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KEYU has just  Early Childhood Forum - see Kathryn Solly is the KEYU rep on this influential Early Years body.

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.