Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 10

Memorandum from the National Union of Teachers (EY 28)


INTRODUCTION

  1.  The National Union of Teachers (NUT) welcomes the decision of the Education Sub-Committee to conduct an inquiry into "aspects of early years education". In recent years developments in the provision of education and care for young children have been rapid and the number of new initiatives numerous. The inquiry offers an important opportunity to review the impact of some of these initiatives. The NUT welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the inquiry.

  2.  It is now widely accepted amongst politicians, educationalists, the media and the public in general that spending money on nursery education constitutes an investment in the future which will bring about handsome returns. Established research has long shown the benefits of nursery education and, in particular, its contribution to raising achievement in disadvantaged areas and to lessening the money later needed to remedy social problems.

  3.  The NUT is the largest organisation representing qualified nursery/early years teachers. It has long been a leading advocate of high quality nursery education. The NUT's view, and this is shared by many others, is that only a high quality educational experience will bring genuine benefits. If the Government is serious about a long-term rise in standards and social inclusion for all then it needs to prioritise high quality nursery education and that means investing more in the training, education and employment of qualified nursery teachers.

  4.  The NUT has supported the current Government's partnership approach to expanding and improving the quality of education and childcare provision for three and four year olds. However, the NUT regards the "partnership" approach as a developmental process. Continuous quality improvement must be built into the expectations of the Government and existing standards of high quality must not be lost. The NUT welcomes therefore, the opportunity afforded by this inquiry to focus on early years education as distinct from the provision of childcare.

  5.  According to the terms of reference, the inquiry "will examine:

    —  the appropriate content of early years education, taking into account the recently published QCA Early Learning Goals;

    —  the way it should be taught;

    —  the kind of staff that are needed to teach it and the qualifications they should have;

    —  the way quality of teaching and learning in the early years is assessed; and

    —  at what age formal schooling should start."

  6.  Each of the above headings are covered by this submission which highlights a number of issues relating to early years and then offers a response to each of the areas specifically identified under the terms of reference of the inquiry.

HIGH QUALITY EDUCATION FOR THREE, FOUR AND FIVE YEAR OLDS

Importance of High Quality Provision

7.  The NUT has long campaigned for the provision of high quality nursery education for all three and four year olds and has long argued that high quality provision is best assured by the full-time involvement of qualified teachers.

  8.  It is only high quality nursery education which studies such as High Scope have shown to lead to later increased levels of achievement by children; reduced criminal activity and less dependence on welfare support in later life. Research has shown that investment in high quality nursery education is repaid many times over.

  9.  By "high quality", the Union believes that all three and four year olds should be entitled to a nursery education place which:

    —  is taught by qualified teachers and appropriately trained support staff;

    —  has an appropriate curriculum which provides for all children's individual learning needs to be met;

    —  is in premises suitable to those needs with sufficient teaching space, safe indoor and outdoor play areas, and appropriate health and welfare facilities; and

    —  offers an adult:child ratio of one appropriately trained and qualified teacher and one qualified nursery nurse to each 20 three and four year old children.

  10.  The existing quality assurance arrangements are not adequate to ensure common standards across the current range of providers eligible to receive funding for the education of three and four year olds. A set of basic minimum standards should be introduced against which all nursery education providers would be inspected under arrangements determined by the DfEE. These standards should include the quality indicators listed in the previous paragraph and should apply to all institutions which describe themselves as providing "nursery" or "early years" education.

  11.  Basic standards provide a more reliable and long-term indicator of quality provision than a half-day snapshot inspection of a nursery teacher or any other staff. They are also quantifiable indicators by which parents can compare and thereby make more meaningful and assured choices.

Importance of Qualified Teachers

  12.  The study, training, reflection and teaching practice required to attain qualified teacher status, which are assessed against demanding standards, provide the best guarantee that all three and four year olds—whatever their home circumstances and prior learning—will have their learning needs met in an appropriate way.

  13.  Qualified teachers bring knowledge, skills, experiences and attitudes which can assure parents that their children's abilities, aptitudes and well-being will be developed to the greatest extent which the available resources and facilities allow. The full-time presence of a qualified teacher means that learning opportunities will be exploited to the full within an appropriate framework of teaching. Qualified teachers' knowledge of child development and how children learn ensures that the activities and experiences provided for young children are purposeful, relevant, appropriate and informed by the expectations that those children will meet during their subsequent schooling.

  14.  Parents should be able to expect the same high quality provision wherever they live and whichever institution their three or four year old attends for their education. The basis for that equality of opportunity should be that where provision is designated as "education", children are taught by a qualified teacher who is responsible for the provision of an appropriate curriculum; the assessment of each child's attainment and progress; and reporting to parents. Overall, staff:child ratios, as well as premises and facilities, should also be subject to common minimum standards. Without such standards being universally available, parental choice has little meaning.

  15.  One of the strategic quality principles set out in the DfEE planning guidance for Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships (EYD&CPs) is that "a qualified teacher should be involved in all settings providing early years education within an Early Years Development and Childcare Plan". In many areas issues such as low teacher supply and limited budgets mean that planning for proper involvement (i.e. full-time involvement) of a qualified early years teacher in every setting is proving difficult for Partnerships. Partnerships are an engine for change, however, and should work together with the local authority and teacher training institutions to develop high quality training and recruitment programmes to increase the supply of qualified early years teachers in the local area.

  16.  The Select Committee should recommend that the next round of plans by Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should be required to show how, over time, all provision designated and funded as education for three and four year olds will be taught by a qualified teacher. Government investment should increase incrementally to allow that target to be met.

Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes

  17.  LEA maintained nursery schools provide the best examples of high quality nursery education. Local education authority nursery schools are staffed by qualified teachers and nursery nurses, who work together as a team to develop high quality provision which meets children's needs for combined care and education. These nursery schools are led by a headteacher who understands the needs of young children and their families and should be held up as examples of high quality education to which all providers should aspire.

  18.  The following points highlight why free-standing nursery schools are important to young children, their families, practitioners and the local authority.

    —  Maintained nursery schools are usually purpose built, with good facilities for outdoor play and all the staff focus on the particular needs of children aged 3-5. They offer an environment which is small in scale and which provides a secure setting for children being cared for outside the home for the first time.

    —  Nursery schools provide high quality, early education without charge, which is important for all children—especially for those with special educational needs.

    —  Nursery school staff are able to resist external pressure to teach the children in unsuitable ways because their work is based on firm principles of early childhood education and because they support each other. The curriculum offered includes many opportunities which experienced staff are able to relate effectively to the National Curriculum.

    —  Many nursery schools cater flexibly for the needs of families, showing an awareness of the need for responsive admissions policies and flexible patterns of attendance. They provide rich opportunities for parental involvement.

    —  Free-standing nursery schools are centres for the study of young children providing unique opportunities for professional development. They offer a career structure to those wishing to specialise in nursery education and, therefore, attract the most experienced staff.

    —  They are centres of excellence for those working in other forms of provision and, therefore, have a role to play in raising the quality of all services for young children. They also offer unique training placements to a wide range of professionals and others concerned with young children, eg health visitors, speech therapists, educational psychologists and work experience students.

    —  Nursery headteachers are needed to act as specialists in nursery education, offering advice to Partnerships, councillors, education officers and their primary colleagues on policy and curriculum issues.

  19.  The excellence of nursery schools and classes maintained by local education authorities is highlighted by the latest report from the DfEE funded Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project published by the Institute of Education[4].

  20.  Despite this, a small number of nursery schools have closed since the election of this Government, and a more significant number have been considered for closure. That is unacceptable. The threat to free-standing nursery schools is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the inadequacy of current levels of funding for three and four year olds. But it is also indicative of the short-termism that can prevail when political targets appear to drive the expansion and development of services rather than the needs of the community to be served.

  21.  Importantly a significant number of nursery schools are situated in areas of social and economic deprivation in towns and cities across Britain. The closure of nursery schools contradicts the Government's stated commitment regarding quality provision for young children and their families and is at odds with initiatives which aim to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as Sure Start.

  22.  The Government has set LEAs, through the Early Years Development & Childcare Partnerships (EYDCP), a target of establishing nursery education places for 66 per cent of three year olds—with an emphasis on high social need. LEAs should receive additional grant funding for every "newly eligible" three year old taken into maintained provision (as well as grant funding for every four year old). So why are some LEAs apparently unable to continue to subsidise the more costly, but higher quality, form of provision in nursery schools?

Four Year Olds in Reception Classes

  23.  The NUT has said consistently that where four year olds are in reception classes, "nursery conditions" should prevail. Its recommendation is that where, as an interim measure, four year olds are in reception classes, there should be groups of no more that 23 children taught by a qualified teacher and a qualified nursery nurse.


  24.  The NUT recognises that in the current situation a significant number of four year olds are in reception classes which are not staffed in accordance with that recommendation.

  25.  Over sized and under-staffed classes make if very difficult for reception teachers to provide an appropriate curriculum. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of reception teachers are doing a very good job with all their pupils. Their training as qualified teachers enables them to manage and motivate their pupils; consequently, the education provision in reception classes compares very favourably with settings where qualified teachers are not present.

  26.  In the medium term, it is vital that the Government's funding of education for three and four year olds is increased to allow all three and four year old children to be taught in nursery conditions.

  27.  In 1998 research conducted by Peter Tymms, Durham University on "Performance Indicators in Primary Schools" found that children "made enormous progress during their first year in reception"—even young four year olds. His research contradicts growing media opinion against placing very young children in reception classes; Dr Tymms' research supports the argument that the presence of a qualified teacher does make a difference.

  28.  Peter Tymms' research shows the presence of a qualified teacher can often overcome the negative influences of oversized classes and inappropriate premises. Private and voluntary providers are not required to ensure that four year olds are taught full-time by qualified teachers. Where qualified teachers are not present (whatever the number of children per adult and however suitable the premises) the learning needs of four year olds are less likely to be met.

AN EARLY YEARS CURRICULUM

  29.  Young children develop intellectually, socially, emotionally and physically more rapidly during the first five or six years of their lives than during any subsequent period. Positive learning and educational experiences during this crucial period of growth form the foundations of the understanding, knowledge, skills and attitudes which are essential for each child's future wellbeing and development.

  30.  Any early years curriculum guidelines should give a strong emphasis to children being encouraged, firstly, to make choices concerning activities, resources and materials, and who they work and play with; and secondly, to follow up their own ideas and aspirations. Children's needs and interests should be a basic starting point for teaching and learning.

  31.  The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry and the Macpherson Report highlighted the need for all providers to recognise that prejudice and discrimination exists in all parts of our society. This is further backed up by other research which highlights the learning of negative attitudes towards "difference" by very young children [Milner, "Children and Race"]. Those responsible for nursery education must address these issues in a positive and constructive way. Children through their varied experiences will have already perceived and formed opinions about the society in which they live before attending nursery provision. Any curriculum for young children should aim to challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes and help children begin to challenge racist and other discriminatory attitudes for themselves. All children must feel equally "at home" if they are to have equal opportunities to learn and pursue their interests.

  32.  Any curriculum guidance for young children should emphasise the importance of the special needs of pupils being identified early and the opportunity for an appropriate curriculum to be offered to them.

Foundation Stage

  33.  The establishment of a distinct foundation stage for children aged three to the end of the reception year has been welcomed by early years teachers. It offers the potential for consistency and continuity in children's learning between the ages of three and six. However, it is essential that any guidance relating to a foundation stage does not suggest that the processes involved in teaching and learning in relation to young children are simple.

  34.  The NUT has stated consistently that it would be opposed to the introduction of a foundation stage if such a proposal was considered alongside:

    —  any threat to the status, pay and conditions of service of early years teachers; and/or

    —  proposals to change existing legislation regarding compulsory school age.

  35.  The introduction of a foundation stage must aim to raise standards throughout all settings and sectors. There must be no overt or covert intention to "hive off" early years education from the rest of primary education; such an approach would not be in the best interests of young children.

  36.  Qualifications, experience and access to in-service training for staff vary between providers. A coherent stage offers the opportunity to develop a common approach across all settings and to establish some consistency in the training and qualifications for those working with young children.

QCA Early Learning Goals

  37.  In general, the NUT has welcomed the Early Learning Goals document and the proposals for more detailed guidance on effective teaching and learning strategies throughout the foundation stage. The strong emphasis on personal, social and emotional development and the "top billing" that this area of learning is given in the document is particularly welcome.

  38.  Qualified and experienced nursery and reception teachers will find it relatively easy to interpret the bullet-point statements relating to the early learning goals for children at the end of the reception year. They will be able to use them as a framework in order to develop a broad and balanced curriculum specifically suited to the developmental needs of young children at three, four and five. However, the absence of a requirement, currently, that all providers of early years education employ qualified staff—and in particular full-time qualified teachers—coupled with the limited resources available for training means there is a danger that unqualified, inexperienced staff will view the "goal" statements as a complete curriculum.

  39.  One of the main criticisms of the National Literacy Strategy has been the inappropriateness of the structured methodology of the Literacy Hour in reception classes. The NUT is concerned that the section of the QCA document relating to literacy may increase pressure on nursery schools and classes to adopt the "literacy hour" as part of a curriculum for children as young as three. Where interpreted by unqualified and inexperienced staff in other pre-school settings the use of such a prescriptive, over-formal methodology could be devastating for young children.

FORMAL TEACHING

An Over-Formal Curriculum

40.  There is a cache of research evidence that shows that the early years of a child's life are fundamental in shaping a child's developmental progression. The critical early months and years when a child enters the pre-school and school systems are fundamentally formative in terms of setting patterns of their future progress.

  41.  All children should be entitled to attain literacy and numeracy skills as early as possible, however, the curriculum and pedagogy is crucial. On the basis of a bank of research evidence, such as the Perry Pre-school/High Scope Project in the USA, the NUT believes that a "too formal" approach "too soon" is potentially damaging to the future achievement of young children. Play—well planned, well structured active experiential activities in which children have a sense of control and enjoyment—is fundamental to effective early learning. There is a need for balance—a curriculum should meet the physical, social and emotional needs of children as well as their academic needs. Recent debate has led to a dangerous polarisation of views regarding the different ways of learning.

  42.  The Union rejects polarisation between play-based and structured learning. Those with expertise and direct experience of teaching young children recognise the importance of considering how children learn best and select teaching methods and approaches which best fit the purpose.

  43.  "Play-based teaching and learning" describes well what the most effective early years teachers do. They recognise that children learn best when the activities and opportunities offered to and provided for them are interesting, relevant and motivating.

Changes to the Statutory School-Age

  44.  Concern over a too formal curriculum for young children leads to calls for a raising of the statutory school-age to six or seven as is the case in many European, particularly Scandinavian, countries. The NUT believes that there should be no change to compulsory school age.

  45.  Whilst the Scandinavian model for the provision of early childhood education is undoubtedly of a very high standard there would be no benefit brought about by simply changing one aspect of the system in Britain. In fact there is a grave danger that any proposal to raise the compulsory school age from five to six could be seen as an opportunity to reduce investment in early years education. Consequently less children would be entitled by law to receive full-time education and would be less likely to have access to high quality early years teaching and learning.

  46.  In many European countries where children are not required to attend school until six or seven early years teachers have lower status and are paid less than those teaching older children.

  47.  The introduction of the foundation stage will mean that the National Curriculum will not start until the beginning of Year 1 and a change to the compulsory school age is not necessary. It is vital that an over-formal curriculum is not confused with entry to primary school.

  48.  At the time of the QCA consultation on the Early Learning Goals the NUT sought the views of its members with regard to the QCA proposals. One experienced early years teacher made the following comments:

    "By focussing on what children should know by the age of five, and not addressing issues about the way young children learn, there is a real danger that people in charge of educating under fives will attempt to force them into performing tasks that are developmentally inappropriate for them. Already in some private nurseries, children as young as two are made to complete worksheets to show parents that they are learning their letters and numbers; if they can't do them, they are "helped" by poorly trained staff. This kind of practice, so irrelevant to the educational needs of the youngest child, will only increase unless the Government pays just as much attention to providing suitably well equipped play environments and well qualified staff as it does to educational goals.

    I recently underwent an OFSTED inspection in my nursery class and was left with the impression that the early years specialist inspector wanted me to introduce greater formality in my teaching methods. It was not explained to me why or how I should do this. I was left in confusion, as I have been successfully working in early years education for 20 years, and have never had my basic approach criticised."

  49.  If the Early Learning Goals are linked to inspection criteria (as are the current Desirable Learning Outcomes) there is a danger that a narrow, over-formalised curriculum in nursery schools and classes will be encouraged. In settings where staff have had little or no training they are likely to lead to a narrow didactic approach to the education of young children.

QUALIFICATIONS, TRAINING AND OTHER STAFFING STANDARDS

  50.  As emphasised throughout this submission the NUT believes that high quality early years provision is best assured by the full-time involvement of qualified teachers.

  51.  Qualified teachers, through their training, have:

    —  understanding of how learning is affected by childrens' physical, intellectual, emotional and social development;

    —  knowledge and understanding of the National Curriculum and awareness of the importance of progression and continuity between stages;

    —  knowledge and experience of planning and implementing a relevant and appropriate curriculum;

    —  knowledge of links between subjects and understanding of the importance of coherence in the curriculum;

    —  awareness of assessment techniques and processes, including baseline assessment procedures, which inform teaching and learning;

    —  skills in motivating children and applying appropriate rewards and sanctions;

    —  recognition of the importance that must be given to equality issues in order to ensure that each child feels equally valued, has positive self esteem, respects others and has equal access to learning;

    —  knowledge of special educational needs and their identification;

    —  access to a range of teaching methods to cater for the different learning needs of children and the varying demands of curriculum;

    —  the commitment to promote understanding, not just "a road to learning";

    —  understanding of good classroom management and expertise in organising groups of young children around a particular learning focus;

    —  knowledge of "school" and the expectations that children will experience; and

    —  a shared language with other teachers which facilitates the reporting of achievement and liaison between institutions.

  52.  Qualified teacher status (QTS) means that a certain standard in each of these attributes has been reached. That provides the best guarantee to children, parents and other colleagues of high quality education. Other early years workers bring different attributes; they do not bring this comprehensive range of knowledge, skills, understanding and experience essential to high quality teaching and learning.

A Qualifications and Training Framework

  53.  The NUT welcomed the Government's commitment to give status and coherence to the training and qualifications of non-teacher early years workers. The NUT welcomed the idea of a "climbing frame" approach intended to help people enter, move and progress in the early years sector—so long as this widening of access to training and qualifications does not undermine high standards and quality where they already exist—such as in initial teacher training and education.

  54.  The NUT's response to the QCA consultation on a draft framework of qualifications and training in the early years stated that "It must be acknowledged that such developments will only bring real benefits if they are underpinned by moves to introduce greater coherence and rationale to the salary structure and conditions of service applying to those occupational groups affected by the `climbing frame' of training opportunities."

Adult:Child Ratios

  55.  The Union believes that adult:child ratios can legitimately vary on the basis of the adult's training and qualifications. All implications must be considered in setting staffing ratios (which are desirable) so that quality is not "priced out". Obviously, nursery teachers would be highly effective with groups of, say, eight children but it would be unlikely that the funding would be available to create such small teaching groups. The NUT recognises the financial limits to setting ratios and accepts there may need to be a certain degree of flexibility in doing so with the caveat that all education sessions should involve the full-time involvement of a qualified teacher.

  56.  In the Summer Term 1997, the NUT conducted a survey of nursery classes in maintained nursery schools and primary schools in England and Wales. This found that around 29 per cent of nursery teaching sessions had a staffing ratio of one teacher and one qualified nursery nurse to 20 children or less. A quarter had staffing ratios worse than the current DfEE recommended ratios.

  57.  The normal pattern of part-time nursery education is of children attending school for either five morning or five afternoon sessions during each week. This means that teachers have responsibility for two groups of children every day. The survey showed that a majority of nursery teachers are, therefore, required to plan the curriculum, assess learning, record attainment and communicate with parents for over 50 individual children.

  58.  This evidence illustrates the need for the Government to set legal limits to staff:child ratios rather than simply recommend ratios under guidance. Minimum staffing standards would help ensure equality of opportunity for nursery age children wherever they live and whichever type of provision they attend. Minimum staffing standards are particularly important to assure quality of provision within local Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships.

  59.  The NUT recognises the financial and practical challenges posed by the setting of minimum limits to adult:child ratios given the current diversity of provision. A staged timetable for implementation of adult:child ratios will be necessary in order to avoid undermining the existing quality and to safeguard existing high quality provision. For this reason, the Union believes that adult:child ratios must be related to qualifications.

  60.  In its response to the DfEE/DOH consultation on the Regulation of Early Education and Day Care in July 1998, the NUT called upon the Government to require all early years settings which employ qualified teachers to comply with the adult:child ratios as set out in DfEE Circular 2/73 and that such a requirement should include reception classes where there is provision for four year olds. The Union said that the Government should make additional resources available to allow local authorities to meet these requirements as rapidly as possible. The Government has now made available £30 million over two years to employ 3,000 "additional adults" to reduce adult:child ratios to 1:15 in reception classes in 60 local education authorities. This has, therefore, been welcomed by the Union as a first step. The Union believes that "additional adults" should mean the employment of NNEBs or equivalent qualified nursery nurses. This initiative should be extended to all local education authorities.

  61.  The Government's acceptance of the importance of qualifications in setting ratios implicit in the proposal to allow 50 private and voluntary providers "who meet the requirements of employing a qualified teacher and a qualified nursery assistant" a ratio of 2:26 is also welcome.

  62.  Where qualified teachers are not employed, the 1:8 ratio as recommended under the Children Act should be made statutory. All staff should have access to training and professional development opportunities. All providers should be encouraged to employ, where possible, highly trained and qualified staff to work with young children.

Other Staffing Considerations

  63.  Staff are the most valuable resource for any institution. All appointment procedures should be on the basis of concise and realistic job descriptions. This is especially important in integrated settings—where a range of people with different training and qualifications are working alongside one another and are expected to co-operate. Each person's role and responsibilities must be clearly understood by themselves and all other staff.

  64.  In all settings where education is provided, a headteacher or an experienced early years teacher with the responsibility points should be appointed as head of the unit. The School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document should apply to all staff employed as teachers in the provision of nursery education.

  65.  Each member of staff should be allowed a fair and transparent salary structure and conditions of service. Each member of staff should be aware of the career opportunities available and have an entitlement to induction and ongoing in-service training and education.

  66.  There should be strict procedures and checks, including criminal record checks, to ensure the protection and welfare of children. These procedures should be transparent and consistent across all settings and aim to guarantee the safety and well-being for children.

THE WAY QUALITY OF TEACHING AND LEARNING IN THE EARLY YEARS IS ASSESSED

  67.  The NUT believes that the inspection of all early years education provision should be based on the following common principles.

    —  All forms of provision for young children should be subject to the same rigorous system of regulation and inspection.

    —  The main focus of the external inspection should be on whether or not an institution has effective systems and procedures for self-evaluation and improvement.

    —  There should be common standards for staffing, premises (indoor and outdoor), the curriculum, health and safety etc against which all providers of education are inspected.

    —  Making judgements about provision should be a corporate activity and, therefore, one inspector acting alone is not satisfactory.

    —  All inspectors should be appropriately qualified and have significant early years experience.

  68.  It is the view of the NUT that the inspection system should be re-thought—neither the existing "Section 10" OFSTED system of inspection for maintained schools nor the "Section 5" Registered Nursery Inspector System are appropriate. The latest proposals for the establishment of a new and distinct arm of OFSTED, the "Early Years Directorate", now means that the responsibility for the regulation of all forms of provision for young children will fall under the authority of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools. However, the NUT is concerned that such arrangements could lead to the alienation of teachers and other practitioners from the process of quality assurance and evaluation as it has in statutory school education.

  69.  The achievement of reliable and consistent judgements is even less likely if inspections are undertaken by one person. A requirement for inspections to be undertaken by an inspection team (or a pair of inspectors) is just as likely to be welcomed by the inspectors themselves as it would be by providers of early years education.

  70.  The most productive form of inspection is one whereby the inspector understands the processes at work and there is a clear link to advice. Those being inspected must respect the judgements being made. Where such understanding is not present, on the one hand, the inspector's judgements may lack relevance in credibility, while on the other, the wool may be pulled over the eyes of the inspector. The composition of inspection teams must, therefore, be suitable—ie, the qualifications, training and experience of the inspectors themselves should be appropriate to the provision being inspected.

"EDUCATION" AND "CHILDCARE"

  71.  The integrated provision of education and care is highly desirable. It is obviously of considerable benefit for young children and their parents if the services which they need are available "under one roof" and interlinked as seamlessly as possible. In practice, however, "education" and "care" have distinct traditions which should be recognised, equally respected and further developed. A regulatory framework must seek to enhance the qualities associated with each tradition and must not result in provision which is based on little more than the lowest common denominator.

  72.  It is a truism that effective education is most likely when pupils feel safe, their self esteem is high and they have a strong sense of well-being. In other words, successful teaching is associated with a caring environment. Similarly, when good quality care is provided for a child, opportunities for learning will inevitably arise.

  73.  Nevertheless, the underpinning aims, expectations, and motivations of the teacher and the carer remain different. The teacher's principal aim is to promote learning by effectively teaching knowledge, skills and understandings which the curriculum determines. Learning is planned, not incidental. Teachers have a body of knowledge and skills which they are charged with transmitting. The carer's principal aim is to promote and maintain the safety and well-being of a child—if learning comes out of it, that is a benefit not a requirement. Learning is incidental—essentially, the child is in the lead. Effective carers have a range of skills and understandings, developed by their training, which enable them to support children in fulfilling their own agendas, needs and aspirations. This comparison is not intended to suggest a hierarchical relationship between education and care but rather to emphasise its distinction that needs to be recognised if quality is to be maintained and improved.

  74.  Education and childcare are of equal importance to young children and their parents. Both should be accorded equal status against those measures which have priority in our society. However, in considering how they can best be provided and how high quality can be assured, the NUT believes it is important to recognise the distinct traditions associated with "education" and "care".

  75.  The desire for greater integration in terms of the availability and accessibility of services to young children and their parents must not be interpreted as requiring a merger of those traditions.

  76.  The terms "education" and "care" have different definitions; different training, education requirements and qualifications; and should have different emphases and priorities in their delivery. Teachers are continually identifying opportunities to maximise learning, assess developmental needs and recognise opportunities for direct teaching. Carers, on the other hand, emphasise immediate well-being and different, sometimes wider, aspects of development.

  77.  High quality education is underpinned by good standards of care. Good quality care inevitably leads to opportunities for learning. Integration must focus on easier access to services, not lead to a compromise in terms of provision in which the strengths of neither care or education are apparent. Training and qualifications within each "tradition" should, over time, acquire equal status but they should also maintain their different if complementary emphases.

National Union of Teachers

January 2000


4   "Technical Paper 6a: Characteristics of Pre-School Environments" Institute of Education September 1999-a report from the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project a longitudinal study funded by the DfEE 1997-2003. Back


 
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