are expected to focus strongly on the three prime areas, which are the basis for successful learning in the other four specific areas”.
In the new framework this changes to “Practitioners working with the youngest children are expected to ensure a strong foundation for children’s development in the three prime areas. The specific areas of learning provide children with a broad curriculum and with opportunities to strengthen and apply the prime areas of learning.”
But don’t be confused: it’s still the case that the prime areas matter because they are foundational for the other areas of learning, and moreover are particularly time-sensitive in terms of children’s development.
The wording may have changed, but child development has not.
The most extensive changes in the new framework are the Educational Programmes and the Early Learning Goals (ELGs). These have been entirely re-written.
Key changes to the ELGs include:
New non-statutory guidance and exemplification materials will be published in due course (see box), so there will be plenty more to digest. So we hope schools don’t rush into early adoption, especially given other current challenges. Let’s all give ourselves time between now and September 2021 to get to grips with the changes and make sure that we keep focusing on what is best for our children.
Beatrice Merrick is chief executive of Early Education, a national early years membership association providing professional learning and support for the early years sector. Find out more at early-education.org.uk.