ECA’s ‘Manifesto for action’ consists of the following key points:
- The recognition that free imaginative play should be at the centre of young children’s experience and learning.
- A strong belief that the over-assessment and excessive monitoring of young children, with the accompanying ‘audit culture’ mentality, must not come to dominate, or significantly influence, early years practice, and the healthily diverse ways in which practitioners work with children.
- A conviction that the EYFS’s statutory ‘Early Learning Goals’ require a radical overhaul, if not abolition, with the age-inappropriate demands of the overly-cognitive literacy and mathematics ELGs requiring particular attention.
- The new Foundation Phase curriculum will recognise the prominence that needs to be accorded to young children’s physical development, to the important Key Persons approach, and to children’s right to regular access to the outdoors and the arts.
- Children who are born prematurely can be placed at a disadvantage if they are legally forced to enter school based on birth date rather than expected date of birth. There needs to be much greater flexibility in the school-entry framework for a number of reasons, including the importance of every child having the necessary time to achieve emotional and social readiness for more formal learning. All children should have the right to have their school starting date deferred at least until the legal date of entry, and without losing any of the rights accorded to other families. Parents also should not be pressurised in any way to bring forward school commencement before statutory school age.
- We recognise that there are highly contrasting principled views held about early years ICT and screen-based technologies, with both strong supporters of what is viewed as their creative and socially co-operative usage, and significant concerns relating to what is seen as an over-emphasis on their benefits, and their compromising impact on the quality of early play and social interactions. The Foundation Phase curriculum needs to have both viewpoints fully represented by its respective proponents, with accompanying evidence, so that practitioners can be left free to reach their own informed decisions about these technologies, and with no statutory guidelines or targets being set for ICT and screen-based technologies.
- The early years environment needs to be free of all commercial interference, whether marketing is directly or indirectly targeted at children and those who care for them.
- The statutory nature of the EYFS framework needs to be urgently re-visited, with only those aspects of the framework that are widely regarded as being uncontroversial and essential remaining statutory, and the rest becoming voluntary ‘guidance only’.
- There doesn't have to be a trade-off between the drive for greater equality between young children, and the extent to which government intervenes inappropriately into early childhood experience. Government needs to find creative and effective ways to address inequality which do not involve indiscriminately imposed policies and curricular frameworks that ‘catch’ all young children in their wake. A complex balance needs to be struck between the wish for equality, and the statutory imposition of inappropriate early interventions which can easily generate long-term harm.