Changes to the EYFS 2021

Children drawing

The Department for Education is to change the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) in 2021.

The government says the changes will improve outcomes for all children, but particularly the language and literacy outcomes for disadvantaged children and reduce teacher workload. 

The DfE sought responses to these proposed changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) between 24 October 2019 and 31 January 2020.

On 1 July, 2020 the government published its response to the EYFS Reforms consultation.

What is changing?

The consultation covered:

  • proposed revisions to the educational programmes
  • proposed revisions to the Early Learning Goals
  • proposed changes to the assessment and moderation process for the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile
  • and a proposed change to the safeguarding and welfare requirements to promote good oral health.

The DfE says that the proposals are intended to: 

  • make all 17 ELGs clearer, more specific and easier for teachers to make accurate judgements
  • focus on strengthening language and vocabulary development to particularly support disadvantaged children
  • strengthen literacy and numeracy outcomes to ensure all children have a good grasp of these areas of learning in preparation for year 1
  • ensure the ELGs are based on the latest evidence in childhood development
  • ensure they reflect the strongest predictors of future attainment.

The government's response to the consultation

The consultation received a total of 2,452 responses to the consultation, including 69 responses from practitioners working in the PVI early years sector and 41 childminders.

On 1 July, 2020 the government published its response to the EYFS Reforms consultation.

Educational programmes

Following the consultation, the DfE said that it would make a number of changes to the reformed education programmes including:

  • PSED will include additional information on self-care and healthy eating.
  • Physical Development will be strengthened to include a greater focus on development from birth to reception and on the link between gross and fine motor skills.
  • Literacy will include a stronger emphasis on pre-reception literacy learning, and the link between language comprehension and later reading and writing.
  • Mathematics will include a greater detail on the importance of shapes, spatial reasoning and measure as part of early maths learning, and how children can foster a love of maths.
  • Understanding the World will include wider experiences for children.
  • Expressive Arts and Design will include a wider variety of ways children can develop their creative skills.

The Communication and language programme will remain as originally proposed.

Early Learning Goals

The proposed changes to the Early Learning Goals (ELGs) will also go ahead, largely as planned, with the following changes made:

  • Communication and Language will include focus on adult-child interactions, and the word ‘accurate’ has been removed from the Speaking ELG when referring to tenses.
  • Mathematics will include greater clarity to counting and comparing quantities in the Numerical Patterns ELG. Government will proceed with its focus on number and numerical patterns within the mathematics ELGs as the strongest predictor for later maths outcomes. This also reflects government’s continued commitment to strengthen the teaching of early numeracy so that all children, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, are able to start year 1 with a strong and confident foundation in number. Practitioners and teachers will still be required to teach children about shape, space and measures, as part of a well-rounded curriculum, as set out in the revised mathematics educational programme.
  • Understanding the World will include a change in relation to the Past and Present ELG to further clarify the expectation of children understanding the concept of ‘past’.
  • Expressive Arts and Design will include reference to a greater variety of use of tools, materials and techniques that children will need to demonstrate for the Creating with Materials ELG.

The ELGs for Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Physical Development; and Literacy will remain as proposed.

EYFSP moderation

The proposal to remove the statutory duty for local authorities to moderate the EYFSP in 25% of schools each year will go ahead.

Schools will still be required to submit EYFSP data to their local authority and this will still be collected nationally.

Exceeding judgement

The government will proceed with plans to remove the “exceeding” judgement criteria from the EYFSP and says that this will “free up teachers’ time”.

Teachers will be expected to continue to identify and stretch more able children.

Oral health

A need to include oral health alongside the requirement to “promote the good health of children” will be added to the EYFS framework.

Individual settings and schools will need to determine how to meet this requirement and practitioners will not be required to assess this.

Protected characteristics

The DfE says that it will work with sector experts to review the EYFSP Handbook and ensure that it is clear on how practitioners should complete the Profile for children with SEND, EAL and who are summer-born, including signposting to additional advice and support where appropriate.

September 2020

The DfE says that its EYFS Reforms will “provide a strong basis to support children who may have missed critical months of early education” and will therefore be proceeding with plans to offer schools the opportunity to adopt the reforms from September 2020 onwards.

The reforms will be implemented nationally from September 2021 onwards as planned.

The Alliance's response

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “We’re incredibly disappointed by the DFE’s response to the EYFS consultation. At every stage of the process, well-informed and constructive contributions were submitted from a variety of experts in early years development and they have almost entirely been ignored by the government.

"The government has been repeatedly warned about the risks of shifting towards a narrow and overly formal approach to early years practice. However, this response continues to ignore the widely acknowledged fact that a child’s development is best served from a broad, well-rounded and holistic approach to early years education, not by a rigid framework which restricts the positive impact childminders, nurseries and pre-schools can have on a child's development.

"The government's stance on the Early Learning Goals and the early years foundation stage profile continues to be deeply problematic. Indeed, the language used in the government response is particularly revealing as to how much influence the consultation responses have had on their policy decisions. Particularly as far as the EYFSP is concerned, where the common view was that the statutory moderation by local authorities should be retained, yet the government has chosen to remove it anyway. 

"This raises a serious question as to why have a consultation process at all, if you’re not willing to listen to the views of the sector and the experts within it? 

"We urge the government to re-examine the consultation submissions, listen to the expert and majority views and work with the sector to deliver EYFS reforms which truly enhance the learning and development of our young children, not constrain it."

How did the Early Years Alliance respond to the consultation in 2019?

In its response to the consultation, the Alliance warned that the proposed government reforms could result in a ‘tick-box’ approach to early assessment on the issue.

We expressed concerns the proposal to replace the existing Early Learning Goals (ELGs) into a “series of bullet point statements” will “inadvertently promote a ‘tick-box’ approach to EYFSP assessment” and risk “moving children’s learning and development, and the early years practice that supports it, from an art to a science”, a shift that is a “retrograde step”. 

Our response outlines a number of other concerns about the proposed reforms, including: 

  • A lack of focus on the learning and development of younger children – despite the fact that the EYFS covers children from 0-5 – due to an emphasis on preparing children for Year 1
  • Lack of reference to how best to support the learning and development of children speaking English as an additional language and children with additional needs and/or disabilities
  • The reduction of the number of Communication and language ELGs from three to two
  • The removal of space, shape and measure from the Mathematics ELG.

You can read our full response to the consultation process here

The Alliance is also part of a coalition of early years sector representatives that called for greater sector involvement in discussions surrounding the proposed changes. You can read the coalition’s briefing here

Or read our blog post 'Why the DfE's proposed changes to the early learning goals are flawed'.

Where next?

Watch our Introducing the new Development Matters webinar



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