It’s a funny thing, the Early Years Foundation Stage, because it runs from birth to five years old. It is the longest key stage of all. These are the halcyon days before the State insists that you must educate your child full time. If you’re anything like our family, you probably came through it in a haze of sleep deprivation, toddler groups and toddler tantrums, preschools and family support. In the first five years, some parents choose to spend the entire time with their children; maybe longer, if they decide to home educate. Some parents put their toddlers or small children in a preschool, nursery or school, or use a family member or childminder, for a number of hours each week. Other parents have to go out to work full time, so they use a daycare nursery or a mix of options – some children are in settings for 30 plus hours a week. But it’s all a bit of a mishmash.
Because the vast majority of childcare is private, voluntary or independent, and because EYFS is not statutory, parents have a lot of say in what they decide to do for their child. It’s like a smorgasbord of options, especially if you have the money. And what parents want, for the most part, is not for their small children to be sat down, direct instructed, and turned into a ‘school ready’ product. They want their children to play, make friends, learn to share, have a nap if they need to, enjoy themselves, be happy, become toilet trained; just basically be a child. If Nick Gibb were to stand up and say “your children must stop playing and learn XY and Z in EYFS”, the parents can always say “no thanks”. We should never forget that EYFS is about the care that small children need, and not just their education. And that mum and dad usually know best, when it comes to educating the babies.
If you’re coming to the Festival of Education, do join me for my panel discussion on what’s next for Early Years, with an amazing line-up of guests.