Reframe The Reforms

Another week and another ‘reform’ from the DfE has emerged, this time updating guidance for the two-year old check. 

This, in addition, to the recently updated and released ‘OFSTED Strategy’, it’s no wonder as a sector we are fed up. 

For some time now, we’ve been promised a reduction in workload for our sector to enable practitioners to fully focus on their roles and spend more time having quality experiences with the children, and a focus on practitioner wellbeing has been a talking point for many years now, but how achievable is this with the constant re-framing of exisiting guidance, legislation and documentation? 

Not only do leaders, managers and practitioners alike need to find time in their already busy schedules to read and familiarise themselves with these updates and changes, which is often done in their own time as it is just not possible to do and process efficiently with the children present nor during their working day, but also overlooked is the impact that these new releases and updates are having on practitioner mental health and wellbeing.

From pandemic days of new guidance and updates being released on Sunday evenings ready to actioned by a team of over-worked, exhausted and stressed workforce, to these new updates being drip fed into our sector with little to no thought or concern for the wellbeing of the sector and those on the frontline. 

It is important to consider that these updates do not take into account the needs, changes and opinions of the workforce nor the children and their families that rely upon it, and considerable amounts of this new guidance, is outdated and not truly reflective of an ever-changing and diverse sector. 

The recently released OFSTED strategy made no reference to anti-racist practice in any way, which is an insult to the incredible hard work of some of the most prolific members of our sector who are fighting tirelessly to challenge and educate on the importance of anti-racist practice within the Early Years and so for this to be completely overlooked by the organisation who govern and inspect our sector for ‘best practice’ and everything that is encompassed in that,  demonstrates just how out of touch the people who are governing and putting these new strategies and guidance in place are with the reality of Early Years are. 

Similarly, the latest update to the two-year old development check is far from revolutionary in its content and advice, but also uses outdated and damaging terminology in relation to children’s emotional development and behaviours, despite vital work being done over the past few years to champion and advocate for children’s emotional wellbeing, ACES, self-regulation and the impact of trauma on children’s behaviour and emotional development. For the organisations that govern us  to still be so out of touch and using these terms despite our sector moving on, learning and growing in our knowledge of children and their emotional development needs, makes it incredibly difficult to not only accept and implement, but also to cascade to our teams. 

The final blow to the sector came towards the end of last week as Will Quince confirmed that the Government would adopt the Scottish ratio model and increase EY ratios in order to ‘lower costs’, despite uproar from our sector and prolific organisations within our sector from the moment it was proposed, they decided to move forward with this dangerous adjustment to ratios regardless. When further backlash and uproar from the sector ensued, it has since been announced that there will be a ‘consultation’ with the sector over the summer before the final decision is made on this, however, we all know only too well how ‘successful’ these consultations have been in the past. 

As a sector, we are frustrated and appalled at the blatant disregard for our opinions, knowledge and experience as the workforce on the ground, operating daily on the frontline of Early Years, navigating and overcoming the constant changes, obstacles and challenges we receive from above. 

Instead of spending so much time adjusting, adapting and rolling out new guidance and documents to our sector, it would be significantly more beneficial to spend time listening to the concerns, issues and challenges we as a workforce face every single day, and spend time, money and resources on solving these issues before worrying about updating guidance that doesn’t truly reflect our sector, it’s children or their families. 

Rather than creating ‘initiatives’ and ‘schemes’ that are going to apparently revolutionise the sector, it’s financial state and the service we provide, as a sector, we’d much rather be given a voice, a platform and the opportunity to be heard on issues, challenges and information that we desperately need resolving before we can even think about attempting to read and comprehend the reformed documents that are constantly being issued.  

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