Education Quandary: 'What is wrong with the Early Years Foundation Stage? I'm a childminder and haven't seen anything that bothers me'

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Hilary's advice

Like everyone working with the under-fives, you will have to follow the so-called EYFS from next September, so you are right to be anxious about the criticism of the so-called "nappy curriculum". The idea is to bring together playgroups, nurseries, childminding arrangements and reception classes under a common umbrella of care and education that will properly nurture young children.

Optimists hope it will improve standards, help families, and ensure that no child starts school lagging behind. Pessimists say it will force a narrow and formal curriculum on young children who should be left alone to learn through play and exploration.

Those of us with long memories cast our minds back to the early days of the national curriculum, and hope that in due course all the levels and inspections and observations that the bureaucrats have stuffed into this complicated framework will be slimmed down into something more manageable.

It sounds as if you are a practical person who is unfazed by jargon and can read a complicated page of government guidance on observations and reporting, and decide it simply means scribbling a note that little Milly managed to post the star shape into the star hole today.

Not everyone is so lucky, and it is bad news that some childminders are giving up rather than getting embroiled in the grids and targets of EYFS. After all, no one works with tots to tick boxes and fill out forms – and it will be criminal if something designed to help young children turns out to do the opposite.

Readers' advice

The Government says EYFS is flexible and play-based, but the real danger is that unconfident or poorly-trained workers – and local authorities – will take the suggested goals and targets and make them gospel.

Gillian Fairfield, Devon

What you need to know is that complaints about EYFS have been led by the Steiner school lobby and the independent schools – all people with enough money to make good choices. But they should also think about poorer children. EYFS will mean that people working with young children will get better training and can keep a closer eye on children's development, so that problems are picked up sooner, and families are given more support and services.

Jennifer McVenney, Derbyshire

Childminding should surely be about love, warmth, consistency, informality and spontaneity, uncluttered by red tape and external regulations. As soon as it becomes a managed, planned, Ofsted-inspected "profession", the crucial in loco parentis nature of this activity can be lost. The Open EYE Campaign has been contacted by many childminders about EYFS, some of whom are reluctantly giving up their vocation in despair.

The tragedy and the irony is that the unnecessary bureaucratic burden entailed in EYFS will drive out some of the very best childminders, while attracting practitioners with a "managerialist" mindset which is the antithesis of what high-quality childminding is about.

Richard House, Open EYE Campaign Steering Group

Next week's quandary

Dear Hilary, My daughter developed tonsillitis during her A-levels. She missed one exam and struggled through the others. If she doesn't get the grades for university, what are her options? Some of her subjects are not available for re-sits in January, but she does not want to spend her whole gap year retaking A-levels. What can I do to support her?

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