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Uprising about the early years foundation stage becoming legislation. Take the chance to investigate and respond.

Discussion in 'Early Years' started by debbiehep, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. How can there be a statutory curriculum for a stage when education is not compulsory - or will this be the next move of our Stalinist government? I understand that this will apply to all settings state and private so parents will even be denied the choice of opting out by going private! Thank God my children are grown up and that I was able to stay at home with them until school age (apart from a wonderful community-run playgroup -which I chose because of it's values and ethos). Where will this madness end?
  2. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    ?The State lays claim to the child and he is trained to fit the patterns of the State; he ceases to be a person and bears the stamp of the state.?
    Rudolf Steiner
  3. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7120787.stm

    I have just read this news item which msz flagged up.

    This is really utter rubbish and a Trojan Horse.

    These people should have objected to the way that the government was becoming more and more detailed and bringing in local authority advisers to monitor the evidencing of Foundation Stage Profiles a long time before now if this was their concern.

    This is really about the battle of how we teach reading.

    We have shown over and again that synthetic phonics leads to no gender gap and summer birthday gaps (or reduces them considerably as a minimum). We give testimony to how much the children enjoy their phonics learning and how empowered they feel to be able to read and write (which is pretty amazing when all said and done).

    The opposite is true to what these people are claiming. They are saying that synthetic phonics teaching leads to later failure.

    Well - let's see what the hard copy TES editor is really made of when it comes to pursuing this story.

    We really need any teachers or parents who have seen improvements to their basic skills literacy teaching to contribute to this thread and any other in the public domain.

    I have no problem with challenging the government's plans about making the EYFS statutory when I agree that it is not even formal/compulsory schooling yet. I think this takes away everyone's civil liberties and is not a healthy scenario.

    But we have said this all along and described our views and unhappiness.

    These people challenging now are simply subverters of the Rose Report and whole language dinosaurs.

    Quite frankly they are simply showing their ignorance about the issues to do with teaching reading.

    Are we dealing with whole language dinosaurs in disguise as government challengers?

    We surely don't want any dictators anywhere in the pre-school domain.

    I certainly object to my granddaughter's carers in the nursery she attends at spending more of their time filling in paperwork than interacting with the children. And this is the reality.

    And I detest the thought that she is being analysed as if through a microscope to justify the nursery's planning (which is really to be seen to be accountable to the prescription) rather than her carers taking a natural and caring interest in her care and education.
  4. I have just sent the following email to Richard House. Hopefully we can get some good information and open up a discussion between we (actual) practitioners and the great powers!

    "Dear Richard,

    I would like to find out more about your Open Eye campaign please for my own information and on behalf of many other people.

    You may or may not know that I headed up an early years petition which was published on the TES online Speakers? Corner blog. I am surprised that well-known advisers did not support or contribute comments to that petition at the time if they were worried about the bureaucratic tick-box culture that we have had for a considerable time. In fact, it was rather mystifying why the editors of the TES hard copy had no interest in putting this information in the public domain.

    I am concerned that Open Eye is more a case of trying to subvert the recommendations of the Rose Report than a challenge to the EYFS becoming statutory.

    There will be elements of the issues you raise that I, and others, support ? but many people will not be able to support you entirely because they understand that synthetic phonics teaching does not disadvantage children over time as has been stated/implied. The contrary is true.

    Many early years practitioners and parents can also provide testimony to how much their children enjoy the synthetic phonics teaching and they do not see this as draconian or damaging to younger children.

    I, for one, am not someone who wishes synthetic phonics teaching to be pushed on ever-younger children. I don?t agree, for example, with phase one of Letters and Sounds which appears to be geared towards the three to four year olds. The problem is that so many four year olds are so capable of beginning to learn to read that if they don?t get a good phonics start, the default method becomes whole language and mixed methods and these approaches are the ones which can result in long term damage to learners and affect self-esteem. I have to wonder who of all your fellow advisers have actually taught real children using the synthetic phonics method.

    It seems to me that we need to clarify just exactly what Open Eye is criticising and I would really appreciate as much information as you can send me for your campaign so that I am not just taking the titbits in the newspapers as an entirely accurate representation of your concerns.

    A thread is developing about this issue on the TES early years online forum and on the Reading Reform Foundation message board. I shall be informing participants that I have requested information from you on their behalf so that we don?t get misinformation through newspapers.

    I have suggested to people that we all need to discuss the various issues and contribute our ideas and experiences to facilitate a wider debate than the usual picture of the advisory people and politicians having their say.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Best wishes,


    Please take this opportunity to think about the issues and have your say. It doesn't matter what you say, it matters that you HAVE YOUR SAY.

  5. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Debbie I have the information from Richard House if anyone would like to see it.
    There will be a website available from Monday
  6. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    There is also an article in Nursery World (January) for those who are interested which I found very interesting.
    It contains no reference to either synthetic phonics or the Rose Review.
  7. Thank you msz.

    If you know details about the Open Eye campaign which you can tell us in the meantime, that would be great.

    Otherwise, we can wait until Monday and/or until I hear from Richard House.
  8. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    The OPEN EYE Campaign

    A national campaign for Open Early Years Education

    ? announcing a new campaign to reverse the compulsory nature of the EYFS legislation and to mitigate its developmentally inappropriate practices

    Widespread concerns exist regarding the impending Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) legislation, due to become law in England in September 2008. The new ?OPEN EYE? Campaign maintains that this new legislation is fundamentally flawed, and that its ?unintended consequences? will in all likelihood be counter-productive. ?OPEN EYE? has the express aim of reversing what it views as the worst features of the new legislation.

    ?OPEN EYE? has specific concerns regarding:

    developmental inappropriateness, and the arguably essentially arbitrary nature of EYFS?s age-related learning goals;

    the EYFS?s enshrining in law a state-defined model of child development whose content is highly contestable from other respected developmental perspectives;

    the needs of young children arguably being substantially compromised by EYFS?s emphasis on accountability procedures, and their accompanying ?audit culture? mentality, inducing needless anxiety and, at worst, a major compromising of children?s innate enthusiasm for learning; and

    some much-needed ?blue sky? thinking about the proper place, if any, of government prescription in early childhood education.

    Research increasingly suggests that government?s intrusive involvement has, over recent years, not improved standards to any marked extent, and may well have compromised the quality of many children?s learning experiences.

    The ?OPEN EYE? campaign calls upon the government:

    to ensure that any adopted policy framework allows space for very different conceptions of child development to co-exist and flourish without undue compromise;

    to amend the status of the EYFS to ?professional guidelines?, without the force of legal compulsion, so that the practice of practitioners who have principled objections to aspects of the EYFS framework are safe-guarded and respected.

    ?OPEN EYE? calls upon all those concerned with early childhood to join them in this campaign in defence of the very heart of childhood.

    The website address will be http://openeyecampaign.wordpress.com/
  9. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Our OPEN EYE campaign currently consists of:

    ? an ?Open Letter? sent to the main early-years educational magazines and selected national newspapers (copy appended)

    ? newspaper and magazine articles

    ? a major London conference on ?EYFS and Its Discontents? to be held early in 2008 (details TBC/on request)

    ? the publication of the conference proceedings in an ?instant book? in Spring, 2008

    ? a documentary film on ?EYFS and Its Discontents?

    ? a dedicated campaign website; and

    ? a web-based petition.
  10. NellyFUF

    NellyFUF Lead commenter

    let's hope Openeye will be asking why the wonderful people who teach in early years and who are already tired by the physical nature of their work then spend evenings and weekends filling out planning and assessment paperwork to the point where they are weepy and hopeless.
  11. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Nelly a big part of the articles which are to be published are condemning what they call the "audit culture" by which I assume they mean all the number crunching and soul searching.

    Forthcoming in Early Years Educator, January 2008

    ?Audit Culture? and Children?s Play
    - Deadly Playmates

    By Dr Richard House
    Roehampton University and Norwich Steiner School

    "The attitudes and way of being to which the ?audit culture? inevitably gives rise are argued to be incompatible with those subtle yet essential ?play-full? qualities that are the very lifeblood of children?s early experience.

    As a therapist, the specifically emotional dimensions of the auditing and testing culture have long interested me; and anecdotal and empirical evidence seems to suggest that: (1) auditing, assessment and evaluation generate deep anxieties (and there is strong evidence for this in Alexander?s Primary Review interim report); (2) above a certain level, anxiety disrupts and subverts healthy learning; and (3) an anxiety-generating auditing culture can but degrade and compromise children?s learning experiences."

  12. Thanks msz. Below is the Open Letter as taken from the embryonic website you posted. I am awaiting with interest to hear the specifics as to what is meant by the early head start in literacy leading to future difficulties! More and more of us know it is the early head start to literacy when this amounts to mixed methods and presenting children with books to read that they can't read and asking them to write independently when they can't write - that leads to problems in both the short and the long term.

    The Open Letter below says somethings in essence which might lead us at first sight to be very sympathetic because so many of us have been made utterly miserable with the bureaucracy and accountability regime (and it is really bad in the early years) - but I need to hear the detail of what this is about. I am not really informed at all by this Open Letter as to what is fully going on here.

    If indeed there are going to be articles etc. in the educational magazines to outline the ideas behind this challenge, let's hope that space is made for ordinary teachers and parents to have their say.

    For example, I have questioned many a time why the TES hard copy editors ignore emails I have sent and offers I have made for writing articles (by me or other Reading Reform Foundation committee members) when phonics has been particularly topical. Do we have a closed shop where bias is at the heart of educational journalism?

    Anyway, here is the Open Letter:

    We share a profound concern about England?s early years foundation stage (EYFS) legislation, which becomes law next autumn. We believe it to be fundamentally flawed in conception, with net harm likely to be done to children due to the framework?s contestable assumptions and unintended consequences.

    Young children learn most naturally and effectively through a subtle balance of free play, movement, rhythm, repetition and imitation. An overly formal, academics and/or cognitively biased curriculum, however carefully camouflaged, distorts this learning experience; and an early head start in literacy is now known to precipitate unforeseen difficulties later on, sometimes including unpredictable emotional and behavioural problems.

    Legally enshrining a model of child development allows no space for very different but equally plausible developmental frameworks. The age bands and associated age-related goals in the EYFS are also quite arbitrary, with little if any coherent developmental rationale; and to impose a compulsory legal framework on what are pre-compulsory school-age children may well have profound civil rights implications.

    Caring for babies and toddlers is deeply personal, involving immeasurable qualities such as attunement and responsiveness. A one-size-fits-all framework that needs copious record-keeping risks substituting bureaucracy for care.

    So we call on the government to commission an urgent independent review of EYFS, allowing diverse conceptions of child development to flourish without undue compromise, and to reduce the status of EYFS to professional guidelines, free of legal compulsion, so safeguarding the professionalism and freedom of practitioners who have principled objections to the framework.

    Many feel unable to speak out against EYFS for fear of career resprisals; others feel helpless to influence government thinking. So the Department of Children, Schools and Families may be unaware of the level of opposition. We call on practitioners, academics, administrators, teacher-trainers and parents to join our Open Eye campaign for the very heart of childhood.

    · For more details or to join the Open Eye campaign, email: r.house@roehampton.ac.uk

  13. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    The details from Richard House runs to many pages which you will agree is inappropriate for posting in this forum but having read them and after speaking to both Margaret Edgington and Sue Palmer I fully support their stance.
  14. Msz - I'd be interested in the details from Richard House, as I'd really like to understand the Open Eye standpoint, especially as from past experience of Margaret Edgington and Sue Palmer, they usually have a view point i agree with. Could you e-mail it to me, or a link where I can find it? Only the letter is on the website at the moment. I think you already have my e-mail address. Thanks
  15. Well - we look forward to seeing the details one way or another because it is the details that we need to have.

    msz - I would be very interested to know who you are because you seem to be 'in the know' about everything. Will we ever get to learn your identity please?

    I quite understand if you prefer to remain anonymous on this forum - I was just making an observation and showing an interest in learning who you are.

    You might be prepared to let me know privately in which case my email address is debbie@syntheticphonics.com

    If not - no worries.
  16. PS - msz - if you have Richard House's details in electronic form or know where we can link to it, I, too, would be grateful for the information.

    I know full well the dangers of jumping the gun. I cannot emphasise enough how this needs to be looked into very carefully indeed.

    I am very keen that people should understand the issues transparently, and they should consider the full implications of any suggestions and think about all the sides to the arguments.

    What I am very worried about is all those advisers who like to use their influence when many of them don't work at the playdough face themselves.

    The government ministers have been very quick to write to me (for example when dismissing our TES online early years petition out of hand) that they had 'consulted widely' to inform the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum etc.

    Well, we need to make sure that we are consulted with as we have shown a particular interest on this forum and actually bother to discuss things nationally (indeed, internationally) and we are a supportive and interested bunch of practitioners and parents.
  17. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    Debbie I am just an ordinary foundation stage teacher, no one special at all, but part of my remit in school is to be informed about current "events/movements" in education. As an ordinary teacher I have no preconceived personal agenda so am free to use my knowledge and experience to form my own conclusions.
  18. This was Richard House's contribution on the TES speakers corner discussion a while ago, in case anyone is in any doubt about his views on synthetic phonics.

    "So great is the range of misconceptions and faulty assumptions underpinning the government?s statutory imposition of synthetic phonics teaching ? many of them eloquently picked up in Wendy Scott et al.?s excellent Open Letter to the TES (?Phonics at four is hardly sound?, TES, December 1) - that it?s difficult to know where to start. First and foremost, of course, it is nearly always developmentally inappropriate that children start learning to read and write (sometimes with their own private tutors to boot) at 3 and 4 ? and especially children from literacy-deprived home backgrounds. As a cacophony of academic and professional voices is consistently emphasising, childhood is under sustained attack from a poisonous cocktail of pernicious technocratic forces that are prematurely wrenching children into the adult world at far earlier ages than is either necessary or appropriate; and to burden young children with this cognitively one-sided learning technology is adding yet more insult to these particularly virulent injuries. We urgently need adults (especially policy-makers) with the wisdom not to treat children as ?mini-adults? ? and if such adult-centric practice continues unchecked, untold damage will be perpetrated on a whole generation, with a cost to our collective future that is quite incalculable.

    Second, the living spirit and subtlety of language in all its glory is grossly profaned by the crassly utilitarian ?technology? that is synthetic phonics. The parents I know would far sooner see their children encountering literacy in a living, non-materialisatic way that honours the intangible wonders and mysteries of language. Programmatic phonics does a kind of violence to that process, the deeper effects of which can never be fully undone; and the poets and the visionaries that our world urgently needs are far less likely to emerge from such a state-imposed regime of force-fed phonics.

    Finally, statutorily to impose a deprofessionalising one-size-fits-all literacy ?technology? cannot but undermine the art of teaching itself - for at root, this debate is just part of a far wider story about competing educational ideologies: that of teaching as a living creative art in which empowered professional teachers are trusted intimately to know their children?s highly variable learning needs and to facilitate their learning accordingly by lighting the fires of the imagination; and on the other, the narrow ?modernist? ideology that teaching is about a mechanistic filling of vessels with cognitive information to serve ?the needs of the economy?. The way in which this ideological conflict plays out and resolves will have momentous consequences for the future trajectory of our society, and the values that inform and sustain it.

    (Dr) Richard House
    Research Centre for Therapeutic Education
    Roehampton University and Norwich Steiner School"

    I have just cut and pasted the above from the RRF message board.

    I am very worried indeed that practitioners will be so sympathetic to the notion that these children are still PRE-school (and I agree that this is relevant) and that they are still so little (we know that), that people will automatically support these advisers without thoroughly thinking and DISCUSSING the issues carefully.

    I do not agree with what Richard House has written above and I worry that someone who is based in the Steiner approach is the exact opposite to many practical parents and teachers who now know that to leave children to the pot-luck of whole language and to fail to teach them the knowledge and the technicalities of the Alphabetic Code and the skills of blending and segmenting, that this is a very dangerous situation facing us.

    This is unbelievably serious and we need everyone to bother to find out about it and join in the debate.

    If you are not invited to join in the debate, jolly well push yourselves into it.

    Be warned not to confuse the issues of a regimented culture of guidance and expectations with a tick box and evidencing accountability regime which the vast majority of us must surely abhor - with the need to apply common sense and humanity (to children and adults) in all our settings.

    I shall be taking the route of common sense and humanity - realistic to the varied stages and ages of the birth to five children - but I cannot support anything which is to reject the gains made by the Rose Report and the use of synthetic phonics teaching in our reception classes and infant classes.

    I would argue, however, that good practice should not be achieved by 'stick' or by legislation but by encouragement and information and support.

    The way that I am thinking is that maybe the Rose Recommendations should become the legislation but from year one - not reception - with any volunteer synthetic phonics teaching undertaken by professional decision making - informed choices.

    Of course the advent of government promotion of Reading Recovery puts a spanner in the works of all this.

    I am so upset - this just feels like a bloody mess to me.

  19. I have to admit I have a lot of sympathy for Richard House's comments (although I completely disagree on his comments on synthetic phonics). But I feel he and the other authors aren't living in the reality of the system Reception teachers and KS1 teachers work in.

    If we leave phonics teaching till KS1, teachers can certainly make a start on teaching phonics to children who are starting to move towards whole language strategies. Personally I don't think it would make any difference to the level they reach by the end of KS2. BUT it would need a whole shift in the educational climate for this to happen.
    It needs School Improvement Advisors and Headteachers not judging success in FS on the literacy scores they achieve in the Profile. It needs abolishment of tests at 7 whereby children's progress is tested and compared publicly in the form of SATS. But most of all it would need parents to change their perception that children should be undertaking formal reading and writing in Reception.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I would have parents beating a path to my door if I didn't teach systematic phonics in reception. Richard House et al. may convince us of the benefits, but as long as parents expectations are that children read and write in FS, governements won't change their policy.
  20. Msz

    Msz Established commenter

    The campaign is aimed at parents and all those involved with children not just teachers.

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