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


APPENDIX 12

Memorandum from The Children's Society (EY 33)


1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1  As a national childcare organisation, The Children's Society welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the inquiry by the Education Sub-committee into aspects of early years education. We welcome the Government's initiative to consider issues regarding the education and care of very young children.

Early Years Education

  1.2  The Children's Society welcomes, in principle, the Early Learning Goals and would wish to see the "Foundation Stage" regarded as a development stage distinct from statutory schooling.

  1.3  It is vital that there should be a reversal of the recent trends in the over-formalisation of very young children's education and care experiences.

  1.4  The Children's Society would wish to see a child centred approach within the Foundation Stage, emphasising the aspect of learning through play and ensuring that children's development, at all stages, is taken into account in providing opportunities for learning. Children should not be made to feel a failure when they are purely developmentally not ready to achieve particular skills/tasks.

  1.5  The Early Learning Goals should also prioritise children's emotional literacy, confidence and self-esteem and should reflect an inclusive principle throughout all Early Years Provision.

2.  STATUTORY SCHOOL AGE

  2.1  The Children's Society would wish to see statutory school age begin at six and the differentiation of the Foundation Stage prior to this, including the careful management of the transition to statutory school.

  2.2  It is interesting to note that in the recently published government document "Tomorrow's children—The review of pre-schools and playgroups a summary", (page 5, paragraph 17) it states—"Parents should be able to delay their children's entry into reception class if the child would benefit from more time in a nursery or pre-school/playgroup. The Government already encourages this through its code of practice on school admissions. All parents should have access to information to allow them to make informed choices about the children's early education. The Government should make it clear that early entry to school is not appropriate for all children".

  2.3  In order to ensure that the Foundation Stage is based upon the needs of the child, any Inspection and Registration regime should have the child at the centre. OFSTED will need to take into account the previous over-emphasis upon target setting for young children which have, in the recent past, been over-enthusiastically and inappropriately applied to the very young.

3.  PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT

  3.1  The Children's Society would also welcome action by the Government to ensure parental involvement in the development of the Foundation Stage and, in particular, the introduction and implementation of the Early Learning Goals.

  We feel it is very easy for parents/carers of children to misinterpret goals and targets, which their children must achieve. The Children's Society would wish to see a planned, proactive national information strategy around the Early Learning Goals and the Foundation Stage, thus reinforcing parent's vital role in enabling their children to develop as active learners.

4.  TRAINING/QUALIFICATIONS OF STAFF

  4.1  The Children's Society welcomes the initiatives from Government around the training and qualifications framework for staff working with young children. However, we feel it is vital that the "education" of children in the Early Years is not seen as the prerogative of teachers. We have concerns regarding the Government's stated intention within "Tomorrow's children: The review of pre-schools and playgroups and the Government's response" that all early years settings should be led by graduates or equivalent. It is vital that early years staff are given the opportunity to qualify and that sufficient funding is available for this. The Children's Society would wish to see positive action schemes to ensure that early years staff who are disabled or from ethnic minorities are afforded opportunities to gain qualifications.

5.  CONCLUSION

  5.1  The Children's Society would wish to see the development of the Foundation stage as a distinctive aspect of young children's lives; by ensuring the differentiation of this stage we would be able to ensure a safe, happy early experience of education and care to all children based upon principles of childcentredness and learning through play.

  5.2  We also believe that the training of all staff for this Foundation Stage would reflect the above principles for working with very young children and that this would be reinforced by Inspection and Registration regimes which are also childcentred.

The Children's Society

January 2000


 
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