Boys need a different EYFS curriculum

You know I have concerns with the EYFS curriculum and how it seems at odds with the expectations at year 1, especially when we consider the evidence shows that young males’ speech and language skills are well behind by the end of reception year.

The current EYFS curriculum and the pedagogy it almost mandates is compulsory in all schools, including alternative settings and private schools. So, we have no allowance for a different EYFS curriculum that would provide something for comparative analysis. If I were to redesign an alternative EYFS curriculum, I would make it available to all parents who would like to choose that particular setting for their children. Here is what it would look like:

  1. Direct instruction in English and Maths (just as with phonics)
  2. ‘Play’ to be used to consolidate rather than facilitate learning, or just for fun! It should also happen away from teaching other wise the noise might be too much for many children.
  3. Whole-class teaching so that children with speech and language issues hear just one, crystal-clear voice of an adult with a wide range of vocabulary and a good speaking voice.
  4. Minimal visual distractions on the walls.
  5. A clear distinction being drawn between toys and items used for education. For example, maths equipment should be maths equipment and revered as such.
  6. All tables to be facing forward during direct instruction sessions and children to know that they are in a lesson and what the purpose of that lesson is.
  7. Children to use pencil and paper at a table rather than using whiteboard and WB pen sitting hunched on the carpet. I prefer pencil and paper because WB pens tend to be rather thick and unwieldy, encouraging poor grip.
  8. Lots of traditional playtime games and nursery rhymes that help children to be social as many children arrive without knowledge of these. Also, why not utilise counting songs within or at the start of every maths lesson?
  9. Storytime every day to be revered and revived: children to sit quietly, without the distraction of other groups working, and listen to a story or information book that includes vocabulary that is new and challenging, with explanations from the teacher.
  10. Speech and language interventions (for example, elocution lessons for those who have suffered multiple ear infections) to be backed up by lots of work within the classroom on good enunciation. Why not have more poetry and Bible verse recitation for this very purpose?
  11. Teaching and testing of interesting facts, particularly science and history facts.
  12. Not allowing a child to fall behind, rather give them the extra teaching required to keep them with the main cohort.
  13. A bit of competition to be used, in order to incentivise the young males.

My previous work experience was in mainly male environments and I have taught young males up to the age of 18, so I would consider myself quite used to how they tick! It seems to me that our education system fails to educate boys properly partly because male ‘qualities’ are viewed as rather uncouth, or somehow needing to be socially engineered. For example, I find that boys and men prefer a black and white approach to right and wrong and they want to see *justice* being done; this is at odds with the more fashionable view where rules are invoked to different degrees dependent on the background or behavioural disposition of each individual child. Boys also seem to prefer non-fiction reading and writing, which is at odds with what is usually taught in English lessons in primary schools.

Fantasy EYFS classroom

While the current EYFS curriculum is clearly born out of kindness and love for the innocent childlike state of the very youngest pupils, I can’t help but see that boys, particularly those who come to school having not received that extra education at home, just ricochet around, like pin balls, not really knowing what is going on. The lack of hierarchy in the EYFS setting, with the teacher viewed as a facilitator, play mate and child’s equal, is also at odds with what boys prefer (a leader) and with how the wider world works.

So, perhaps it’s time to differentiate the EYFS curriculum based on the intake and level of disadvantage each cohort brings?

Who’s with me?


13 thoughts on “Boys need a different EYFS curriculum

  1. Me.

    In the best SSP schools, the gender gap is reversed.

    I suggest that one reason for the ‘gender gap’ is that girls tend to emulate teachers when they are little and boys tend to ricochet around as you have described. That would explain why girls tended to do better than boys in literacy in whole language settings.

    Schools and early years settings do a disservice to little children providing their early experiences with writing on a mini whiteboard – I work hard to address this wherever I go.

    I also think that little children need to sit at desks facing forwards when it is fit-for-purpose – they are just learning about left/rightness and spatial awareness – but most receptions settings seem to have peculiar -shaped tables or desks and certainly not enough to allow for large numbers to be attended to by a teacher at one time.

    Early years settings have to match, or better, the educational experiences the most advantaged children participate in at home. Schools always benefit from the level of language and cultural capital of children coming from articulate homes. Children should not get lesser when they attend pre-school and school.

    I say that every adult in an early years setting should be speaking to one child, or a group, or a whole class, all of the time – any protracted ‘silent’ observations are a waste of opportunity to model language and interactions.

    We are setting young children up for the surveillance society with obsessive observations, making notes and photographing at all times. Quite Orwellian – get them used to being ‘observed’ and everything ‘recorded’ when they are knee-high to a grasshopper. Chilling.

    I also agree that play should be ‘fun’ – indeed ‘free’ – but the notion/jargon of ‘free play’ went out of fashion. Does anyone say it nowadays? Or is it still child-initiated? How pompous.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed on the this. The Orwellian link is indeed quite chilling, and you reminded me of the ubiquitous scene of the EYFS ‘leader’ constantly taking photographs of the children and their ‘learning’ with the iPad.


      • The surveillance thing is nothing to do with EYFS it is just the ridiculous idea that students learning needs to be evidenced incessantly. Stick the kids in rows facing the front and the current system would still require as much surveillance. Do you have any evidence that this gap between boys and girls is less when the teaching is more ‘traditional’. If not, the article in the Telegraph has little bearing on your hypothesis.


      • Good points, although I’m not sure you’d need to take a photo if there was evidence in a book.
        I have absolutely no evidence whatsoever (other than anecdotal evidence), and the article was merely a link to a possible solution. I would like to investigate historical data for example, perhaps all-boy grammars actually helped raise attainment for young males? I do know that Mossbourne Academy has dramatically increased its pass rate among young males.


  2. The interesting thing is that the EYFS does not state that it has to be taught the way it is currently – just that the three prime areas should be focused on and then the shift should be on all 7 whereas what actually happens is that the three prime areas are taught and the move to all 7 does not happen as you can just say they are not ready. It’s a cop out. Really they should be learning like a Year 1 child by the end of the Reception. It is about interpretation and accepted practice rather than the handbook itself.


  3. Evidence from neuroscience is that there is absolutely no difference between girls & boys brains so any differences we see are totally down to the differential way they are parented. It is only when testosterone kicks in in adolescence that differences in architecture occur. Another ill informed rant.


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