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Theories and Practice in Child Development

After reading the document produced by Tom Burkard and Tom Clelford, “Cutting the Children’s Plan” which gives an insight of why the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) should be scrapped. It states that the Statutory Framework EYFS which was launched in 2007 should be scrapped to save £315 million. However the authors do not state which areas of the EYFS they want scrapped, which causes concern. The EYFS is a large framework for practice and assessment and is the umbrella under which all the children aged 0 – 5 years who receive care and education. It has been a great impact within the early years establishments as well as having influences of various theorists to support the children’s learning and development. Before thinking of scrapping the EYFS altogether the authors should consider looking through the framework and see what the positives and negatives are as some aspects of the EYFS don’t work for some whereas other aspects are of great use. As it mentions in Pugh.G et al (2010:100) “There are also those who think it goes too far and is too perspective. (Open Eye, 2007:2008)”.

Within the document it is mentioned that the EYFS is an intrusive attempt to ‘micro-manage’ all 0 – 5 childcare establishments as well as dictating ‘best practice’ including parents. Within the EYFS it does not specify that the parents should do as they are told neither does it specify how practitioners should work with the children. Therefore Pugh.G et al (2010:105), states that “It requires the practitioner to differentiate to understand each child as an individual and personalize the curriculum content to match their needs and interests”. However practitioners should have an in depth knowledge of their key children, so that they can use the EYFS Framework to support and help plan opportunities and activities. These will then enhance children’s learning and encourage the individual children’s development in a way that will interest them.

The EPPE Project (Sylva et al, 2004: Chapter 4) identified the importance of a form of interaction between children and adults, that they call ‘sustained shared thinking’ in promoting children’s learning and development which is now as part of the EYFS. On the other hand working in partnership with parents is essential as it helps all children to achieve their full potential. As stated in The Times (2008), “The EYFS is about responding to the individuality of each child, in the context of loving and secure relationships and creating a stimulating and enabling environment that will promote age – appropriate experiences for learning and development”. Furthermore, Nurse A.D (2007:73) states that “Children can be said to prefer to learn through the enactive mode as their ability to represent images and use symbols is less well developed”. In this Bruner agreed with Piaget that active, first – hand experiences are an appropriate way to present new knowledge to young children.

The document also questions whether the EYFS encourages good practice. According to Pugh.G et al (2010:105) “we need to focus the curriculum on what is important for the children, the things that they need to be doing at this stage of their development”. By looking at the research and practice the most important things are Being Social, Being Positive, Being a Communicator, Being Creative and Being Healthy and Safe (ECM:2003). By introducing reading and writing at an early stage it could be argued that it can lead to complications later on and also delaying phonic work, therefore the EYFS recommends that practitioners use their professional judgement with introducing phonics. On the other hand the authors are claiming that children who come from a less stimulating disadvantaged environment ‘waste an entire year’ falling further behind their middle class peers in learning (e.g reading), whose parents generally know better than to delay reading instruction. This is not entirely true, Gaunte (2010) clarifies that “Parents with the support of the wider family, are children’s primary educators. What parents do at home with young children has the most impact on all aspects of their development – social, emotional, intellectual and physical”.

Nevertheless it could be alleged that children who have strong home learning environments are ahead socially and intellectually by the age of three, which is continued into schooling. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model of human development emphasises the role of the wider environment and the children’s interaction within it. Bronfenbrenner and Caci (1994) proposed that the environment was the main influence on children’s development. Bronfenbrenner produced systems which included the following ‘Microsystems’, ‘Macrosystems’ and ‘Exosystems’. The following diagram illustrated below shows how these systems are interacted and impact on the child’s learning and development. (Smith et al: 2003). Bronfenbrenner also led the ‘Head Start’ programme in America which required helping disadvantaged children overcome their poor beginnings.

The EYFS recognises the importance of the wider environment both in working in partnership with parents and the ethos of the EYFS, providing equality of care and education for all. Research has shown that good quality early education and care has wide – ranging benefits for all children. Being provided across nurseries, reception classes, pre – schools, children’s centres and childminders, it enhances social and cognitive skills and is of particular benefit to disadvantaged children (N.A: 2010). However other curriculums have also the quality input that the EYFS has, for example the High Scope Curriculum, Montessori etc. It could be argued that children who have an intellectually and physically stimulating environment will maintain a more complex network of synapses in the brain (Bee: 1997). These biological changes in nature can have implications for practice, the EYFS however has a variety of suitable activities planned for those at different ages and stages of development. This is a prime example of how ‘nurture can influence nature.

Additionally Bowlby’s (1907 – 1990) research found that babies/children succeed if they receive care from one main caregiver which is usually the mother. They are also more likely to make secure attachments and then initially grow up into being well – balanced adults. (O’Hagan et al: 1993). Therefore modern researchers have disputed the fact that only the mothers can perform this task (Smith et al: 1993), regardless the debate of ‘working mothers’, it still remains that the children’s emotional and cognitive development are best when there is that continuity of care available. When in care children under the age of 5 should each be allocated key workers so that children can form key attachments with this person, this is where secondary attachments are formed. The key person is a key to developing relationships with the children that are assigned to them as swell as sharing and collecting information by working in partnership with parents of the key children allocated. The EYFS reflects this by stating that “Each child with early years care and education should be allocated a key person” (EYFS: 2007). By having a key person allocated to the children it enables them to develop an attachment with the practitioner on a secure basis knowing that they can rely on the key person.

Lastly the authors stipulate that despite the ambitions of the EYFS, childminders have not been able to see the practical effect of this. It could be argued that there is too much paperwork involved for them within the EYFS. However there is evidence that most childminders have developed knowledge and understanding of how to put the EYFS into practice and use it to identify, plan and provide foe individual children’s needs in their care. On the other hand many childminders have given up their jobs due to this and others who are thinking of this. On one forum a childminder writes her views on the EYFS Curriculum and how she feels about it which can be accessed on

The childminder states:

“I, like many other childminders, gave up an enormous amount of personal time just to prepare for my Ofsted.  I spent weeks compiling my Portfolio,  cataloguing my Toys, books, games, puzzles and equipment; compiling cleaning rotas, putting together endless policies, parent information booklets, files for training, files for resource collections, working out a system for recording each child’s development, the list goes on and on. I still cared about and loved the children, I still provided the caring environment, and I still try to help each of my little ones to blossom and flourish, to feel loved and cared for, to be aware of the needs and feelings of others and to know that each one is recognised as being unique and valuable. Yes it should be obligatory for childminders to attend relevant courses and keep up to date with current thinking and procedures, in order that they can prepare to do the job effectively, but the burden of delivering EYFS in a childminding setting is too much for many childminders, and this needs to be reviewed.

Mrs R Richardson, Registered Childminder”

Therefore it could be argued that the EYFS should not be scrapped but reviewed again. Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association argues that “We are receiving clear signals about the positives of the EYFS and recommend that the Government focuses on refining and improving the EYFS rather than introducing radical change”.

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