OpenEYE Campaign Matters Jan 2011

It was an interesting end to the early-childhood year and we have been thinking carefully about the way in which we now want to move OpenEYE forward. We were encouraged that there was going to be a review of the Early Years Foundation Stage and even discussed the possibility of disbanding OpenEYE if the new coalition government were to demonstrate a more open, comprehensive and future-oriented approach to the key issues that concern our campaign.

We have watched with concern, however, the constant use of the phrase that ‘children should be ready to learn when they get to school’ (something that implied that they were not doing so in any serious way beforehand!) together with the consistently unclarified use of the term school ‘readiness’. We have also been confused about the number of mixed policy messages being given out by ministers, such as:

‘Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to “liberate” local authorities from the duty to set and monitor performance targets for schools and early years settings
(Children and Young People Now – 4th November, 2010

Followed soon afterwards by:
‘Early Years Foundation Stage Profile results are to be published by school for the first time, under proposals in the Department for Education’s five-year business plan…Children will be assessed with new ‘readiness for school’ measures at the age of five, linked to the EYFS profile, and at age 11 they will be assessed to ensure they have basic command of the ‘three Rs’.’
Nursery World – 17th November, 2010

(and this despite the 2010 DFE Research Report on the EYFS that said:
‘The EYFS is a play-based and child-led framework: All practitioner groups welcome the play-based and child-led nature of the guidance and view it as a validation of early years principles, or as a return to early years approaches after a period in which pre-school was conceptualised as preparation for school: many participants are relieved that the period from birth to five is now recognised as an important phase of development per se)’

‘Ministers have given more details of plans to bring in reading tests for six-year-olds in England.Teachers will run the tests, which will be based on phonics, where pupils learn the sounds of letters and groups of letters before putting them together. Pupils in England will take the tests in Year 1 from 2012 and a pilot scheme will start next summer.’
BBC News – 22nd November, 2010

Open EYE had a meeting with the new Minister Sarah Teather in November and shared some of our concerns with her. We are hopeful that this meeting will be the first of many others where our input could prove to be of value.

It is still too early to comment with any degree of certainty on the new coalition government’s early years policy direction, as it is ultimately what they actually do that will determine whether they prove to be more open than the previous government to the kinds of principled arguments we have consistently put forward since 2007. We still very much hope that some of our initial impressions and concerns (as illustrated, for example, in the report below on league tables) prove to be wrong.

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