In Conversation with … Elaine Bennett & Kym Scott

The Department for Education (DfE) released the rewrite of the legal framework for teaching children from birth to five, the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), Keeping Early Years Unique (KEYU) have organised a petition calling for the government to revoke these changes. In this exclusive chat with Elaine Bennett and Kym Scott, we discover why the petition has been launched, why this campaign is different from others, what they hope to achieve and how you can get involved. 


On the move? Listen to my conversation with Elaine & Kym
You can download the file by clicking on the downward facing arrow (↓) to the far right

Get Involved!
Click on the button below to access the Petition to sign and share.

More information / resources
During our conversation, Elaine & Kym referred to the Early Education Facebook Live session, if you missed this you can watch it by clicking on the following link:
Early Education Facebook Live: Briefing on the EYFS Reforms (15th July 2020)

TES Article: EYFS Framework 2020: A mathematical dog’s dinner, The Early Childhood Mathematics Group (8th July 2020)

Early Education blog by Helen Moylett and Nancy Stewart: Eight reasons why the “reformed” EYFS Statutory Framework is unfit for purpose and two reasons to review the EYFS (9th July 2020)

Haven’t read the document yet?
Early Years Foundation Stage Reforms, July 2020

Early years teachers reject government rewrite of early education framework- “Right from the start- Revoke the EYFS reforms”
Teachers and early years experts are today launching a petition calling for the government to revoke the Department for Education’s (DfE) rewrite of the legal framework for teaching children from birth to age 5. Under new legal requirements for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) children would be subjected to experiences which ‘are likely to hinder rather than help, and risk widening the achievement gap further’, say organisers of the campaign, Keeping Early Years Unique (KEYU). A video has been made featuring voices from across the sector.

‘Reception class teachers will be in the terrible position of legally having to drill 4-year-olds on rote memory of addition and subtraction facts, which is completely inappropriate and goes against all we know to be right for young children’, says reception teacher Elaine Bennett. Mathematics experts have also criticised the new expectation for all children to automatically recall number bonds, which they say is not backed by research evidence and can result in children missing out on building understanding of numbers.

‘The EYFS reforms provided the perfect opportunity to ensure we get early education right from the start, but this opportunity has been squandered. We want an early education that puts priority on children’s emotional well-being, resilience, and motivation to learn alongside their knowledge and skills. But we are about to have a framework which no longer values how children learn through their play and exploration, creativity and thinking. It emphasises learning from books more than real experience, which means learning may be shallow and easily forgotten rather than building a real foundation for life,’ KEYU said in a statement. ‘This framework could give some children, especially those most at risk of educational disadvantage, a stressful, negative experience instead of a joyful, playful and successful one.’

Other goals expected of children include ‘Say a sound for each letters of the alphabet and at least 10 digraphs’, read words by blending sounds, and read aloud simple sentences, but there is no mention of children understanding what they read. They are expected to form letters correctly, and write words, phrases and sentences by using letter sounds. ‘These goals prioritise handwriting and spelling, to the detriment of children developing their own ideas and sense of purpose for writing,’ says KEYU.

Development of the reform has been controversial, with criticism that sector recommendations have been ignored, that the revisions ignore research evidence, that the process has driven been by downward pressure from Key Stage 1, and trialled inadequately in only 24 reception classes and no settings with babies and toddlers. The result, say campaigners, is a framework that does not reflect the needs of children from birth to 5, and is unfit for purpose.

Further information contact:
Kym Scott
Elaine Bennett / @KeepEYsUnique (Twitter)
Helen Moylett
Nancy Stewart
Stella Louis
Anna Ephgrave

Background information: Right from the Start
The last 10 years have seen a steady assault on early childhood through government policies:

  • Closure of children’s centres
  • Cuts in funding for professional development – early years workers cannot improve their qualifications
  • Qualification levels going down, with decreasing graduate professionals and many unqualified and minimally qualified staff working with young children
  • Many EY workers on minimum wage and claiming benefits
  • Pressure on primary schools to make reception year (the final year of the Early Years Foundation Stage) less play-based and more like Key Stage 1(the first year of the formal National Curriculum). We already have one of the youngest school starting ages in the world, and there is wide expert agreement that formal education is best left until children are 6 or 7. In countries where this happens the children are not socially or intellectually lagging behind.
  • Plans to introduce a Reception Baseline – testing young children in the face of advice from sector experts and despite two previously failed attempts.

The Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS)
The EYFS is a nationally acclaimed birth to five early learning framework which sets out

  •  the areas of learning and development which must shape activities and experiences for children in all early years’ settings;
  • the early learning goals that providers must help children work towards by the end of the academic year in which they turn five – the reception year in primary school;
  • assessment arrangements for measuring progress

The DfE Reformed EYFS

  • DfE decided to reform it on the back of a consultation on primary school accountability, and not an early years consultation. It asked questions only about the end of stage profile which records children’s attainment at the end of reception. Nobody who responded asked for changes to the whole EYFS birth to five, but they went ahead anyway.
  • Early years experts were not involved as advisers.
  • The EY sector formed a comprehensive Coalition which spoke with one voice and tried incredibly hard to work with DfE. The EY Coalition commissioned a review of recent research and a survey of practitioners, and made constructive recommendations. These have largely been ignored.
  • Trialling was inadequate. The new educational programmes cover birth to five, yet the ‘reformed’ EYFS was trialled in only 24 school reception classes. There was no trial in private, voluntary and independent settings, or in settings serving the youngest children. 24
  • DfE has been selective in using feedback from the Education Endowment Fund evaluation of the reception class trial. The evaluation found no evidence that children’s needs were better met or identified earlier, nor that children were assessed more accurately.

Why we are objecting
We are objecting for children, families and early years practitioners.

  1. The reforms do not meet the stated DfE objectives of improving early language outcomes and decreasing practitioner workload.
  2. The reforms put less emphasis on supporting children to become better learners, which will have a negative impact on closing attainment gaps. They do not take sufficient account of the active, playful and creative ways in which children learn.
  3. The harder Early Learning Goals in Maths and Literacy will not improve outcomes but will make more young children feel like failures before they are six. They will result in inappropriate practice drilling children in narrow content, which will hinder building the necessary foundations of embedded deeper understanding.
  4. The reforms are muddled, with important areas left out and others placed in illogical sections, and in most cases are not improvements on the current EYFS. This will fail to support professional understanding, while causing increased workload in adjusting to the new framework structure. and
  5. There is an over-emphasis on formal teaching and passive learning.
  6. The descriptions of activities within areas of learning are all aimed at the older end of the key stage; birth to three is largely ignore
  7. The reformed EYFS does not take equality, discrimination or the climate crisis into account.

What we want

  1. Early adoption should be abandoned. Changing any framework always increases workload and at this time Reception teachers should be concentrating on supporting well-being and a recovery curriculum for children and their families.
  2. The EYFS could usefully be reviewed, but it must be done in true collaboration with the sector and with a full range of expert input.
  3. This version of the EYFS framework should be abandoned. It is not fit for purpose and does profound disservice to children and practitioners.

About Elaine and Kym
Elaine Bennett
KEYU Founder, Trainer and EY Teacher
Elaine began her career over 25 years ago as a Nursery Nurse before moving into teaching. Elaine is currently based in Shoeburyness, Essex as EYFS Leader. She has also worked as an EYFS advisor at Southend On Sea LA. In 2015 Elaine founded the Keeping Early Years Unique group – 46,000 members later and after a series of highly publicised campaigns including standing against baseline testing and challenging the Bold Beginnings report- its fair to say that this group is now much more than a facebook page. It is a movement- from the foundations. She continues to stand with the Early Years community.

KEYU Website
KEYU Facebook Group
Connect with Elaine on Twitter: @KeepEYsUnique

Kym Scott
KEYU Admin, Early Years Trainer, Consultant, Author and Conference Speaker
Before starting her own consultancy business, Kym Scott headed up the Early Years Advisory Team in the London Borough of Lewisham, where she was School Improvement Advisor for Early Years for 15 years, following a successful teaching and senior leadership career in London schools. Her advisory role enabled her to work closely with many schools and settings in a variety of circumstances and she has a proven track record of helping leaders to raise the quality of their EYFS provision and improve outcomes for children. Lewisham has recently been named as one of the top places in the country for children’s development due to how well children in the borough achieve at the end of Reception. As well as contributing articles for various early years journals, Kym has co-authored a number of books including the widely acclaimed publication ‘A Place to Learn’ which has sold extensively both in this country and overseas. Kym works nationally and internationally, providing consultancy, training, workshops and keynote speeches on a number of subjects related to early years, but is especially passionate about children leading their own learning and how adults can best support this.

Kym Scott Consultancy Website
Connect with Kym on Twitter: @kymscott5


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