Changes to the EYFS: promoting ‘Britishness’ to become a requirement for receiving funded places

There has been some publicity over the summer about the Governments wish to ensure that schools teach British values, following concerns expressed about some schools in Birmingham and elsewhere. The Department for Education (DfE) has followed this up with proposed changes to regulations which will affect not only schools but also funded early years places. Obviously its easy to miss such things over the summer holiday period, so I wanted to try to make sure you were up to date on this.

A consultation  is currently being conducted on The_School_and_Early_Years_Finance_England_Regulations_2014   hardly light reading, but important for Montessori early years providers as settings will not be eligible to receive funding for 2, 3 or 4 year old places if their local authority

has reasonable grounds to believe

(that the setting) does not actively promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs; or

promotes, as evidence-based, views and theories which are contrary to established scientific or historical evidence and explanations.

Similar requirements have been made under changes to the independent school regulations regarding the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils. The aim is to make sure that the same requirements apply across the whole education sector.

The proposed changes, if (or when) accepted, come into effect from 1 January 2015.

Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State, has also indicated that the EYFS will be changed to make the Britishness requirement mandatory for all settingsbut as yet there has not been any consultation on this, and we understand that one is due later in the autumn.

What do MSA settings need to do? We suggest that you add to your personal and social development policy (or whatever policy you have for that area) wording to the effect that you seek to actively promote the fundamental British valuesà ¢Ã¢ €š ¬ ¦ quoting the first of the two italicised paragraphs above. You could then add that you do not promote as evidence based views and theoriesà ¢Ã¢ €š ¬ ¦ followed by the rest of the second italicised paragraph. Whilst we cannot be sure, it seems likely that the EYFS proposals will follow the wording in the finance document.

Barbara adds that we must not lose sight of the key focus of the Montessori approach.   The Cosmic education ethos which underpins all the Montessori pedagogy is most evident in the work we do in the area of Understanding of World. We promote peaceful co-existence and respect for the planet with all it animate and inanimate treasure.

As for what it means in practice, being able to show that you are implementing behaviour and social policies (respect for others, following any rules, avoiding language which is racist, sexist, homophobic or derogatory towards particular faiths) should cover much of the requirements for early years, especially when you can show that you promote awareness of a range of faith celebrationsDiwali, Christmas and so onand possibly extend this by using songs, tales or rhymes from different countries. The use of legends and folk tales is, of course, all right, providing that you dont promote them as factual or historical (!).

In case you wish to see the consultation document and our response from MSA, click the link School and Early years Finance (England) Response form Montessori Schools Association. You are welcome to put your name on the response (deleting ours) and send it to the DfE. Replies do not have to be in until 17 October.

Government by consultation and advice is very much the present style of establishing change. This funding consultation is the 34th since January 2014, most are from DfE, but Ofsted, the Treasury, Revenue and Customs, the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Standards and Training Agency, the House of Lords Select Committee on Affordable Childcare, and the Home Office have all got in on the act at various times. I wonder about the idea of consultation in such ways. It is easy to be cynical when after meeting officials at the DfE a year ago to talk about the proposed Baseline Assessment and whether it should be set in the reception year, Year 1 or Year 2 (we said Year 2 so that summer born children would be less disadvantaged and the impact on the EYFS would be less), I returned home and watched Newsnight on television only to hear Liz Truss, then Childrens Minister, talk about when we introduce baseline assessment in the Reception Yearà ¢Ã¢ €š ¬ ¦

Similarly Britishness is too far set into regulations for schools for it to be redefined when applied to early years, even though there has not yet been any consultation.

MSA responds to all relevant consultations, although those on Universal Credit and Tax Free Childcare proved complicated and at times obscure. I do wonder how far it is appropriate for the Government to expect individual providers to keep up with all these changes and proposals. This is particularly the case when Britishness was suggested in August as a change to the revised EYFS which was not being implemented until the following month! That seems a likely reason for not consulting until at least the revised EYFS was in place. (A note on the changes to the EYFS has already been posted on the MSA website).

Meanwhile we will aim to keep you informed about any changes and policy developments. At the moment we are pursuing Ofsted over their use of the Parent View questionnaires prior to school inspection. This survey format is open to abuse by people posing as parentsthey could be disaffected former parents using it as a means of posting critical or false comments, or even past and present studentsas an Ofsted contractor suggested to me. It is also open to people to submit multiple responses if they have more than one email address. To have such a system and to use the responses as data showing accurate views on the school which are then reported on in writing is clearly wrong. Ill keep you up to date on any progress on this, but trying to get Ofsted to change is never easy!

Best wishes,

Dr Martin Bradley

National Chairman

Montessori Schools Association