Select Committee on Education and Employment First Report



35. The Early Excellence Centre pilot programme provides clear and pioneering evidence of how models of integrated services for children and families might be developed across the UK over time. The high quality of provision in these Centres provides strong models of good practice in integration which were being disseminated nationally, and internationally. Early evidence on the effectiveness of this programme also indicates the cost effectiveness of this policy strategy.[48] Dr Margy Whalley, the Director of the Pen Green Research, Training and Development Centre in Corby, told the Sub-committee that, for her, improving the quality of Early Years training would be about

    "re-conceptualising early years education and care as being about learning in a much wider sense. It is going to be about learning for little children and it is recognising that learning begins at birth, it does not begin at three. It is about learning for the parents and staff whatever their starting point. It is not a narrow view of education, it is a very broad view of education, and it is about taking on board parents as equal and active partners in that from the very beginning".[49]

36. Ms Margaret Hodge, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment and Equal Opportunities, told the Sub-committee: "We are also involved in new ways of delivering services, trying to get an integrated service across care, education and health with the Sure Start Programme and the Early Excellence Programme, and there are some interesting and very positive results coming out of that work".[50]

37. Dr Gillian Pugh was an enthusiastic advocate for Early Excellence Centres which

    "can provide education and care from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm all the year round for all the children .... Not only are children provided for, but there is education and support too for parents .... Through support from health authority and social services, families have access to health visitors, clinical psychologists, speech therapist and social workers. This surely must be the service of the future. But to achieve it requires a great deal of 'joined up' working between local authorities, health authorities and voluntary organisations, and additional mainstream funding to support the crucial work with parents".[51]

38. As part of the one-stop shop support offered by Early Excellence Centres, parents can take courses to increase their parenting skills, their employability and their self confidence.[52] The initial evidence from the Early Excellence Centres is that they can address a range of needs and allow parents to develop their own abilities.[53]

39. The delivery of integrated early childhood services in Early Excellence Centres brings considerable benefits in the form of cost savings from reduced spending on other services: for example, research suggests that for every £1 invested on integrated services, £8 is saved on alternative services. Early intervention for children with special needs leads to greater likelihood of the child being successfully integrated for compulsory education in mainstream school, a saving of some £7,000 per child-year.[54] Ms Hodge told the Sub-committee that these findings were very much in line with American experience.[55]

40. Early intervention is particularly important for children with special needs. The Royal National Institute for the Blind pointed that "it is all too easy to overlook the special needs of small numbers of children".[56] For example, only two out of a thousand children are likely to be visually impaired. Thus placements will rarely encounter children who require specialist intervention and support for their visual impairment. Mencap argued the case for the integration of education and therapeutic plans for individual children, especially for disabled children who receive education and care in more than one setting.[57] The National Autistic Society emphasised that the issue of identification was the primary concern in the Early Years setting, and one that they shared with the other Special Educational Needs agencies. They cited pioneering work on dyslexia, for example, which had illustrated the cost effectiveness of early identification.[58] Early identification of children with emotional or behavioural difficulties can also help not only the individual child and their family to receive the support they need, but can also prevent adverse consequences for the quality of education for the other children in the setting. Children who lack adequate parental care or supervision deserve particular attention, which is more likely to be provided in an integrated setting which addresses the needs of the parents as well as the child.

41. Research has also demonstrated the benefits of providing integrated education and care services for children alongside family support and adult training, in combatting social exclusion, child poverty, educational underachievement, welfare dependency and unemployment.[59] The challenge of bringing together previously disparately delivered services was referred to by several witnesses but the benefits of doing so were viewed as providing an incentive to move service delivery to a more integrated model nationally.[60] In their background report on the United Kingdom for the OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, Dr Tony Bertram and Professor Christine Pascal wrote that

    "It has become clear from international government and NGO studies that policies which aim to integrate and coordinate educational, social and health initiatives are likely to be more effective and more wide ranging in their impact, particularly when one ministry is given the leadership, monitoring and evaluative role. Given this evidence, the Government is committed to the development of early childhood services which integrate a range of services, including education, care, health, adult training and family support. They support the view that education and care are inseparable and want to develop a more comprehensive support structure around children and families which can meet a wide range of needs".[61]

42. We recommend that there should be substantially increased Government support for, and investment in, integrated initiatives like Sure Start and Early Excellence Centres.

43. We recommend that the evidence from comprehensive evaluations of Early Excellence and Sure Start should be used actively within Government across Departments to support and promote the further development of integrated policy and practice under the leadership of one Department.


44. We saw an example in Oxfordshire of an Early Years Unit which had been developed when funding became available. It was staffed by a teacher with qualified teacher status and a Learning Support Assistant. Recording a child's progress is integral to the Foundation Stage. Ms Anne-Marie Graham, the Head of Kirklees Early Years Service, doubted that the kind of record-keeping required could be carried out on a daily basis by a single teacher with 30 children.[62] Ms Hodge told the sub-committee she wanted to move to a one to fifteen ratio in Reception classes.[63] The required ratio in playgroups is one to eight and one to thirteen in nursery schools.[64] Ms Hodge referred to a trial under way with Coram Family of a ratio of 2 to 26, with one being a qualified teacher.[65] As Ms Hodge emphasised, the qualifications and the quality of the individual working with the child are equally important.[66] We recommend that the adult:child ratio should be no more than fifteen-to-one in Reception and Year 1.

45. There is a concern that not all teachers in Reception classes have been adequately trained in the Early Years. There is a danger that very young children may be receiving inappropriately formal training because a teacher with qualified teacher status may not be fully equipped to adopt the different approach required to deliver best practice in the Foundation Stage. The Teacher Training Agency is now doing more to ensure that the Early Years specialism is included as an option for trainee primary school teachers.[67]


Thomas notices the six letters in his name whenever he sees them, such as 'h' at the beginning of 'house'.—QCA Curriculum Guidance, page 60.

Marcus says that his name begins with the sound 'm', Faraz with 'f' and Tommy with 't'. He shows a visitor the letters that represent these and other sounds.—QCA Curriculum Guidance, page 60.

46. The QCA's Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage includes a table (below) which shows some of the different settings children attend before and during the foundation stage. It makes clear the marked variation in the ages at which children begin pre-school settings and later Reception and Year 1 classes in primary schools.

47. In the Reception year teachers are encouraged through the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's Curriculum Guidance gradually to introduce more structured learning of literacy and numeracy skills. There is disagreement as to how formal this learning should be, with the vast majority of professionals[68] believing that numeracy and literacy in the foundation stage should be introduced informally, especially through play, games and informal conversation.

48. The Literacy Hour and Mathematics Lesson are part of the National Literacy Strategy and the National Numeracy Strategy. At present both recommend that a sustained lesson of approximately one hour should be in place in Reception classrooms before the end of the Reception year to ensure a smooth start to formal teaching in Year 1. Many professionals expressed concern that overly formal instruction in the Reception class would impede the learning of young children, especially boys.[69] There is some evidence that in practice OFSTED inspectors expect to see whole-class formal teaching in the Reception year.[70] This expectation influences teachers to adopt a formal approach to literacy throughout the foundation stage, especially in the Reception year.[71]

49. Dr Nick Tate, then the Chief Executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, explained to the Sub-committee that because of the various pressures on the Early Years curriculum it had been difficult to craft a compromise wording in the Curriculum Guidance on the requirements of the literacy and numeracy strategies.[72] In the final published document, the compromise wording states that by the end of the Foundation Stage children should be prepared to move on to the literacy and numeracy hour requirement which comes in at the beginning of Key Stage 1.[73] This approach responds to the concerns raised in evidence[74] that much Reception class provision was too formal. The new approach gives Reception teachers the professional autonomy to make their judgement about when and how the literacy and numeracy strategy should be introduced, according to the needs of the children.

     January SeptemberSeptember September
A September-born boy    3.3 years
Joins nursery class
3.11 years
In nursery class
4.11 years
Joins reception class
5.11 years
Joins year 1
An October-born girl with a hearing impairment Specialist teacher at home from age six months. From age two attends a local authority family centre two mornings each week 3.2 years
Continues to attend family centre two mornings each week
3.10 years
Joins nursery school that has special unit
4.10 years
Remains in nursery school—joins reception class with support in summer term
5.10 years
Joins year 1
A December-born girl Joins nursery centre soon after second birthday 3.0 years
Remains in nursery centre
3.8 years
In nursery centre
4.8 years
Joins reception class—moves to mixed-age (reception and year 1) class in January
5.8 years
Remains in reception/year 1 class
A February-born boy with learning difficulties Receives Portage home teaching from age one 2.10 years
Joins assess-ment unit in special school
3.6 years
In special school nursery
4.6 years
Joins main-stream reception class
5.6 years
Joins year 1
A March-born boy Cared for by childminder from age nine months 2.9 years
With child-minder plus visits to child-minders' drop-in
3.5 years
Remains with child-minder, who is now accredited as education provider, plus two mornings at pre-school
4.5 years
Joins reception class plus before- and after-school care with same childminder
5.5 years
Joins year 1
A June-born girl   2.6 years
At home and attends parent/ toddler group
3.2 years
Joins independent school early years class
4.2 years
Remains in school early years class
5.2 years
Joins year 1
An August-born boy    2.4 years
At home
3.0 years
Joins playgroup
4.0 years
Joins reception class
5.0 years
Joins year 1

Source: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, 2000, page 7.

50. In her letter to OFSTED of 8 May 2000, Ms Hodge emphasised that although the full sessions of the literacy hour and daily mathematics lesson should be established by the end of the Reception year, it was perfectly acceptable earlier in the year for the elements of the literacy hour and the daily mathematics lesson to be delivered flexibly across the day.[75] In oral evidence to the Sub-committee, OFSTED confirmed that inspectors would expect to see a flexible approach: "we have re­issued guidance very recently to inspectors to remind them that there is ¼ flexibility and that they should not therefore expect to see every aspect of it (the Literacy Hour) covered in that way that is set out in the QCA and government guidance".[76]

51. There has been considerable concern that the expansion of Early Years provision will mean children being taught formally, perhaps in large groups, too early. We recommend that children below compulsory school age should be taught informally in ways that are appropriate to their developmental stage and their interests. We recommend that in Reception and Year 1 classes there should be fifteen or fewer children for each member of staff working with the children in the class.

52. Children in the Foundation Stage learn best through play, experience and conversation. We support the approach in the Curriculum Guidance issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority that more structured learning should be introduced very gradually so that, by the end of the Reception year, children are learning through more formal, whole class activities for a small proportion of the day.

53. Teacher training will now have to be looked at again to prepare teachers properly for the new Foundation Stage. We recommend that training for the Reception year should be moved out of Key Stage 1 training and into the training for the Foundation Stage.

54. We recommend that initial and in­service training programmes for Early Years practitioners should emphasise the skills and knowledge necessary to both involve and support family members. We recommend that the Teacher Training Agency and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority should emphasise in their guidance and the teacher training syllabus the skills for working with adults as well as those for teaching young children.

48  Tony Bertram and Chris Pascal, Early Excellence Centres First Findings Autumn 1999, DfEE, 2000. Back

49  Q. 322. Back

50  Q. 434. Back

51  Ev. p. 4 paras. 19-20. Back

52  Tony Bertram and Chris Pascal, Early Excellence Centres: First Findings Autumn 1999, DfEE, 2000, page 2. Back

53  Tony Bertram and Chris Pascal, Early Excellence Centres: First Findings Autumn 1999, DfEE, 2000, page 5. Back

54  Tony Bertram and Chris Pascal, Early Excellence Centres: First Findings Autumn 1999, DfEE, 2000, page 4. Back

55  Q. 474. Back

56  Appendix 13. Back

57  Appendix 9. Back

58  Appendix 16. Back

59  See, for example, a brief overview of the results of Head Start in the USA in POST Report 140, Early Years Learning, Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, June 2000, page 10. Back

60  Q. 6, Q. 48, Q. 145, Q. 222, Q. 319, Q. 350, Q. 434. Back

61  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 33, para. 3.2.8. The UK Background Report is accessible through the OECD website Back

62  Q. 255. Back

63  Q. 434. Back

64  Q. 446. Back

65  Q. 448. Back

66  Q. 448. Back

67  Q. 206. Back

68  For example, NUT, Appendix 10 paras. 41-43; TACTYC, Ev. p. 86 para. 2.3. Back

69  For example, Early Education, Ev. p. 52 para. 1.9; TACTYC, Ev. p. 89 para. 5.5. Back

70  Q. 154. Back

71  Early Education Ev. p. 57 para. 5.3. Back

72  Q. 287. Back

73  Q. 287; QCA Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, 2000, page 27. Back

74  Q. 155, Q. 238, Q. 253, Q. 272. Back

75  Ev. p. 214. Back

76  Q. 412; Ev. pp. 214-5. Back

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