Check back here regularly to find out what's going on at Early Childhood Forum - see Kathryn Solly is the KEYU rep on this influential Early Years body.

February 2021 Newsletter


 Newsletter 4 – February 2021 

Dear Members of the Early Childhood Forum, 

Welcome to the first Newsletter for 2021. We all hope you were able to enjoy the Christmas break despite the last - minute changes to safe distancing, isolating and social distancing which resulted in a very different experience for most. We also hope that this year will gradually improve for all of our members, as the Covid vaccination programme continues to be rolled out and the measures imposed by the 4th lockdown due to Covid 19, continue to be effective. 

As all members are aware, the Early Years practitioners in Day Care, Pre-Schools, Nurseries, Childminders, PVI and Maintained settings, have provided invaluable support for children from Birth to five years and their Key Worker Parents/Carers for almost a year now. This has been extremely hard and challenging due to changing requirements issued almost daily by the Government and often with a sense of the profession being forgotten. 

Members of ECF and the Steering Group have provided as much support as possible to Early Years settings by writing letters to the Government, to their own local MPs, signing petitions, continuing the lobbying that was evident in the last Newsletter. 

Peter Moss - Presentation 27th January 2021 via Zoom 

At this, our first members meeting of the year, Peter Moss gave a presentation relating to a new book ‘Transforming Early Childhood in England: Towards a Democratic Education’, edited by Claire Cameron and Peter Moss. 

He took everyone present through the reasons for researching and writing the book relating it back to the 1970s, since when there appears to have been little improvement in the care and education provided for the youngest children. He reported that up until that time the care and education had been of a high standard. This is a theme that Peter Moss has been writing about for several years. The presentation and his thoughts highlighted many issues within the sector, the impact of continuous changes in Government, persons who are not qualified in Early Years but are in positions that lead these changes. Interestingly, he identified Sure Start as one of these initiatives, however, he was in favour of Children’s Centres. The authors suggest that ‘care’ should not be included specifically within the EYFS Framework of other Early Years Curricula, that it should be inherent within the children’s learning. 

A short discussion ensued, which raised the point about contact with the Government and whether had Peter Moss and Colleagues approached them in the past. This received a negative response. However, since the presentation Melian Mansfield, our Chair, has remained in contact with Peter Moss and is meeting regularly in order to identify a way forward. The need for change in the early years is more 

important now than ever. An online meeting is being arranged on Monday 22nd March at 14.00 to bring together representatives from the various early years’ projects currently underway. Further details will be circulated nearer the time. 

The book is available to read online for free at & read the blog at 

Early Years Coalition news 

All organisations involved in the Early Years Coalition have been extremely busy working towards producing the 2nd draft of the Birth to Five Matters, by the sector, for the sector document to support practitioners providing care and education within the statutory EYFS Framework. During the recent weeks the results of the survey of the 1st draft have been analysed and used to inform the 2nd draft, especially in relation to the birth to 3 age range, the inclusion of a statement relating to Care etc. This second draft was disseminated on Friday 12th February 2021 and is available for access via the website Comments are requested via Survey Monkey, to be made by 26th February 2021, please. 

Forthcoming Events/Meetings 

3 March 2021 via Zoom at 11.00 – Maggie Fisher, a previous member of the ECF steering group, will provide an update on health visitors during the pandemic in England. The zoom invitation has been sent out, with a reminder to follow. 

22nd March 2021 via Zoom at 14.00 – CASE, ECF and Peter Moss confirmation and further details will be issued soon. 

Please share this newsletter with your members. We very much look forward to seeing you all at our next ZOOM meeting on Wednesday 3rd March 2021 and are keen to share your news with our members in future newsletters – do let us know what is new in your organisation. 

With best wishes 

Trisha and Barbara 

On behalf of the Steering Group, Early Childhood Forum



September 2020 Newsletter


ECF July 2020 Zoom Meeting

Nancy Stewart gave an excellent presentation on the EYFS reforms with reasoned arguments why it fails young children on many counts.

Click here to see this important document:

ECF March 2020 Meeting

At the March 2020 meeting of ECF Sally Hogg of the Parent Infant Foundation presented her PowerPoint on 'The First 1001 Days'  - well worth visiting their website at:

There were also talks about EY in China Melanie Pilcher of EYA, and by Diana Lawton from the Trialblazers group about appenticeships.

ECF October 2019 Meeting

The last ECF meeting of 2019 KEYU has attended was on 22 October 2019. Our delegate Kathryn Solly Reports:


(General meeting held 22.10.19)


Sid Mohandas, Middlesex University.

Sid gave a wise and balanced presentation about Men in Early Years.

Significant points from the discussion included:

  • Twenty years ago, did thesis on same subject  - no change, still 3%.
  • Important that those working in the EY earn a living salary.
  • Still seen as women’s work
  • Not attractive to men as salaries low – unlike nurses, now graduates with clear career structure, so pay, structure and qualifications important in the early years.

Sid: Men in EY treated preferentially in the EY and may be promoted ahead of ability – ‘glass escalator.’

  • Lots of male nurses now – it’s about ability not gender.
  • Many men in schools often as bursars. Women often not called bursars but ‘business managers.’
  • Research shows that parents are suspicious of male teachers of the under 4’s but not those over 5.

Sid: Men have worries of changing nappies where there is no CCTV.

  • Male teachers have to take a salary cut to work in the EY.
  • Historically, nannies are women and children not seen as important in the UK.
  • Staff leaving at 24-25 because pay is not good enough.
  • EY is a crucial period for brain development – people do not understand this concept.
  • Cultural issue here: each person should be valued for what they can offer.

Sid: (EY careers not encouraged in schools and colleges) – training organisations need to take a lead on this.


Ofsted Update – Education Inspection Framework

                        Wendy Ratcliff and Phil Minns of Ofsted.

EIF: Will be inspecting the ‘substance of education,’ and the new judgements as of September are;

  1. Quality of Education; 2. Personal Development; 3.Behaviours and Attitudes, and 4. Leadership and Management.

1.Quality of Education: working definition of the curriculum, measured by intent, implementation and impact.  Includes intended sequence of learning. 

Cultural Capital not looked at in isolation. ‘What children come with and what they need.’  Focus on vocab and communication: if poor at 5, twice as likely to be unemployed.

  1. COEL important. 
  2. Behaviours and Attitudes  separated out now. 

4 Leadership: vision, ethos and ethics, staff development, integrity, governance/oversight

Staff development and well-being.


Questions and comments 


PM: Nothing should be done specifically for an Ofsted Inspection. Ofsted will only pursue safeguarding issues / parents ‘complaints.

  • Large numbers of SEN not accepted by schools.

PM: Ofsted will always look at exclusions but EY is good at SEN support as health, education and social services still exist and are involved together.

  • SEN children encouraged to off roll and be home educated. Some schools isolate SEN children from their peers and do not offer additional support, and call this ‘inclusion.’
  • ‘Regulate Behaviour’ – what does this mean?

WR: It’s all about attainment etc, working to the EYFS but age appropriate – inspectors work to this.

  • Out of School wording not clear

WR: We don’t inspect individual children.

  • Practitioners do not know how to manage behaviour, not knowing why children misbehave. Training is so important

WR: Ofsted now recognises the EY as a specialist area. 

  • What is it like being a child here? A relevant question. 

PM: Learning Walk – provides a discussion for the big picture.  How do leaders access what their children need and how do they provide it, including aims and rationale for their EY Curriculum? 

EIF- early days but receiving positive feedback

PM: Ofsted has refined its methodology and makes sure every inspector uses the same measures.

Performance data no longer looked at except that which is published about the school, checked before the inspection.

PM: ‘Curriculum Deep Dives”

  1. Discussion with senior leaders about the intended whole curriculum offer
  2. Discussion of its content and sequencing.
  3. Other ‘Deep Dives’ activities such lesson visits and work scrutiny 
  4. Compare what inspectors see against what practitioners achieve.

Subject alignment, EYFS and the Primary National Curriculum shines a light on the importance of the EY; it’s about a child’s journey.

  • HMIs used to be advisors to HMG in the past. Does the EIF have the capacity to challenge HMG policy based on the research review?

PM: The chief inspector is keen to use Ofsted data and observations to challenge policy.

  • Attachment linked to key person role. 

WR: Inspectors in a group session will track at least two children and their development.

  • Disappointing that Baseline is only being done in English, what about EAL children who will always do better in their home language?


Coalition Review

Beatrice Merrick, Early Education.

  • Review launched 16/09/19 and since then in discussion about the ELG with the DfE:
  • Shape, measures etc not to be included and UtW is not understood by them. Dialogue continues but it is a mixed bag.  The risk of election is prompting them to want to get the consultations done in the next two weeks.
  • Practitioners’ survey results show no change wanted in the EYFS.  The Coalition is a one issue cause and is it running to a natural conclusion? What is its future? Much positivity in working together. How does ECF fit into this? Discussion of the Coalition’s future to follow.
  • Very important to get members’ views and responses out there.
  • Need to get the responses out to a wider audience not just EY.
  • Results of the consultation will take 12 weeks plus Christmas break means early next year 
  • BM: met Nick Gibb last week and they talked about MNS funding, EYFS changes. He understands the issues but it depends on the Treasury. There will be mass closures at Christmas if extra funding not forthcoming.
  • APPG members invited to sign letter to MPs and the Chancellor. APPG meeting end November hopefully.
  • Unison/ NEU/ NAHT – a lot of activity happening on MNS funding.


  • BASELINE – another £2m being spent on it. HMG to take it in-house eventually.
  • How are teachers meant to be able take 20 minutes out for each child? Stretches staff.
  • Legal challenge to BL has faded away.  
  • Schools not always telling parents that their children are doing the BL pilot.
  • Use of BL data?  Taking it as a school data set, but it follows the child.  Mobility will be a great issue.


Sue Owen, Deputy Director EY at the DfE (responsible for Quality and Outcomes, Workforce, Social Mobility and Language)

  • Question and Answer session (no PowerPoint presentation)
  • EYFS coming out ‘fairly soon.’
  • What’s is happening now with Children’s Centres? SO: No change, up to the LA’s. Ofsted not inspecting and no intention to do so. DfE trying to evaluate how LA’s are using remaining CC. 
  • When Review of Practise out? SO Not before spring.
  • What group care for specific age groups? SO: Tracks funded places but it is not broken down into age groups. Therefore, have to estimate, ‘Science with an element of art.’  
  • Will we get info from the BL tests? No. Who is evaluating the pilot  and when will it be published? Issue regarding access to data. She’ll check.
  • Two new ministers – any change in policy? (Nick Gibb responsible for EY and funding and Michelle for Children and Families.) SO: Gibb is a very experienced minister and understands funding pressures, and is passionate about disadvantaged children get the best experience. He visited Sheringham School and was enthusiastic about it; play important; importance of the interaction with children. Reforms on teachers; recruitment and EY qualifications.
  • Gibb obtained the extra funding for EY this summer.
  • We are no longer measles free. SO, to take concern back to her department 
  • What about social mobility? SO: New programs set up with new money when evidence provided, if possible. Various DfE initiatives: Hungry Little Minds – targeting parents and their children, informing them what is important for 0-3.
  • Working with commercial partners to get the message out:
  •                         Making it Real
  •                         Triple P
  • Parent Lives
  • Tips by Text
  • Working with LA’s
  • Peer review programme (speech and Language) -reporting latter
  • Early Outcome Fund – local initiatives
  • Partnership with Health England – upskilling 700 trainers
  • Designing Speech and language assessment tool with Keith Lax of Newcastle University
  • £20m workforce improvement fund in 53 LA’s
  • EYFS reforms
  • Endowment Fund  - teaching and language initiatives.
  • Building the evidence base to obtain more funding.
  • Profile needed updating and the ELG needed to be clearer plus the transition to Yr1.  2017-18 draft set  of ELG piloted in 24 schools this year.  Move away from having to gather vast amounts of data and evidence that took teachers away from the children. Consultations and pilot results to be published soon.
  • Looking at ELG’s educational outcomes:
  • Threading language throughout all the goals
  • Comprehension in Literacy and Communication – broader than reading and writing.
  • When the results of the consultation are out DfE very happy to see ECF to discuss and get feedback.
  • Is off rolling in the EY DFE’s responsibility? SO: Issues will be picked up in the SEN review. The DfE is aware of poor take up on SEN in the EY – NCB doing training on this. Early intervention very important  but no one-to-one support available even for a short time
  • Some PVI’s will take SEN but only up to 2. 
  • Children centres gave this support.
  • EHEP eligibility varies -  SO will check
  • Is strategy and policy CPD available? No national workforce strategy. Level 2 being rolled out now. Level 3 available but L4-6 being developed to show clear EY career progression. Big churn of apprentices . DfE is looking at CPD with a lower qualified workforce. Research to be sent to SO.




The second ECF meeting KEYU has attended was on 12 October 2018. Our delegate, Kathryn Solly reports:



Professor Gordon Stobart presented the main findings of the BERA research which covers a review of the literature and international studies on the Baseline Testing of young children in England “Better Without Baseline.”


He stressed that Baseline testing had £10milion set aside in funding from the government.


Their research asked several crucial questions about Baseline:

  • Purpose of the tests?
  • Fit for purpose?
  • Where does it get us?


He likened this unique test as only having a single purpose as establishing a baseline for KS2 tests. Thus:

  • Is it fair to children and families?
  • Is it legitimate and ethical?
  • Is it accurate and fair?
  • There is no allowance given for the children in terms of age, prematurity, background, SEN, EAL etc. Thus, without contextual factors unmeasured bias is introduced.
  • Who is accountable? Will it provide a useful comparison between schools? (The predictions between KS2 and GCSE are already poor.)
  • It is not diagnostic
  • It is an untried experiment over 7 years
  • The rationale was to help parental choice of schools but as between 20-50% of children move schools over those 7 years will it be of any use?
  • There are methological issues with the test which in 30 minutes looks at literacy, numeracy and self-regulation.
  • The predictive power of the test is unreliable and it is tricky to use to prove value added due to the mobility.
  • Why have a test that doesn’t support teaching and learning? There could be many unintended consequences as well as schools playing the system to gain a low baseline to improve their value added.


The likely impact on children and schools must be weighed against the very limited information which will result. It may lead to false impressions and labelling.





Gill and Wendy provided a presentation about the new Framework for September 2019. It stresses that every child deserves the best possible start in life on their 0-19 journey. The slides cover this age range. Ofsted has itself had a 50% budget cut so is having to work differently. So outstanding schools are not being expected and 80,000 providers are on a 4-year cycle.


There will be a formal consultation in the spring of 2019. This will include each individual inspection handbook too.


Ofsted’s focus has been on education via the curriculum and unpicking what is provided for children. They want to see a curriculum that is broad, rich and deep, rather than simply teaching for the test. The focus will move away from performance data and focus on what children are learning and what is being taught. The aim is to provide a more rounded view of the quality of education and the wider development of the child rather than data.


This they have done by looking at:

WHAT-the intentions are behind what providers provide in terms of the EYFS for children from registration onwards. They will question the provision and programmes for children.

HOW- the structure of the curriculum, the reasons why, the time spent, the approaches used, philosophies linked to the curriculum and the COEL by providers.

EVALUATION- what children are expected to know, do etc. Thus, a GLD will include a breadth of experiences and its impact in EY.


Questions would focus on what do you expect children to know, do and understand and



They propose 4 new inspection judgements removing the grade for pupil outcomes but looking at how schools are achieving their results.

There will be greater involvement of classroom teachers.


Moving away from outcomes and the present focus upon the quality of teaching, learning and assessment to overall educational effectiveness leading to a quality of education judgement.


The other 3 judgements will be:

  • personal development which will includes the wider areas of being active, healthy and engaged citizens.
  • behaviour and attitudes
  • schools; leadership and management.


This should make it easier to recognise and reward the good work done by schools in areas of high disadvantage. It should empower schools to put the child first.


Safeguarding will still hold the same weight and focus during inspections.

We also discussed the wording on the slides which focused upon knowledge and skills not mentioning understanding, the dispositions to learn. The slides were focussed on secondary and some primary so the words were contentious in that knowing was seen by Ofsted to include observing, practicing and building new skills in EY. Skills would include the application of knowledge.


“RESILIENCE” -We watched the film about Adverse Childhood Experiences in the USA and its huge impacts upon biology and health including obesity, diabetes etc.


The crucial message being that children need an ALWAYS AVAILABLE ADULT to support them during traumatic times.


Then we discussed 4 questions in small groups about ECF and its future directions:


  • What do you see as the current issues Early Childhood is facing?
  • What is your organisation doing to address these issues?
  • How do you think ECF can help?
  • How relevant is the ECF charter to these challenges?

These will be used to guide future work.


KEYU's input to these questions was as follows:


  1. What do you see as the current issues Early Childhood is facing?


  • Too much too soon
  • Testing
  • The demand for constant accountability creating a paper and documentation mountain.
  • Increasingly formalisation
  • A lack of understanding of child development, play and developmentally appropriate learning indoors and out
  • Inadequate training and CPD for many
  • Ill-informed senior managers and leaders with poor understanding of early childhood pedagogy pressuring staff for fear of Ofsted
  • Underfunding
  • Adult-child ratios in Reception classes
  • Obsession with phonics
  • Lack of a coherent and moral policy for children and young people
  • An individualistic society
  • A need for communities to take back control
  • The development of alternative ELG


  1. What is your organisation doing to address these issues?


  • Supporting requests for support, information and pedagogy in a developmentally appropriate manner
  • Providing links to quality training, visits, journals, research, books and advice.
  • Trying to counteract the groundswell about the above in a variety of ways on line, and in person.
  • Acting as a ‘go-between’. Staff in settings/schools are reluctant to speak out for fear of reprisals from management or even Ofsted. KEYU is the voice for this in some cases.



  1. How do you think ECF could help?


  • Sponsoring a KEYU conference
  • Developing materials e.g. a film to support what really matters in early childhood.
  • Linking up together with other organisations such as More than a Score, Upstart etc
  • Campaigning for Early Education to go up to age 7.
  • Finding “celebrity” figures who will speak out to the media for these messages.



  1. How relevant is the ECF charter to these challenges?
  • Very but it needs to be out there in schools and settings, via the media, making contact with the DfE, politicians etc.





The first meeting KEYU attended as was on 7 March 2018, and here is Kathryn's report:


Early Childhood Forum Summary of General Meeting for Keeping Early Years Unique.

March 7th, 2018:


Tracy Brabin, MP for Batley and Spen who is the Shadow Minister for Early Years provided a clear, well-informed talk.


She described the National Education Service from cradle to grave which will be launched later this year. It is based upon the principle that people will need to adapt their careers throughout life and the thrill of education is central to learning with no cut off for ongoing curiosity and discovery.

The Early Years with what we now know about brain formation and development is central to the policy. Universal child care and education from birth to age 7 will have high enough funding rates to ensure high quality for all and close the attainment gap via social justice


If a Labour government get in YR will continue to remain as part of the Foundation Stage, Baseline Assessment will not go ahead, ability grouping, downward pressure of assessment generally from such things as IELS (Baby PISA) will also stop. Assessment will be emboldened by teachers. Labour will insist on graduates in all settings to enable quality.


Beatrice Merrick of Early Education gave a brief update on the APPG meeting for Maintained Nursery Schools with the next meeting taking place on April 24th. The numbers attending remain high whilst the numbers of MNS continue to decline.


Charlotte Lynch gave an update on the work of Save the Children’s project on early years provision for children living in disadvantage. She stressed that the undue complexity and cost of the child-care system, which is the number one barrier to parents going back to work. She stressed the need for a quality workforce and also talked about the Early Years teacher qualification which although it is valued and is seen as beneficial only half of EYT recommend it.  Visit to access her PowerPoint presentation.


The Wonder words project to build positive parent and child interactions at home was also explained by Charlotte.




Bold Beginnings was discussed by ECF members whilst Amanda Spielman was actually being questioned by the Education Select Committee. She was quoted as saying that Ofsted “probably could have done a better job. Many of the organisations present have contributed concerns, research, evidence and commentary about the dangerous impact that the document could have.  These include NEU, Early Education, TACTYC, NAPE, NAHT, NCB.  Ofsted had described the core purpose of YR as being reading via synthetic phonics.  Alongside this was the teaching of numbers and counting fluency as well as learning to write with a sound pencil grip.


Julie Ann Morris from Ofsted’s registration team then described Ofsted’s myth busting campaign. She also explained that from April 1st, 2018 there will be a removal of the requirement for Early Years providers to complete a written SEF. They will still need to self-assess effectively as they still will be required to demonstrate strengths and weaknesses through a verbal discussion during the inspection process. The schedule and handbook will be re-written. The maintained sector will retain the written SEF.


The EY inspectors are now back in house and thus there is more consistency due to training across a wider range of experienced backgrounds. This will be regionalised later this year.


There are still difficulties in creating a common inspection framework which works across all areas of EY including childminders to maintained nursery schools and classes.


Childcare registrations using the MORE project will be simpler and quicker as registrations will soon be possible via Facebook.


The film of Bold Beginnings produced with Early Excellence is now online.

No news of Children Centre inspections.

Many issues about fraud now concerning Ofsted in regards to child care, tax credits and milk.

Suggested we invite the DfE to our next meeting.


Pam Jarvis from Leeds Trinity University then gave the attached presentation on Baseline Assessment. She is very concerned about the links between Bold Beginnings, Baseline and the formalisation of YR. A rich discussion about early brain development, the need for play based learning, increasing formality, inequality, teaching to the test and the need for high quality in teacher training in the early years followed.

Visit to access her PowerPoint presentation.


IELS (baby PISA) was discussed as the trial with 32 schools and 453 children has now been completed in England. There is no data of the tablet-based assessment which England, Estonia and the USA have signed up to yet but it is expected soon. We should be asking WHY this is taking place.

Early Childhood Forum General Meeting 8 June 2018 Report


This meeting took place at the beautiful new premises at the Montessori International Centre.


Firstly, we received an update on Ofsted developments from Wendy Ratcliff HMI.

  • Ofsted have removed the requirement for completing a SEF but ECF members felt that many are searching for alternatives as evidence still needs to be available and thus a question list approach might be useful as video clips on the Ofsted site. Inspectors will still expect to undertake a conversation about: What is it like to be a child in each setting? What works well and you are proud of? and What needs to improve?
  • The Early Years Inspection Handbook was republished at the end of April with minor changes.
  • The Early Years Compliance handbook has also been republished for regulatory activities. E.g. Inspectors check compliance rather than investigate.
  • The myth busting campaign continues
  • The next framework update will occur for September 2019. There will be a consultation early next term and formally into 2019.
  • Strong messages again were fed back by ECF members about the harm caused by Bold Beginnings.
  • Educational Psychologists are seeing very different practices in Early Years settings and schools- they are very stretched as many SENCo’s are not fully trained, Health Visitor checks via the Integrated Review not occurring and the huge impact with the demise of the children’s centres.


George and Teresa Smith gave us a full account of the Sutton Trusts “Stop Start” report on children’s centres.

  • CC have had a 20 years development from 1998-2018 from the beginnings with Norman Glass initiating 500 local programmes.
  • There were 3,600 in 2004 and 2010 was the zenith. Those which remain have been ‘hollowed out’ and provide a reduced offer and range of services. This shift from universal to targeted is not easily reversible.
  • There is also imposition by government of what it deems to be important for families and communities.
  • The National Audit office has monitored the impact on costs of closures of the children’s centres resulting in young people seeing the state as hostile to them with resulting impacts via crime etc.

The Sutton Trust's full research report, Stop Start can be viewed at:



After lunch we received an exciting and energetic presentation entitled “From Require Improvement to Outstanding” by KEYU member Leah Morris. This was really valued by ECF members as it came from a grassroots practitioner describing her powerful experiences teaching young children whilst coping with the demands of Ofsted, curriculum planning etc. Thank you again Leah.


Finally, representatives of member organisation gave a brief summary of their organisations and possible speakers were suggested for the next meeting.


Sue Allingham  / Early Years Out of the Box

has been nominated as a finalist in the EY Excellence Awards' 'Inclusion Expert' category for her  'Watch Read Do Review'.  

Sue was one of the original founding members of KEYU and has presented at several KEYU conferences.