Play recognised by government as integral to early learning

Play recognised by government as integral to early learning

By Janaki Mahadevan Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The government has recognised the importance of play in children’s learning in its response to the consultation on the Early Years Foundation Stage.

n her review of the framework for under-fives, Dame Clare Tickell recommended that the EYFS be slimmed down to focus on three prime areas of learning and to reduce the number of early learning goals from 69 to 17.

While there was broad support for the recommendations to simplify the assessment for children at age five, a “significant minority” of respondents questioned the emphasis on school readiness.

In its response to the consultation, the government states: “We understand that there may be some anxiety that the EYFS should be valued as an important phase in its own right, and that there may be a concern about too strong a focus on formal education too soon.

“The government considers that this anxiety is unwarranted because school readiness should be understood in a broad sense. In their first few years, through exploration and play, children learn to walk and run, to talk and understand, and learn to relate to others, as well as beginning to read and write and use numbers.

“The EYFS framework accordingly recognises the central importance of play in children’s learning. It also recognises that children need to be introduced to formal learning in their foundation years in a way and at a time appropriate to their individual level of development.”

Many respondents also felt there was a need for additional information to support practitioners deliver the reformed EYFS. The government said it is working with organisations in the early years sector to ensure appropriate material is produced to underpin the new statutory framework.

Sue Robb, head of early years at charity 4Children, said: “We particularly welcome the new proposals that extend early learning beyond formal approaches to include play and child initiated learning. Introducing stronger definitions of play and making access to outdoor learning a requirement for all children every day can ensure fun and enjoyment are at the heart of their learning and development.

“Simplifying the bands of development and producing a clearer, broader definition of school readiness will make the delivery of the EYFS less bureaucratic and ensure that practitioners spend more time interacting with children to give them a rounded and enjoyable early education.”

The government is continuing to consult on the early learning goals and will publish the final revised EYFS framework in Spring 2012, ready for its implementation in September.

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