By Melanie Pilcher
The past few months have gone by in a blur as the sector has responded with its usual grit and determination to the many challenges it has faced.
It feels like the sector has being playing catch-up, reacting to situations that early years providers never would have dreamed of this time last year.
In the early days of the coronavirus, the emphasis was on infection control and good hygiene as practitioners worked tirelessly to keep the virus at bay and children in settings.
When even the best practice was no longer enough to contain the virus, they were faced with the unthinkable scenario of early years settings closing their doors to all but the most vulnerable, and the children of essential workers.
For those settings that have remained open many questions have been raised.
The emphasis on providing ‘care’ has outweighed the core purpose of early years to provide teaching and learning to ‘ensure children’s school readiness’ and give children the broad range of knowledge and skills that give them ‘the right foundation for good future progress through school and life’ (EYFS 2017).
Modifying the EYFS
With this in mind it is clear that even though the EYFS remains mandatory, there are certain elements that are unachievable for some settings which is why emergency legislation came into force on the 24 April that allows for disapplications and modifications to be made to the EYFS that include:
- Should (rather than must) use reasonable endeavours to meet the learning and development requirements
- temporary changes to paediatric first aid requirements
- staff qualifications in order to be counted in ratios
- suspending the progress check at 2, for this year only.
The official guidance to the EYFS modifications stipulates that in most cases providers must make ‘reasonable endeavours’ to meet the existing EYFS requirements. Only where this is not possible can the disapplications and modifications be implemented. Providers who are already struggling to apply restrictions such as social distancing are faced with the additional challenge of interpreting what reasonable endeavours look like and then modifying their practice accordingly.
Resources to support providers
The Alliance has developed a pack of free resources to support providers who are staying open.
These are available in the Members' Area.
We are also producing a series of resources that will help managers, practitioners and committee members of settings that are closed, who are beginning to consider what a phased return to re-opening fully may look like.
All the advice and guidance put the child at the centre of the process. How can practitioners create an environment; physically, emotionally and pedagogically that ensures, as far as possible, the health and safety of children and supports their learning and development?
The first pack available now considers how providers (including childminders) will:
- review current guidance and the implications for their service
- share relevant information with staff teams/colleagues
- risk assess and audit situations where despite ‘best endeavours,’ modifications to practice have to be made, specifically paediatric first aid, social distancing and working with reduced ratios
The resource pack contains a presentation that can be used with a team of practitioners and facilitator notes that will promote discussion and raise awareness of the key considerations. The pack also includes templates for risk assessment and an audit tool to support decision making.
In the coming weeks other free resource packs will be made available:
- Supporting practitioners, children and families to return to your setting
- Preparing your premises and the early years environment
- Opening the doors
A pack for childminders will also be made available which summarises the key points and makes specific reference to their circumstances.
Alliance members can access the free resources pack Maintaining Your Provision And Staying Open from the Members' Area.