Time to rethink education and extend EYs principles beyond age 5 to 7.
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As a world we face a crisis like never before. Whilst many of our schools and settings are still open to provide emergency childcare to keyworkers and those children identified as vulnerable- it most definitely is not business as usual.
Most of the worlds children are at home with families trying to navigate this new world, mentally, emotionally, physically, socially and financially. Parents and carers are also trying to educate children at home bombarded by apps, online activities, and pressures from schools who themselves are trying to find their way.
There are rumbles in the media about reopening schools/settings earlier rather than later. There are fears from some about children being behind when the doors to all reopen. Some are already considering how go close the gap and accelerate learning to catch children up- perhaps through Saturday schools and shortened holidays. This narrative is fatally flawed and ill informed.
As a sector we are putting ourselves on the front line, doing our bit to help the country. If we are truly valued in this role- it’s time we were also finally truly valued in our expertise and knowledge.
It is time for us to be heard.
It is time for education to change monumentally for the new world we find ourselves in. What is currently on the table and proposed in EYFS reforms... is simply not fit for purpose. Out of touch. Ill informed and designed by a select few with shared views... interesting few if any have worked in the sector on the ground.
Now is the time to ask ourselves:
- Moving forward from this crisis what will really matter?
- What are the essential skills for life in a very different world.
- What do our children really need to know?
- What do they need to understand?
- Does the current English system give them this?
Our children need communication skills, personal, social and emotional development, physical skills, embedded literacy and maths skills, creativity and an understanding and respect for their world and the people in it.
They need characteristics such as resilience, perseverance, creative thinking, the ability to solve problems, think outside the box, independence, risk taking, make connections. They need confidence and the ability to learn from mistakes as they grow in a world which is a challenging place to be...and becoming more so by the day.
The irony of all of the above is that we currently have a curriculum in England that delivers much of the above and more. It is the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum. The only problem is it ends when children leave Reception classes. Under proposed reforms and the current rewrite- this curriculum is being narrowed towards a focus on literacy, maths and KS1 preparation.
Now is the time to stop pushing the flawed and inappropriate KS1 curriculum into our Reception classes and instead time to push up a curriculum that is tried, tested and proven.
This will be the curriculum our children need- beginning with a nationwide transitional period when we reopen our doors to all children. A chance to say goodbye the teacher they left so suddenly in March 2020 before moving on to a new class/setting with a focus in relationships, play and mental health and well being.
We CAN have a 0-7 curriculum with relationships, environments, play, learning and child development at its core. The early years of life do not end at age 4 or 5. They end at 7 or 8..and that is the age when learning should become more formal and abstract. This is when most children are developmentally ready for such approaches. This is why most of the worlds children starting formal schoolnig at 6 or 7 years old. Not before.
We need to look abroad at countries where this is happening and learn from them. Their children are thriving and out performing ours. Our children (and their families and teacher's) are tired, stressed, pressured and fed up. Children as young as 4 are switched off and see learning as boring....
Now is the time that we MUST
*Recognise that children will not be behind and do not need catching up. They have lived through the biggest crisis in our living memory and need a different educational experience.
*Halt current EYFS reforms, reflect upon the sector’s consultation response and the Early Years coalition’s “Getting it right in the EYFS” literature review which has been handed to DFE.
*End the Baseline, phonics screening and SATs permanently.
*Build a curriculum based on child development, international evidence, work of EYs pioneers and their contemporaries from birth to 7.
*Put mental health, play, child development, wellbeing and relationships at the heart of the curriculum.
*Work transparently across political parties, across nations and across the sector with practitioners, academics, organisations and communities to build a transformational curriculum for all children 0-7
Let's stand together to make a change for the future. In the past it may have been a dream. Now it’s a necessity.
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