1.The National Union of Teachers (NUT) welcomes the opportunity to respond to the above consultation. The NUT has sought the views of members working in maintained nursery schools, nursery classes, Children’s Centres and other early years settings in order to inform its response.

Q.1Do you agree that the introduction to the EYFS and the explanation of its aims and objectives are arranged clearly and in the appropriate language for those working in or responsible for managing settings delivering EYFS?

  1. The question refers to the EYFS’s “aims and objectives”, although the consultation document sets out the “principles underpinning EYFS”, which is not the same thing. A discrete section on the aims and objectives of the EYFS would be a welcome addition to the introductory section of the document.
  1. The principles underpinning the EYFS are, in the main, unremarkable, in that they represent what good quality settings already do. This highlights a tension which is apparent throughout the consultation document: that the EYFS appears to aim for a minimum standard of provision, across all of the wide range of settings which would be covered by it, rather than the improvement of all provision, including that of higher quality.
  1. The NUT welcomes the inclusion of ‘the value to be placed on diversity, welcoming and genuinely including all children’ as one of the key principles underpinning the EYFS.
  1. The NUT believes that the EYFS needs to play a role in challenging prejudice and stereotypes. Early years teachers need to be given the skills and tools to challenge racism, sexism and homophobia and to be encouraged to challenge language which is racist, sexist or homophobic. Many early years teachers are under the impression that they are ‘opening a can of worms’ if they challenge sexist language or behaviour, or negative language about same sex relationships. Early years professionals need to be given confidence in this aspect of their role. Annex A to this submission, “Challenging Discrimination”, covers this area in greater detail.
  1. Whilst the principles of parental involvement and partnership working with other providers are important, the practicalities involved in implementing these principles are not addressed. For example, it has been estimated by those working in maintained nursery schools and classes, that liaison and joint planning could involve working with up to ten different people for each of the children attending such provision, who might be spread over a fairly large geographical area. Given the large numbers of children who attend on a part time, sessional basis, this approach would be unmanageable and would have serious implications for teachers’ and other practitioners’ workload unless additional resources were made available to support this development.
  1. This would be a particularly significant issue in the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector, as it would be unlikely that such providers would prioritise staffing or other resources for liaison work unless this became a formal statutory requirement, however desirable the practice might be. Without clear lines of accountability and formal joint responsibility for such activities, it is likely that the maintained sector would be expected to take the lead in co-ordinating this work disproportionately.
  1. The NUT has serious concerns about the principle “only when high quality care, development and learning work together will early years provision have the maximum impact on children’s development”. Firstly, the term “education” appears to have been replaced in the consultation document by “learning”, although no rationale for this is given. Many aspects across the six areas of the EYFS Framework are educational and, whilst they would involve children learning, they would also necessitate teaching in order for children to develop the desired skills or competencies.
  1. As a result of this approach in the consultation document, it could be perceived that “education” is being marginalised in the early years as a direct consequence of the proposed staffing arrangements, and the movement away from requiring the involvement of qualified teachers.
  1. In addition, the NUT has had long-standing concerns about the proposed merging of discrete education and care provision via the EYFS Framework. Teachers are continually identifying opportunities to maximise learning, assess developmental needs and recognise opportunities for direct teaching. Carers, on the other hand, emphasise immediate well-being and different, sometimes wider, aspects of development.
  1. High quality education is underpinned by good standards of care. Good quality care inevitably leads to opportunities for learning. Integration must focus on easier access to services, not lead to a compromise in terms of provision in which the strengths of neither care nor education are apparent. Education and care overlap, but those involved in planning and organising provision for young children should continue to regard them as having distinct characteristics.
  1. For this reason, the rationale provided in the consultation document for the establishment of the EYFS Framework, that parents will be “secure in the knowledge that whether in a nursery school or reception class, a play group or with a childminder (or in a combination of these), their children will be cared for and supported by appropriately qualified practitioners in a safe and stimulating environment”, is disingenuous. It implies that, because of the introduction of the EYFS, all these types of provision will be of equal quality and will be directly comparable in terms of what is offered and the staff who would provide it, when this is clearly not the case.
  1. The NUT supports the aim behind the EYFS Framework, to improve the minimum standards of early years provision offered overall. What it cannot support is the downgrading and lack of recognition of the strengths of the maintained sector and the damage which would inevitably be done to the quality of provision if “education” per se, as provided by qualified teachers, is not promoted by the EYFS Framework.
  1. The rationale behind the inclusion of the “additional principles” on page four is unclear and confusing, especially as there are areas of overlap between these and the principles drawn from Birth to Three Matters and the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage. It would be more useful to practitioners if this section was revised so that any additional elements were incorporated into the main principles with which practitioners should already be familiar.

Q.2Do you agree the introduction makes clear which parts of the document are statutory requirements and which parts are guidance or good practice?

  1. The terminology used in the consultation document to differentiate between statutory requirements and guidance is rather confusing. “Must” and “should” appear frequently in the text but it is often unclear from the context whether this is intended to mean a statutory requirement or not. The explanation given on page five is not helpful when reading the rest of the document.
  1. The statement “when these requirements are referred to, they will be indicated by the use of “providers must” or as a requirement. If something is expressed as “providers should” then there is a strong presumption that providers should act in this way, though it is open to them to take a different action which will achieve the same result” does not give a sufficiently unambiguous steer to those who would be using the EYFS Framework as part of their daily practice. Some sort of presentational device, which would highlight statutory requirements “at a glance”, would be far more useful to those using the Framework as a working document.

Q.3Do you agree the introduction helps you to navigate through the document successfully?

  1. The introduction sets out the layout and contents of the document clearly and would allow the reader to find a particular area of interest in a straightforward way. It might be useful to include more information on the four areas which are drawn from Birth to Three Matters and the six areas drawn from the Foundation Stage Curriculum guidance for those who have not worked with these documents previously, as this section would appear to assume prior knowledge of these documents as currently worded.

Q.4Do you agree that this section sets out clearly the roles and responsibilities of providers in delivering EYFS?

  1. The explanation provided in the consultation document about the overall responsibilities of providers to secure compliance with the EYFS is clear and easily understood. Further attention is needed, however, to areas where this responsibility would be potentially less clear in practice, such as settings where a teacher provided “educational input” and would have responsibility for advising the provider on educational matters.
  1. In addition, governing bodies, which would be classified as the provider for maintained schools, would need to be fully informed and briefed about their responsibilities, as this is a significant extension of their existing roles. There is also the potential that this requirement could act as a discouragement to join school governing bodies, as this would add another important responsibility to their duties, which would be particularly demanding for “lay” governors.
  1. It is notable that local authorities are not referred to in this section, although they would be classed as providers for some settings, such as social services nurseries.
  1. This section would benefit from the addition of a table or similar presentational device which set out very clearly and simply the different responsibilities of both providers and practitioners, as a reference guide to the rest of the document. This would enable readers to find particular information which would be relevant to them and their setting quickly.

Q.5Do you agree that the EYFS is sufficiently flexible to enable all types of provider to play an effective role in delivering it?

  1. Perhaps the most serious concern about the draft EYFS is that it is too flexible, in order to satisfy the requirement that all types of provider would be able to deliver it. The proposed relaxation of requirements relating to the employment of qualified teachers, as discussed above, provides a clear example of this approach. By equating QTS with the Early Years Professional and also to any other level 6 qualification holder, the EYFS would certainly allow more providers to meet the staffing requirements but could, however, compromise the quality of service provided.
  1. As in Section 1, much of the content of the text is unremarkable and sets out what good quality provision already does. There is little guidance, however, either here or elsewhere in the document, about how settings which are not currently offering a play-based approach or fully promoting equality of opportunity, for example, could actually implement these effectively in individual settings. This would further support the concept of “personalised” guidance as outlined above.
  1. In section 2.3 there are a number of issues which would benefit from clarification. The EYFS appears to have moved from the current expectation in the Foundation Stage that most children will achieve most Early Learning Goals to “the majority of children will have achieved the early learning goals in all six Areas”. No explanation of this increased expectation has been provided and there is no linkage with this statement and the document’s recognition in Section 3 that children will be at different ages as well as different stages of development at the end of the EYFS. There needs to be an unambiguous statement that the setting of age-related targets for education or other developmental aspects of the EYFS are inappropriate for young children.
  1. This would be in line with the clear guidance on testing, which is a welcome section of the document. It could be supported, however, by specific references to baseline and other forms of on-entry testing. Whilst testing as an on-going assessment tool is certainly undesirable and should not be encouraged within the EYFS, on-entry testing can be beneficial for diagnostic and planning purposes. A distinction between the two types of testing is needed here.
  1. The importance of ensuring that “schedules and routines must be responsive to children’s needs” is acknowledged as a principle, but in practice this is not so straightforward. Reception classes, for example, typically have their own routines and a structured day, in part to prepare children for formal schooling. In addition, children who come from chaotic home backgrounds in particular typically need to have structure and routines in order for them to feel secure and to derive maximum benefit from the provision. This section provides another illustration of the difficulty of applying general principles to a wide range of different settings.
  1. Section 2.9 raises a number of issues about the practicalities of different types of provider delivering the EYFS, including working in partnership to do so. The consultation document provides a description of what should be done, rather than guidance on how it might be done, which would be much more useful to settings. The paragraphs on planning appear to be unrealistic, as issues of confidentiality are not addressed which would have a significant impact on the ability of providers to share them both within and beyond the setting. Little attention is given to what many of these principles would mean in practice. “Childminders, nurseries and parents should work together to plan children’s experiences across the whole day, continuing “themes” where appropriate, in which children have become interested and involved”.
  1. Whilst this is a wonderful aspiration, there are a host of practical issues which are not resolved by the “joined up” approach to delivery advocated in the consultation document. How would this be managed? Who would take the lead and co-ordinate such an approach? How would evidence of the approach be provided for accountability purposes? How would this fit in with both the child-led aspect of the EYFS and the pressures on schools to meet certain targets as recorded by the Foundation Stage Profile? How would the logistics of practitioners meeting face to face for planning purposes be handled? What would happen if one provider did not fulfil their agreed input, for example, if the next planned learning opportunity was based around the child having been taken to the park by the previous provider but this had not happened? All of these practicalities must be addressed in the final version of the document.
  1. In addition, it is also questionable whether doing the same thing and taking the same approach in every setting the child experiences would be desirable. Children do enjoy change to some extent and like having variety, which would be removed by the uniform approach proposed here. The EYFS needs to do a much better job of explaining how, as well as why, the “joined up” approach to delivery is to be implemented.
  1. The assertion that providers and practitioners should actively promote equality of opportunity and anti-discriminatory practice is welcome. The EYFS also says that practitioners must plan for the needs of black and minority ethnic pupils and those children who are disabled or who have special educational needs. Practitioners should also be required not just to plan for these groups of children but also to ensure that their practice and processes are inclusive and reflects the planning at all levels.

Q.6Do you agree that this section is useful for those managing provision and/or working with children from birth to five years in different settings?

Q.7Do you agree that the learning and development requirements are sufficiently flexible to enable the diverse range of providers in the sector to deliver them effectively?

  1. There is significant overlap between these two questions and much of the early part of the section, especially 3.1, reproduces material from earlier in the document, which has already been commented upon, so the NUT will respond to both of these questions at the same time.
  1. A wide range of different settings and practitioners would use the EYFS Framework. The way the consultation version is set out, however, does not facilitate its use by all of its potential audience. There are many dense sections of text which the reader would have to go through in order to find the particular part which would be relevant to them. This type of design is not helpful for anyone using the document. The aim should be a much slimmer, user-friendly document which sets out requirements and principles clearly, tailored to particular groups of practitioners or settings as called for above.
  1. There would be a case, therefore, for using presentational devices to indicate the settings and/or practitioners for whom sections of the text would be most relevant. It would, for example, be very useful to have “maintained school” and “childminder” sections, or to use colour coding, for each topic within the EYFS Framework to avoid readers having to look through all of the text in order to find the information which is pertinent to them and their setting. Although there may be academic interest in reading about requirements which apply to different settings, in terms of practical usage and also to reduce the amount of reading required, it would be better if clear signposting as suggested above was used. This would also counter the negative impression which could be gained from a large unwieldy document.
  1. The section on play and its central role in the EYFS is to be supported. Given play’s major role, however, this section is rather brief and does not provide sufficient guidance for it to be of practical use, especially for settings and/or practitioners who have little previous experience of using play as the fundamental medium of learning. Additional guidance, or an indication of where this could be found, on implementing this requirement is needed, which would incorporate its theoretical underpinning. This could be done by a section or annex covering topics including “what is play?”; “what does it look like?”; “what kind of activities are involved?”, written by a leading expert in the field such as Tina Bruce. As a minimum, the EYFS should exemplify clearly rich learning experiences for children via play.

Q.8Do you agree that the learning and development requirements are expressed clearly enough to support quality improvement?