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Early years pilots launched

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Early years pilots launched

Schools are set to pilot improved measures to support children's early development in language and vocabulary in the Reception year, making sure they have the skills needed to thrive at school.

From September, 25 schools across the country are set to trial revised Early Learning Goals, the key measures teachers use to decide how prepared children are to begin Year 1 at the end of Reception year. The changes are aimed at reducing teachers’ workload to free up more time to support children’s early skills and produce engaging lessons.

The pilot will help to address the problem of children arriving at school struggling with language and social skills, helping to close the so-called ‘word gap’ – the gap between disadvantaged children’s communication and that of their peers when they start school.

They mark the first step of a full consultation process working closely with the early years sector, following the Government’s commitment to improve the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile in response to the Primary Assessment consultation last September.

Children and Families Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:

We want to improve education for every child and the early years in a child’s life are critical in laying strong foundations for future success. That is why we want to free up more time for Reception teachers to interact with their pupils, and make sure they are developing the rich vocabulary, skills and behaviours they need to thrive at school and in later life.

The schools taking part in this pilot will help test these proposals, designed to cut down the burden of paperwork that exists with the current system. Teachers have the best understanding of their pupils, so it’s absolutely right that we empower them to use and trust their own professional judgment based on what they see.

The Department for Education has worked extensively with teachers, unions and experts from across early years, schools and child development to ensure proposals are based on the latest evidence and reflect feedback from practitioners. Support has been received from a wide range of experts.

Jan Dubiel, National Director of Early Excellence, said:

I am pleased that the Department is engaging in such a thorough and robust consultative process in developing these reforms. I applaud the fact that they are ensuring that the proposals are tested and shaped by the actual reception teachers who will use the new Early Years Foundation Stage Profile. This will ensure the reforms are informed by best practice and the expertise of practitioners – especially Reception teachers – themselves.

The new Early Learning Goals remain in the spirit of the original, internationally renowned Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), focusing on the core skills, knowledge, understanding and behaviours that children need in order to thrive and develop successfully – and I am confident this has the potential to result in positive changes and ensure that practitioners continue to deliver in a holistic approach to children’s learning and development.

Julie McCulloch, Interim Director of Policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

Early years teachers are weighed down by the unnecessary burden of collecting lots of evidence for the foundation stage moderation process. So we are pleased the government is launching a pilot project aimed at reducing this workload and freeing up teacher time to focus on what matters most – teaching.

We also welcome the emphasis on language and communication skills in the revised early learning goals. This is the essential building block on which so much learning is based and a vital element in closing the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. We welcome the government’s approach to introducing these reforms through extensive consultation and evaluation to ensure the best outcome for children.

James Bowen, Director of NAHT Edge, the union for middle leaders, said:

We are pleased to see that the government has prioritised reducing teacher workload as part of these reforms. Excessive evidence gathering, especially for moderation purposes, has for too long been a major burden for many reception class teachers. We hope that these reforms mean that reception teachers are freed up to focus more on the core business of teaching and learning.

We also welcome the message that this is a genuine pilot. We are pleased that schools themselves will be able to directly shape the development of this policy and ensure that government have clear feedback before any decisions are taken on a potential national roll-out.

Edward Melhuish, research professor at the University of Oxford, said:

Children need to have good language development in the pre-school years. Our research shows that where that happens we see children do better in school, socially and emotionally, and these benefits last through to adulthood.

The new Early Learning Goals rightly prioritise good language development but also cover the full range of children’s development, and they provide a basis for all preschool settings to provide the experiences children need for good development that will show long-term benefits. The new Early Learning Goals will be helpful to all concerned with children’s well-being.

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

Identifying those children who have fallen behind before school starts is crucial for providing them with the support they need to catch up. However it is difficult to know how to do this well and without increasing teacher workload.

It is only through careful evaluation that we'll be able to identify the best ways of supporting children's development in Reception. It is important that new approaches are independently evaluated before being rolled out and we welcome the opportunity to bring our expertise to today's new pilot.

Sue Robb OBE, Head of Early Years at Action for Children said:

Action for Children welcomes this pilot and looks forward to working with and supporting the schools in England that are chosen for the evaluation. We feel that anything that looks at lessening the onerous workload of moderation is to be welcomed and appreciate the opportunity to help and support those schools and teachers selected for this crucial piece of work.

Lauren Costello, National Director of Primary and SEND at The Academies Enterprise Trust, said:

Today’s proposals represent a really positive move forward to build on the already great practice that exists in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). As someone who works in the EYFS and primary sector on a national scale and across a wide range of socio and economic settings, I can clearly see a real commitment in these new Early Learning Goals to focus on key things that every child should know, master and have confidence in during their vital early years education.

The new Early Learning Goals will be especially helpful for EYFS teachers working with those who may have gaps in their very early life experiences and will allow these very talented practitioners to quickly identify and addresses these gaps and fix them. I am particularly pleased to see that the relentless focus on providing solid foundations for children’s reading is a prominent feature within the new Early Learning Goals.

Clare Sealy, Headteacher at St Matthias School, said:

I’m really pleased to see the government push ahead with these proposals today. Having been on the working group for them, I know first-hand how widely the government consulted to ensure that everyone’s opinion has been heard on this issue. The result is clear, well-structured proposals that will help teachers focus on the most important factors in a child’s early education.

It’s good to see self-regulation being included for the first time, as well as the strong emphasis on sharing stories with children. I’m also delighted that introducing children to wider knowledge of the world is part of these goals. Children find discovering this kind of learning so fascinating; they need this kind of powerful knowledge if they are to become creative critical thinkers.’

Chris Wilkins, Executive Head at The St Ninian Catholic Federation, said:

I’m firmly behind these proposals and their focus on the most important aspects of a child’s early development. It is crucial that we get this right for our children at this early stage of their life as it gives us the opportunity to shape not just the rest of their school career, but quite possibly for the rest of their life.

These proposals will help schools in their quest to enable every child to achieve well and develop as confident learners. The tighter focus will mean less burdensome admin for teachers, and also more time to offer the pupils the other vital experiences and knowledge that form the basis of early years learning.

Lee Wilson, Chief Executive Principal (Primary) at Outwood Grange Academy Trust, said:

I’m pleased to see that the government has decided to push on with this. Ever since the Key Stage One changes in 2014, we have needed a review of the Early Learning Goals to refocus them on the knowledge and skills that children need to secure as they leave Reception in order to ensure seamless transition between the two curricula.

The new goals will help teachers in ensuring that the transition from Reception to Year One is as smooth as possible, and they clearly reiterate the belief that children progress through quality teaching and learning. The removal of the burden of extensive evidence is also pleasing, as it shows a high level of trust in the profession.

Ed Vainker, Principal at Reach Academy Feltham, said the following:

The Early Years are a critical time, especially for the most vulnerable children, where teachers have an opportunity to avoid an achievement gap developing. These proposals provide a welcome focus on speech, language and communication and confirm that teacher judgment, rather than onerous evidence collection, is expected.

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