'Toddler targets' guidance to be reviewed

Children playing The guidance set milestones in pre-school children's development

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The government has announced a review of guidance for nurseries and childcarers, which includes controversial "toddler targets".

Ministers have ordered a review of the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, which sets learning and welfare standards for under-fives.

They are concerned it is too rigid and leads to a "tick-box" approach.

The framework was part of a Labour drive to improve nursery education and other early years provision.

Former children's minister Margaret Hodge said the framework was about ensuring children got the best start in life, no matter what childcare setting they were in.

But many childcare professionals complain the EYFS framework leads to their spending less time with children and more time on paperwork.

Others argue that with its challenging early learning goals, to be achieved by age five, it sets many children up to fail.

EARLY LEARNING GOALS

  • Writes own name
  • Uses pencil effectively
  • Orders numbers one to 10
  • Develops mathematical ideas
  • Retells narratives
  • Reads familiar words
Latest research

Well-known children's authors including Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pullman were among those who campaigned for the scrapping of milestones , such as requiring five-year-olds to be able to write their own name and use punctuation.

And some educationalists argued the framework could harm children's development and restrict parents' freedom of choice in childcare and education.

Ministers say they want to focus on getting children ready for school and raising the results of those from poor homes.

The review is to be conducted by Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of the charity Action for Children.

She has been asked to consider whether the framework that supports the learning of under-fives is based on the best and latest research.

She will consider the latest evidence about what gives children the best start at school.

Overtaken

And she will look at whether there should be one single framework for all early years providers and what minimum standards are needed to keep children safe and support their development.

She will also consider whether young children's development should be formally assessed at a certain age.

Children's Minister Sarah Teather said early years professionals deserved to have the freedom to do their jobs and not have to deal with unnecessary bureaucracy.

She said: "It is not right or fair that children from deprived backgrounds that do really well in their early years are overtaken by lower achieving children from advantaged backgrounds by age five.

"We need good quality early learning for all children and a framework that raises standards, as well as keeping children safe."

Dame Clare said there had been a lot of debate about what young children learn before they reach school, and the pressure and burdens this puts on the early years sector.

"It is important that professionals in the early years have the time to tackle the important issues - helping children from poorer backgrounds, and those with special needs, as well as giving all children a fun and stimulating learning experience," she said.

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