• James Butler

A Reception Teacher Responds to the DfE Response

I am aware of the response the Department of Education (DfE) published today to the petition on Change.org that makes significant misleading claims suggesting that the petition makes false claims.

The response suggests that professionals are misleading colleagues and parents about DfE reforms which ignore research and latest evidence in Early Childhood Education. This is wrong.


The new ELGs and framework present a radical shift in the focus of EYFS. Knowledge and skills associated with rote learning, such as memorising number facts, are now key parts of the end of key stage assessment. This will present a radical shift in pedagogy away from play towards directed teaching of facts.


The DfE claims that they are "focusing on equipping children with the early language, literacy, numeracy and other skills they will need". This presents a really concerning focus on specific areas of learning and not on all areas of learning that young children need to develop into effective learners. They also fail to mention the Characteristics of Effective Learning, showing a drop of focus on the unique child and how individuals learn.

The new goals in themselves are, as research confirms, developmentally inappropriate for children at the end of the Reception year. For example the goal for Fine Motor Skills states

"Children at the expected level of development will:

  • Hold a pencil effectively in preparation for fluent writing – using the tripod grip in almost all cases;"

This is refuted entirely by the evidence which clearly shows that children do not develop static and dynamic tripod grips (at the expected level) until they are 5/6/7 in Year 1 and 2.


The DfE claims that the reforms will reduce unnecessary paperwork for Reception practitioners but anyone in practice today will not agree. These reforms will come into play in the same year as a baseline assessment that will be massively work-intensive for every professional in the Reception classroom. We are looking at several years of intense curriculum redrafts and significantly more demands on our limited time that takes us away from children. It is continuously refuted that these ELGs define curriculum but the new framework itself insists that teachers must teach towards these goals. The development of new assessment models, curriculums, and resources presents a massive workload increase for those of us in the classroom. Sprinkle on top of that a baseline assessment that takes us out of the classroom for the first 2/3 weeks of term and we are looking at an unmanageable level of work for even the most organised practitioners.

I am very concerned about claims that the sector has been intensively consulted in these reforms. None of the professionals the DfE quoted in the response are current Reception practitioners which shows a complete disregard for those key professionals at the coal face. They did consult Reception teachers in the pilot but this was a very limited sample.

As someone who is working with Reception age children every day, I am very concerned about the way in which the government is choosing to reform the EYFS. These reforms will lead to curriculums that are narrow and pedagogical approaches that are developmentally inappropriate. This will fail children. In light of the global pandemic, where children have been locked indoors, they need real experiences and less rote learning. Children are crying out for more time to play and experience the world around them and should not be forced down routes that hinder their development. Parents also want the best for their child. They want their children to be happy, active, and engaged learners. They do not want to see their 4-year-old switched off by memorising number facts or studying abstract morality questions.

I would recommend that everyone engages with this topic and make their own decision about whether or not to support these reforms. If you think they are negative, sign the petition.


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