Open EYE Petition

We have received this petition, and we draw it to readers’ attention so that they can contact Downing Street and sign up if they so choose. The email was received (through a third party) from Richard House ([email protected]), referring for more information to .


In spite of all the research and international evidence that suggests that children who are taught to read and write later generally do better – and in spite of all the evidence suggesting that the Government’s audit-driven ‘reforms’ may have caused more problems than they’ve solved – the Government has pushed through a law that says practitioners working with pre-school children must teach reading and writing to the children in their charge from next September. That includes all workers with young children, including, for instance, childminders and playgroup workers as well as nursery teachers.

Aside from the problems this is likely to cause for a lot of children, and the extra paperwork these practitioners will have in filling out the official assessment forms that have also been made law, this also unfairly restricts parents’ choice – for there will be nowhere you can send your pre-school child that does not follow this system, whatever your own beliefs or philosophies might be.

If you’re at all concerned by this – or if you simply believe that it’s just not the business of Government to decide exactly how our youngest children should be cared for regardless of the wishes of their parents, the opinions of the professionals working with them or the research-based views of quite a number of experts in the field – then do please sign our petition! You’ll be joining such notables as Penelope Leach, Dorothy Rowe, Steve Biddulph, Melinda Messenger, all manner of other people from right across the early-years field.

The Petition

The Open EYE petition is live on the 10 Downing St website. Here is the petition text as it appears on the website:

We, the undersigned, petition the Prime Minister to commission an urgent independent review of the compulsory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) policy framework, and to reduce the status of its learning and development requirements to ‘professional guidelines’.

We recognise the Government’s good intentions in its early-years policy-making, but are concerned about the EYFS legislation, which comes into force in England next September. Our concerns focus on the learning and development requirements, as follows:

  1. They may harm children’s development.
  2. They will restrict parents’ freedom of choice in childcare and education.
  3. Their assessment profile requirements may place an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on those who care for young children.
  4. Recent evidence suggests that Government interventions in education generally may not be driving standards up and may be putting too much pressure on children.

Additional Information

  1. There is significant evidence to suggest that introducing formal education too early is damaging to some children in both the short and the long term, especially to boys. Consequences may include the development of unpredictable emotional and behavioural problems, unwarranted levels of stress, damage to children’s self-esteem and erosion of their enthusiasm for learning. Research has shown that five-year-olds drilled in reading and writing were outstripped four years later by children whose first year at school was more socially interactive and stimulating. Such evidence suggests that in practice (notwithstanding the reassurances offered in the legislation) the approaches to teaching that will be encouraged by broad-brush EYFS targets – such as that by the age of five children should “begin to form simple sentences, sometimes using punctuation” – are likely to be those which may be harmful to young children.The EYFS will be mandatory across all settings – childminding, nurseries, playgroups, schools (including independent schools). We appreciate that the Government’s intention is to ensure the same high standards everywhere, but we believe that this could be better achieved by investing the necessary resources in comprehensive staff training across the field. We do not accept that the EYFS encapsulation of child development reflects the views of professionals worldwide, nor do we accept that it is acceptable to mix developmental milestones with aspirational outcomes.
  2. We note that the law allows for the Government to make regulations regarding exemptions to EYFS. However such exceptions are to be made only at the request of individual parents, and it will therefore be impossible for parents to find a childcare or educational setting which takes a different approach to the EYFS and therefore does not teach to its learning and development requirements. This is an unprecedented restriction of parents’ freedom to choose how their children are cared for and educated. It may actually increase the use of informal care, with accompanying lower standards in some cases.
  3. The EYFS profile demands that carers assess children against 117 different assessment points. With less than a year to go until implementation, arrangements for carers to receive training and ongoing support are seriously inadequate. Without such training and support there is unlikely to be any consistency of assessments and random “box-ticking” is a real probability. Even once trained to do it, assessment and recording will add significantly to the workload of those who care for and work with young children. It may skew the way staff observe and interact with those children, and the paperwork required will certainly take up valuable time that could otherwise be spent with them.
  4. Recent evidence – including the reports of the Cambridge Primary Review, and the latest OECD PISA report (the “international league tables”) – suggests that Government-driven changes in education have been largely ineffective in driving up standards and may at worst be adversely affecting both educational standards and the quality of children’s educational experiences. We see no reason to believe that the EYFS learning and development requirements would break this pattern.

In conclusion, we believe that this unprecedented legislation could lead to harmful long-term consequences and therefore contradicts the responsible “precautionary principle” which should surely be exercised in all early-year state policy-making

20 thoughts on “Open EYE Petition”

  1. I have worked with children in Early years for over 20 years and have enjoyed my career immensely, but the pressure that has been placed on this profession recently has been ridiculous. We now have as much paper work as a reception teacher (but of course not the pay), but what makes it even worse is the conflicting advice from the different agencies out there that is supposed to help us. Even OFSTED don’t know about the EYFS (is this because in another year it will be something different)
    What ever happened to the simple PLAYGROUP where children went to learn the social skills before starting school, how to sit quietly and listen to a story and then be able to recall that story with a degree of accuracy. How to hold a paint brush and pencil and enjoy painting a picture of mummy without someone observing if they are putting arms and legs in the correct place. Children are young for such a short time, please lets get back to enjoying that time with them, to nurturing the skills that they have without any pressure (pressure on the child and the parents).

  2. I also have worked in childcare as a childminder for over twenty years, and now with these changes approaching feel that the demands that are being made on me could result in me having to give up my work which I have thorougly enjoyed over the years. My parents chose my setting for a home based, loving, caring and playfull place for their children, soon Iwill be planning, observing, photographing and educating from birth onwards and as I am the sole carer, who is going to do all my paperwork and look after the chidren, at the same time. Because at the end of the day I still have a home and a family as well.

  3. Okay, I’m joining the over 20 years in childcare group. Like J and D above, I too have enjoyed my career immensely. I have made the most of every change and opportunity to develop from ‘Just a Mum’ to childminder, Parent and Toddler Group and Playgroup founder, to fully fledged professional status of Early Years Lecturer, Childcare Recruitment Strategy Officer, Researcher and now I run my own Early Years and Childcare consultancy.
    Change is a challenge that is best faced cheerfully.
    Yes, there is heaps of paperwork these days, the hours are long and the money poor but there is more to life. We have to find ways of growing with change or change will taken us under.
    Yes Playgroups were simple; we scrimped and saved to buy paint, we raided our own pantries for ingredients to make play dough. These days millions of pounds is being pumped in to the Sector; there is a world wide wealth of Early Years expertise collaborating to give children the best possible start in life and I am proud to count myself amongst those dedicated childcare workers, from way back when, who has moved with times and continues to encourage all who work with young children and families to hold their heads high and agree that we are all doing a very good job.

  4. I don’t consider my Montessori nursery to be simple. I have spent a lot of money on beautiful equipment which serves a purpose in educating and stimulating our children. As a PVI there is no money pumped into my nursery – I have to pay for everything myself based on the fees I receive from parents. I receive support for training from my LEA for which I am grateful and I have also achieved EYPS thanks to the transition fund. I, too, count myself as a dedicated member of the childcare industry and put my heart and soul into my business, although when numbers drop after the summer term I earn very little for the effort I put in. I also have a young family at home who need me and I have a house to run. I do not appreciate the additional bureaucracy that I will be faced with from September and I also do not appreciate the Government telling me how to teach my nursery children. Nor do the parents I serve and some will be sending their objections in writing. Our children thrive in my setting and make great achievements in all areas of the Curriculum before they start school because they want to, not because they have to. Yes, the EYFS may reflect what I do already, but I do not want the Government to dictate to me that I must follow and record each individual standard for each child just to prove that what I am doing was right in the first place. Children are individuals and learn at their own pace through hands-on activities, stimulating materials and play. If they are to be drilled into a dull education of being force-fed worksheets and reading books so they can write a sentence, sometimes with punctuation, by the time they are 5 then I wish to have nothing to do with the EYFS. I feel very sorry for young children living in our current culture. Compulsory pre-school education would never be enforced abroad and furthermore there are no diverse effects on children starting school at the age of 7 in Europe. The Government seems to think it knows best yet never consulted parents on what they wanted for their children and now the freedom of choice is being taken away – so much for a “democratic society”. The future of childhood looks very bleak indeed – our future children are likely to be nothing more than clones.

  5. I too love working with young children. I have a Certificate in Person centred counselling, an Honours Degree in Childhood and Youth Studies and am about to be assessed for EYPS . But I don’t know how long I can carry on becaus I am disgusted with all the hypocrisy. What little children thrive on is the attention of a loving adult. But this is getting harder abd harder for us t provide. In 2000 the statutory child to adult ratio for children aged 3-5 was 1 to 5. At that level we had to work hard , but it was possible to do a good job. Shortly after this the ratio ws changed to 1-8 and vast mounds of paperwork were introduced. Now after years of study to become a graduate I find the sinister information in the EYFS that, being a graduate I can legally have a ratio of 1-13. This is totally barbaric , I would just be herding children not caring or educating them . I work in a full daycare setting. Some children are there from 8am to 6pm – how are the emotional needs of these children to be met ? The low pay of my fellow workers is a scandal they are just being exploited to provide cheap childcare so that women can go out to work – but what is the earthly point of providing bargain basement childcare so that other women can go out to work in other lowpaid jobs? The children are being robbed of a proper childhood by a system that replaces loving care with a mountain of very expensive glossy paperwork. If the government think that an exhuasted nursery assistant on the minimum wage is going to read any of this bumf after a nine hour stint in an understaffed and poorly equiped nursery they are totally out of touch with reallity. The money that they are putting into the Transformation fund needs to go to the underpaid staff – most of it is currently being gobbled up by FE colleges offering training .Most of the training is about understanding the governments bumf. Meanwhile the standards in some nurseries are very very bad ( Thats actually what the Transformation fund is all about else why spend all this money on change if it’s already good ?) children don’t choose to go to nurseries and many of them state clearly and frequently that they would rather not. We are supposed to trot out the party line about respecting children’s individuality but are put into a position where it’s practically imposible to do so. They want us to work like teachers but for a fraction of the money but it’s the children who will suffer because good people will leave rather than put up with it.

  6. Childminding, (home based childcare) is not just a geographical location but also an ethos and deeply held belief by those who practice it and those who seek it out, of a particular kind of learning experience and nurturing.
    The parents who choose it are looking for a substitute for themselves and their home, with the same type of values and attitudes they hold. They require the kind of one to one, loving experience their child would have if they could stay at home. They place the social and emotional well being of their child, the opportunity for him/her to remain in their community visiting local shops, parks, libraries, the school they will attend on a daily basis and making friends with the lollypop lady, checkout girl etc., of more value and real benefit than all the observations and assessments we will be obliged to provide for OFSTED, Local Authorities and Schools.
    Most of these parents come from the ranks of people who believe that it is not appropriate for young children to be observed and assessed no matter how laudable the motive and that there is plenty of time for this more formal approach when they get to school.
    They are not saying that this is the only valid early years experience (0_3 & 0_5), but that it is the one they have chosen, feel happy with and that suits their family.
    The EYFS effectively takes away this choice and that of childminders like me to provide it. It locks us into a prescribed way of practising, observing, recording and assessing children that is alien to the ethos of a true home setting.
    I have been a childminder for thirty years, have two level three qualifications in childcare and development and was graded outstanding by OFSTED at my last inspection.
    The children in my care develop and flourish at their own pace and in their own ways of learning supported in their understanding and achievements towards the Early Learning Goals without the necessity for me to record and compare them to statistics, developmental charts or each other.

  7. The Current Early learning strategy is not working.We have the worst literacy in G8.WE should adopt the European system of no formal education until 7.If a child experiences failure in literacy at 4 ,he will lose motivation and self esteem.A child’s eyes are not fully developed until 7!Pre learning skills such as fine and gross motor skills are vital and are being ignored under the current system.Emotional and social Intelligence are also being sacrificed at the expense of other targets.

  8. Children should not start formal education until they are at least 6 or 7 years old.
    This type of political nonsense will be damaging for all children who will miss out on their natural development
    This lunacy must be stopped.

  9. As a researcher, writer and grandparent I strongly support this petition. Surely the sad history of the introduction of a national curriculum in primary schools, with its constant changes, should convince our legislators that no one has the wisdom which deserves writing any curriculum in tablets of stone for all to follow. When mistakes are made in such legislation, as inevitably happens, the younger the children on whom the misfortune falls the more serious the long term consequences are likely to be. For goodness sake, government, pull back and issue this as guideline not legislation! Professionals must be trusted to make appropriate decisions for children on the basis of their trained assessment of the needs of the children in their care.

  10. I sign this petition as a long time educator, who has worked with both those who are highly literate and also with many who do not read well. I have learnt as teacher and parent that it is the love of story telling and poetry that leads to a real desire for reading, especially if this is developed in a nurturing enviornment. To insist on the mechanics of “reading skills”, without this critical precursor is, I am sorry to say, a misguided action. We must stress the importance of literacy but, in th early years, the bedrock is fun,play and story…

  11. i am a childminder of 20 years i found my self the other day ignoring a childs request because or writing an observation this is not what i i saw my self doing. surly i should be reacting to what the child wants not some one with ideas that are so far beyond what a child wants and needs. is’nt the idea that we are child led not government led.

  12. I fully support this petition.
    I am a pre-school worker. I agree with John Pearce that a love of literacy-books, stories, poems etc, is what we should all want for our children.
    If Team GB is so right in the value of early education, especially early literacy, (despite the rest of the world starting at age 6-7) why are we not number one in international league tables? Why are we around number 30-35? Please let children have fun and learn social skills for as long as possible.
    The Ofsted review of education for 6 year olds in England, Denmark and Finland reveals many interesting facets of this debate. For example, in Finland the system seeks to encourage children to be good Finns and to be socially responsible, with more formal education only starting at age 6. Sounds good to me!

  13. Thank God I have found you all,so may like minded people!
    I am a teacher and I own and manage a small day nurserey and have done so for nearly 20 years.
    I felt a lone voice in protest when early learning goals were brought in 10 years ago.
    I actually predicted compulsion and targets at the time.
    We must stand together and get this ridiculous curriculum to become a guideline.
    I am committed to this cause.

  14. I am currently studying to gain my EYPS and find myself questioning our government recommendations for children constantly. I agree that there should be a quality to the care our children recieve but the quality should be given in time and love not in observations and evidence. Our children attend school far too young and need more time to be children. But as with most things money and funding is a major player in this argument.

    I hope this OPEN EYE petition can open the eye’s of our government and that they will listen to the people who are really looking out for the interests of our children…….US

  15. I am a playworker in an out of school club. The time children spend with us is their leisure time, time they would spend at home if their parents didn’t work. We are required to deliver the EYFS to children in the Foundation Stage at school. This is a nonsense!! It also goes completely against our ethos of child-initiated play. we don’t do planning unless doing something special like an outing. we provide a wide range of resources to facilitate different play types and let the children direct themselves. We don’t record stuff and only intervene when invited to do so or there are health and safety issues. Is there anyone out there in the same position? We’re considering applying for exemption as we’re sure parents would back us up. Any ideas?

  16. I am a manager for an breakfast and afterschool club and I feel very strongly about your discussion. It is not right that we should plan children’s play. It should be the child’s choice what they want to do – it should be child lead , not adult lead. Does the government not know about or understand the Playwork principles and assumptions? I think we should apply for an exemption and will support any petitions for this.

  17. I am a mother and an nneb trained nursery nurse with 20 plus years working with children in hospitals, nurseries, overseas clubs and feel that children should be allowed to learn through play at their nurseries.Every child is different and develops at a different rate, they should learn social skills of sharing and interacting with other children and the act of conversation which together with respect and manners is lacking in todays society. We as adults should not let the goverment dictate what we want our young children to learn in nursery or playgroups.When the children start primary then they start reading and writing, unless of course the children themselves have shown an interest. Britain should be encouraging the childrens language skills as in countries like Sweden and Denmark and Switzerland where the children start school later, are ecouraged to stay at home with their mums and yet speak 2 or more languages by the time their in their teens.Everyone learns if they are enjoying something…not if its forced down their necks.I think let the children play.Incidently children in Spain now have compulsary nursery places in school at the age of 3 which is not going down at all well.


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