Childhood is that state which ends the moment the Department for Education decides that play is no longer an essential part of learning. Lisa – Busy Busy Learning
My statement above is a play on one of my all-time favourite quotes: – CHILDHOOD IS THAT STATE WHICH ENDS THE MOMENT A PUDDLE IS FIRST VIEWED AS AN OBSTACLE INSTEAD OF AN OPPORTUNITY – Michael K. Williams.
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As an erstwhile early years and primary teacher, I feel completely let down by the current school system that my 6 year old daughter is part of. The publication of the new EYFS framework (from September 2023) places a stake through my already broken heart.
It’s not that the revised Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework is bad, quite the opposite, it’s that this framework ends as children leave their reception classrooms. At this point they are thrust into the world of the National Curriculum for KS1 and the door to EYFS, in many schools, firmly closes. “You’ll have to do ‘real’ work.” and “No more playing for you!” are phrases I’ve become all too familiar with being recited to my daughter and her peers.
If play is so integral to the EYFS who dictates that it ends when children move from reception to Year 1. In fairness to some school and teachers, some bravely uphold the principles of EYFS in KS1 but for other a very traditional, formal style of schooling commences.
You can find the full details of the new EYFS 2023 framework here. Below is my summary of some of the key points from the document:
Focus on Early Learning Goals
The revised EYFS framework emphasises the importance of achieving the Early Learning Goals (ELGs) by the end of the Reception year. ELGs cover seven areas of learning, including communication and language, physical development, personal, social and emotional development, literacy, mathematics, understanding the world, and expressive arts and design.
Comments: I’ve always loved the holistic approach of the EYFS curriculum and how it gives such value to communication and language, physical development and personal, social and emotional development over more ‘topic’ based learning.
My big issue has always been that in the early years children’s development has been based on their attainment with respect to their age. Where this becomes problematic is when we are expected to assess children on their attainment of ELGs.
ELGs are assessed at the same time (towards the end of the reception year) and children who are almost turning six are assessed for ELGs alongside children who may not have even turned five yet. A full twelve months in age difference.
If it’s appropriate to assess an almost six year old against the ELGs then surely children who are yet to turn five should get an additional year to meet the same expectations?
The framework acknowledges the value of play in children’s learning and development. Play continues to be a central aspect of early education, allowing children to explore, create, and make connections in a hands-on and meaningful way.
Comments: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Did I say yes?! Although, if this is so key and fundamental to how children learn why is it only in the EYFS curriculum and not integral to the KS1 curriculum. As mentioned above, some children have only just turned five as they enter year 1 – why do they miss out on a year of play?! How can play suddenly become so unimportant at the tender age of five and six?!
The framework recognises that children have unique abilities, interests, and learning styles. It encourages practitioners to tailor their teaching approaches to meet the individual needs and preferences of each child, providing appropriate support and challenge.
Comments: Absolutely! We’re not trying to turn out perfectly identical sausages on a production line. Our children are unique and deserve an environment, resourcing and approaches that meet their individual needs. This is how our children thrive.
Assessment and Progress Monitoring
A new approach to assessment is introduced, focusing on ongoing observations and formative assessments. The framework promotes the use of assessment to inform teaching and adapt learning experiences to meet children’s needs. The revised assessment process aims to reduce unnecessary paperwork and support accurate and holistic evaluation.
Comments: Assessment is so important in the early years to ensure that you are meeting the individual needs of each child. Reducing unnecessary paperwork so that educators can spend their valuable time engaging with children and making careful observations to inform next steps is key.
Where this becomes tricky is when school leaders and individual teachers feel the need to continue with unnecessary paperwork because they feel they need to ‘prove’ what they are doing for local authorities and OFSTED. It’s essential that schools are brave in their assessment and monitoring to be able to maximise opportunities for what matters most.
Communication and Language Development
The revised framework highlights the critical role of communication and language development. It emphasises the importance of promoting rich language experiences, supporting language acquisition, and fostering strong communication skills from an early age.
Comments: So important and great that this is still a firm focus of the EYFS framework.
Physical Development and Active Lifestyles
Physical development and promoting healthy, active lifestyles are key components of the revised framework. The document encourages a focus on physical activities, fine and gross motor skill development, and promoting well-being through regular exercise.
Comments: Another area of EYFS that is so important and great to see. Fine and gross motor skills are not mutually exclusive. Skills needed to be able to write for example require both development of fine and gross motor skills.
I do find it frustrating when the rich opportunities available withing the EYFS years through play, creating and specific programs such as Dough Disco often don’t follow through into the next key stage. If children have challenges with fine motor skills in year 1 these are often addressed through dull, repetitive, ‘handwriting practise’.
Partnerships with Parents and Carers
The revised EYFS framework recognises the significance of strong partnerships between early years settings and parents or carers. It emphasises the importance of effective communication, sharing information, and involving parents and carers in their child’s learning and development journey.
Comments: This is key. Some schools do this exceptional well throughout the school years. Yet all too often parent involvement can come to a grinding halt after reception (even in reception for some). When you get the partnership between home and school right children flourish.
Overall, the document outlines the revised EYFS framework, which places a strong emphasis on holistic development, individualised learning, play-based approaches, and effective assessment practices. It aims to provide a solid foundation for children’s learning and well-being in the early years, fostering a love for lifelong learning.
What are your thoughts on the comments above? Do you think children should be able to learn through play not just in the early years? Do share a comment below. I’d love to know your thoughts.
If you believe that play is a key part of childhood and that children learn best through play shout it from the rooftops at every opportunity. Communicate with schools and local government. Our children only get one childhood.