Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Independents Eagerly Await Early Years Exemption: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Independents Eagerly Await Early Years Exemption: News

Article excerpt

Proposal could see 500 schools opt out of 'nappy curriculum'.

Independent schools are preparing to opt out of the early years foundation stage (EYFS) - known by some as the "nappy curriculum" - en masse if changes are made to the way it is enforced.

About 500 pre-prep schools are likely to discard the framework, which sets out what should be expected of preschool and reception children, on the grounds that the principle of parental choice should be paramount.

Ministers have spent the past month running a hush-hush consultation on changes to the exemption system that would allow independent schools to opt out of the learning requirements if inspectors judge them to be "good" or better.

The government is also proposing to allow groups of schools - for example, the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) - to apply to be exempt.

Maintained schools, academies and free schools would not be permitted to apply for an exemption.

The EYFS has been in place since 2008. It was recently reviewed by Dame Clare Tickell and a revised, slimmed-down version is due come into force in September. The Tickell review recommended that the framework should continue to apply to all providers, but did suggest that the government should review the exemption process as it applied to independent schools.

IAPS has long been opposed to the compulsory nature of the EYFS, believing it to be a contradiction - independent schools do not have to follow the national curriculum from Year 1 onwards. "For our schools, it is a principle that is at stake, and that principle is parental choice," said David Hanson, IAPS chief executive. "It has never been about the EYFS per se.

"Our fundamental concern was that the government imposed a methodology on all schools. We believe that it is a fundamental breach of human rights: parents should be able to choose the education they want for their child.

"Undoubtedly the EYFS has improved the poorest settings, but at the same time it has frustrated the best practitioners."

Mr Hanson added: "We represent 500 high-quality schools. I think the vast majority of schools will technically opt out but still continue to use the best parts of the EYFS. We don't have an argument in terms of the principle of developing emerging literacy and numeracy and the goals themselves make sense.

"But it's to do with professional autonomy. We want teachers to be able to use their professional discretion rather than being compelled to follow a government strategy."

Paradoxically, the government has said that it remains committed to the EYFS as a universal framework for early education and childcare. …

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