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As election fever grips the UK, you can barely escape the debates raging in the news, but what is the future for the Early Years Foundation Stage framework? EYFS was created by the Childcare Act 2006, coming into force in September 2008. If Labour win another term at the coming election, then the EYFS has greatest chance of survival, but if either the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats come to power, there is likely to be fairly major change to the framework. In the event of a hung parliament, the EYFS could either be sidelined as an issue that isn't worth bringing to the fore, or, depending on the balance of power, it could be an easy issue to tackle whilst more controversial issues are sidelined.
The EYFS has always stirred controversy amongst early years professionals. Chief argument against it is that it is too prescriptive and creates too much burden on child carers. The Conservatives were arguing, even before EYFS was mandated, that the proposed framework would stifle the creativity required for children to learn in the early years, and they were critical of the 'box ticking' exercise of the Areas of Learning and Development.
There are also opponents that claim that some of the goals of EYFS are too advanced for the preschool age group that it is aimed at, particularly in its numeracy and literacy objectives.
Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have stated that they will pare down the EYFS. The Liberal Democrats will scrap the EYFS in its current form and introduce a smaller framework to replace it. They would also cut back the Department of Children, Schools and Families and replace OFSTED with an Education Standards Authority.
The Conservatives have been less clear about the future of EYFS; whilst there is no doubt in their camp that the EYFS is overly bureacratic and offers the wrong approach to early years education, they have not stated whether they would scrap it altogether or simply reshape it. Speculation is that they would reduce its regulatory scope, making it more of a guiding framework, but keep something in place. They do remain committed to Sure Start Children's Centres and propose improving them further. They will also prioritise tackling the falling population of child carers which they attribute to the over-regulation of early years eductaion.
If Labour wins a further term in power, EYFS is still likely to undergo reform. As Labour launched their manifesto, Gordon Brown referred to their 'play based early years framework' with no direct mention of EYFS by name. Whilst many early years practitioners would argue that EYFS is nothing like a play based framework, ToucanLearn's emphasis has always been on learning through play and that is the premise with which we integrated with EYFS. Wider speculation is that Labour realise they have created too much burden with EYFS and will look to undo some of their change.
We were in contact with the Department for Children, Schools and Families as we adopted EYFS into ToucanLearn and even six months ago we found the department largely paralysed by the knowledge that change was imminent with the election due, regardless of the outcome. This paralysis has been a criticism of the cyclical nature of set-term politics in this country for a long time - no government department is going to set about major upheaval within a year of an election for fear that an incoming government will change course.
Whatever the outcome of the election, EYFS is likely to undergo some reform. At ToucanLearn we remain committed to the principle of learning through play - it will take a much more radical paradigm shift in early years education before anyone says that that's not a good way for babies and young children to learn and develop!