Select Committee on Education and Employment First Report


EARLY YEARS

ASSESSMENT

Assessment gives insight into children's interests; achievements and possible difficulties in their learning from which next steps in learning and teaching can be planned. It also helps ensure early identification of special educational needs and particular abilities.—QCA Curriculum Guidance, page 24.

8. Assessment of pre­school age children is vital. It consists usually of observational notes made by the staff, portfolios of children's work, and developmental charts emphasising progression from simpler to more complex stages. Skill at developmental assessment varies across and between the several sectors of Early Years education.[97]

9. Parents have a vital role to play in the assessment of children in the Foundation Stage. The Professional Association of Early Childhood Educators, known as TACTYC,[98] underlined the need for parents "to be kept informed about up-to-date practices and what is known about young children's learning and development".[99]

10. We recommend that the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should expand training opportunities, particularly in the voluntary and private sector, to enhance the level of teaching skill, including planning and assessment.

OUTDOOR SPACE

11. The settings which we visited showed the diversity of buildings and facilities which exist for the education and care of young children.[100] There is great disparity in provision. Some provision is in large and spacious rooms with facilities which include access to the outside play area. Other settings are in small areas with no indoor space for vigorous play, or room to store adequately what minimal equipment they possess. The quality of education and care does not depend exclusively on the physical environment, but good practice can be enhanced and become best practice with the right building and facilities.

LEARNING OUTDOORS

It was a very windy day and the children spent some time outdoors, running around. They watched the way the wind blew the leaves around and the sounds it made. Some children used musical instruments to recreate the sounds, while others moved like the blowing leaves. —QCA Curriculum Guidance, page 126.


12. There is widespread concern nationally that children and young people are having insufficient physical exercise. "Experts in the fields of mental and physical health join the voices of those in social services and education to alert policy makers to the inadequacy of children's current physical experiences. Children have a far more sedentary life-style than their predecessors".[101] It is essential that young children should have regular access to outdoor play spaces which are equipped with appropriate and challenging equipment. The National Association of Head Teachers emphasised that physical development should be at the heart of the curriculum.[102]

13. Young children need space, both indoors and out to give opportunities for active physical play. This is vital for children's health and well-being, and is an important part of the child's all round pattern of development. Devon County Council Curriculum Services argued that the principles and aims of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 31) could only be achieved if "the activities are flexible, so that children can respond to them in a way that is conducive to their individual learning patterns, and that the adults are trained observers, so that they can recognise and respond to the developmental needs of the children to maximise their learning potential".[103]

14. Access to the outdoors is more than a recreational exercise; it offers activities planned to develop skills and confidence across the whole curriculum. The Campaign for State Education (CASE) "believes that all early years provision should include welcoming and well maintained indoor and outdoor space with a wide variety of materials and equipment to reflect cultural diversity, provide a range of different experiences and meet the needs of the children".[104]

15. In our Report on School Meals, we placed our recommendations on nutritional standards for school meals in the context of an overall effort to promote a healthier nation.[105] We quoted evidence that young children were healthier in the 1950s than in the 1990s, partly because children now spend less time playing outdoors.[106] One positive development in encouraging school-age children to take more exercise is the use of 'walking buses' to encourage even the youngest children at primary school to walk under supervision to and from school as an alternative to motor transport.[107]

16. Children's intellectual development can be affected if there is a lack of opportunity for physical development. Early Education[108] stated that "Concepts of relationships, literacy, numeracy, and cause and effect all stem from practical bodily interactions with the environment. Opportunities for active physical exercise are thus an important part of the content of early education, encouraging scientific skills of investigation, and expressive movement".[109]

17. The evidence from Montessori developed this thinking further: "Outdoors, children are able to garden, collect and identify leaves, label trees, study cloud formations, even find geometric shapes in shadows ... going outside provides occasions for new levels of responsibility and independence".[110]

18. The Early Learning Goals, which have been warmly received by practitioners,[111] are very clear on the importance of physical development in the Early Years, and see its value beyond mere physical activity, affecting the self esteem of young children which is crucial for all learning. "Physical development in the foundation stage is about improving skills of co-ordination, control, manipulation and movement. Physical development has two other very important aspects. It helps children gain confidence in what they can do and enables them to feel the positive benefits of being healthy and active. Effective physical development helps children develop a positive sense of well being".[112]

19. One part of the research carried out as part of the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project[113] investigates the characteristics of pre-school environments which include space and furnishings as well as other aspects of practice, organisation and activities. Settings in which the best practice was observed all had opportunities for play and learning outdoors as well as indoors.[114]

20. Members of the Sub-committee who visited a Forest School in Denmark were very impressed by the emphasis placed on learning in the outdoor environment. The children played outdoors whatever the weather, and enjoyed picnics in the rain. Emphasis was placed on learning through the natural environment.[115]

21. Ms Lesley Staggs of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority told the Sub-committee that outdoor play was "threaded throughout" the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's Curriculum Guidance document:[116] "Clearly what we have tried to do with the guidance is not to be prescriptive ... because different settings can deal with issues on different ways".[117] One example given in the Curriculum Guidance is of a childminder who makes good use of a local leisure centre for large scale play.[118] Ms Zena Brabazon of the Local Authorities Early Years Co-ordinators Network emphasised that safe areas for outdoor play were "absolutely critical" for children to learn to have social relationships as they grow up.[119] Ms Brabazon took Members of the Sub-committee round Early Years settings in Haringey where covered outdoor areas were provided for year-round outdoor play.[120]

EARLY LEARNING GOALS FOR MOVEMENT

Progression from age three to the end of the foundation stage

Stepping stones Examples of what children do What does the practitioner need to do?
Move spontaneously within available space.

Respond to rhythm, music and story by means of gesture and movement.

Can stop.
Sean heard a plane flying overhead and looked up to watch it. He put out his arms and moved around, making engine noises. He did this for several minutes before lying down. 'Now the plane has landed,' he said. Provide safe spaces, undertake risk assessment, create 'zones' for some activities, explain safety to both children and parents.
Plan time for children to explore space available and their own potential for moving within it.
Give as much opportunity as possible for children to move freely between indoor and outdoor spaces.
Be alert to the safety of children, particularly those who might overstretch themselves.
Ensure children wear appropriate clothing while being sensitive to the requirements for modesty in some cultures and religions.
Talk to children and help them explore new ways of moving.
Offer a range of stimuli to generate movement, including music, songs, action rhymes and stories.
Move freely with pleasure and confidence

Move in a range of ways, such as slithering, shuffling, rolling, crawling, walking, running, jumping, skipping, sliding and hopping.

Use movement to express feelings.

Adjust speed or change direction to avoid obstacles.

Negotiate space successfully when playing racing and chasing games with other children
A favourite tape was playing outside. The children moved enthusiastically, using their arms and legs and shaking their heads in time to the music.
Provide additional challenge and stimulus through access to a range of resources. Join in and make suggestions where appropriate, for example, 'Can we get from here to the wall without ¼?'
Provide safe mirrors as children experiment with and observe gesture and facial expressions.
Teach safety techniques such as getting onto the slide or picking up a bulky object.
Teach skills which will help children to keep themselves safe, for example responding rapidly to signals including visual signs and notes of music, role play with road layouts.
Introduce language of negotiation and cooperation, such as 'share', 'wait', 'take turns', 'before' and 'after'.
Go backwards and sideways as well as forwards.

Experiment with different ways of moving.

Initiate new combinations of movement and gesture in order to express and respond to feelings, ideas and experiences.

Jump off an object and land appropriately.
Obi crossed the swinging bridge on the climbing frame. He enjoyed making it swing as he went across. Encourage children to move both individually and as part of a group.
Use music of different kinds and from a variety of cultures with space, time, opportunity and encouragement to respond.
Encourage children to make a response to stories and rhymes with actions, such as 'The wheels on the bus.'
Teach and encourage children to use the vocabulary of movement such as 'gallop' and 'slither', of instruction such as 'follow', 'lead' and 'copy' and of feeling such as 'anger', 'excitement', 'anxiety' and 'affection'.
Provide props for children to hold that encourage and support their movement and dance.
Endorse success and offer challenges on an individual basis without comparing children's attainments.
Model safety consistently, for example tidiness and mats in place, and teach children how, for example, to approach things safely.
Move with confidence,
imagination and in safety
A large group of children are 'Going on a bear hunt' and carry out the actions of the story outdoors, interpreting the different ways of moving and carefully avoiding bumping into each other. Talk with children about their actions and encourage them to explore different ways of representing ideas and actions as they move.
Provide opportunities for children to repeat and change their actions so that they can think about, refine and improve them.

Source: Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, 2000, pages 104-105.

22. Ms Staggs acknowledged that for some settings there would be resource implications in developing facilities for outdoor play.[121] Ms Hodge recognised the need for more capital investment in the Early Years.[122] She hoped that more Early Years settings, particularly in the private and voluntary sectors, would be able to share outdoor spaces by establishing pre-schools on the site of an existing primary or secondary school.[123]

23. The requirements of the Early Learning Goals state that every child needs sufficient space outdoors[124] but this is not always available. We recommend that every setting that is inspected by OFSTED should have such areas available to the children. We recommend that if necessary the DfEE should make specific grants to Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships to make this provision possible and should assist settings in receipt of grant also to pursue other sources of funding, such as the New Opportunities Fund.

24. We recommend that the funding of Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should be increased to enable children who have no opportunity for outdoor play, to have safe and secure facilities regularly available to them so that they can play and learn outdoors as well as indoors.

25. We recommend that Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships in relatively disadvantaged urban areas should plan to provide a range of outdoor experiences appropriate to the age of the children including, for example, visits to urban farms, the countryside, woodland and the seaside, where the environment is used by skilled practitioners to instruct, stimulate and expand the imagination of children.



97  Taggart, B., Sylva., K., Siraj-Blatchford, I., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Walker-Hall, J., Report on Centre Characteristics (Interviews), Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project, DfEE and Institute of Education, University of London, 2000. Back

98  'Training, Advancement and Co-operation in Teaching Young Children'. Back

99  Ev. p. 89 para. 4.7. Back

100  Appendix 39 Visit to Oxfordshire; Appendix 40 Visit to Bristol; Appendix 42 Visit to Haringey. Back

101  Worcestershire Early Years Inspectorate, Appendix 20 para. 1.10. Back

102  NAHT, Appendix 14. Back

103  Appendix 27, para. 3. Back

104  Appendix 23, para. 1. Back

105  First Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, School Meals, HC 96, para. 40. Back

106  Food and nutrient intake of a national sample of four year-old children in 1950: comparison with the 1990s,by C. J. Prynne, A. A. Paul, G. M. Price, K. C. Day, W. S. Hilder and M. E. J. Wadsworth, in Public Health Nutrition, December 1999, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp. 537-547. The Journal is published by CABI Publishing. Back

107  See School Travel Advisory Group Report, 1998-99 and Government Response, January 2000. Back

108  Formerly the British Association for Early Childhood Education (BAECE). Back

109  Ev. p. 54 para. 1.17. Back

110  Ev. p. 103 paras. 5.33-5.34. Back

111  QCA Ev. p. 139 para. 5. Back

112  QCA Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, 2000, page 100. Back

113  Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) project, Technical Paper 6a, Characteristics of Pre-school Environments, Institute of Education, 1999, page 8, figure 4. Back

114  Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) project, Technical Paper 6a, Characteristics of Pre-school Environments, Institute of Education, 1999. Back

115  See Appendix 41 section 4. Back

116  Q. 301. Back

117  Q. 301. Back

118  QCA Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage, page 15; Q. 301. Back

119  Q. 258. Back

120  Appendix 42. Back

121  Q. 302. Back

122  Q. 454. Back

123  Q. 454. Back

124  QCA, 1999, p. 36. Back


 
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Prepared 11 January 2001