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Reflections on ‘Getting it right in the EYFS’ coalition event

As part of an EYFS coalition, PACEY along with other early years sector organisations in the group launched a survey in May 2019 to better understand the sector’s opinion of and attitude towards the EYFS ahead of a government consultation this year.

On Monday night PACEY participated in the launch of the EYFS coalition’s literature review of what works in early years as well as hearing the first results from the practitioner survey. It was the meeting of over 180 professionals in the early years sector where important work was discussed and passionate views were shared.

What happened on the night?

First, Beatrice Merrick, Chief Executive of Early Education who had organised the night opened and introduced the event, commenting on the great turnout and energy in the room.

“Getting it right in the EYFS: A literature review” – presentation of the findings by Dr. Christine Pascal

Dr. Christine Pascal from the Centre for Research in Early Childhood who co-authored the literature review introduced the research by initially highlighting that the sector as a whole needs to “use our voice for children and families”.  She then summarised the key points from the literature review which were as follows;

  • The evidence suggests that there is no substantiated case for the EYFS framework to be significantly changed.
  • However, less advantaged children continue to underachieve and this perpetuates the gap as they progress into primary schooling.
  • Recent evidence reveals that some modifications to guidance on Communications and Language Development and greater emphasis on the Characteristics of Effective Teaching and Learning would be beneficial.

She highlighted that “evidence is absolutely unequivocal that children need to grasp oral language and communication before they grasp the skills of written language” and that the best way to do this was to “encourage imaginative play and outdoor experience”.  Another key point she reflected on was the need for the sector to consider “where children learn citizenship and voice how to express their needs” which is something that Pascal stated that needed to be introduced more in the future.

Headlines from the practitioner survey – Dr Vicky Bamsey

Next Dr. Vicky Bamsey presented initial findings from the Early Years Foundation Stage Coalition Survey.

The main points raised included:

  • Workload remaining a concern.
  • Lack of funding.
  • Lack of time to work with outside professionals.
  • Lack of comparable frameworks between organisations.

Over 80% of respondents see the EYFS as supportive of children’s development within the prime areas of learning and over 60% of respondents see the EYFS as supportive of children’s development within specific areas of learning.

She followed these results by highlighting that although the EYFS is important it does not “on its own drive children’s outcomes or social mobility instead it is a combination of the home learning environment, resources and early year’s expertise”.

Panel discussion

Following this, the panel, consisting of Rosalind Millam, Professional Development Manager at PACEY, Elaine Bennett, an EY Practitioner representing Keeping Early Years Unique, Susie Owen, Deputy Director for Early Years at the Department for Education (DfE), Carolyn Silberfield, the Director of Early Childhood Studies Degrees Network, Michael Freeston, Director of the Early Years Alliance and Dr Tony Bertram, co-author of the literature review from the Centre for Research in Early Childhood opened a discussion about the points raised in the evidence.

They spoke about the need to treat “children as individuals” and to “listen to what our practitioners are actually saying”. As well as to keep encouraging what was termed as “affectionate” teaching whereby teachers hold a stake in a child’s development, not just a focus on a tick box scenario.


Questions from the floor voiced concerns over the simplification of scientific terms on the EYFS profile such as self-regulation which the panel agreed can cause more confusion than actual benefits. Further concerns were raised about the depreciating funds to the profession, worries over changes to the EYFS profile and the over focus on mathematics.

Susie Owens from DfE responded and reassured the audience that she would be taking the feedback back to the ministers. She discussed that they will be working to finalise the consultation in the coming weeks around the framework which we will watch this space for.

Thank you to everyone who attended. PACEY filmed the event and will have the video available in the next few days. Don't forget you can download the full literature review and research.

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