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


APPENDIX 31

Memorandum from the Society of Education Officers (EY 64)

  Please find below the response of the Society of Education Officers to the issues raised in the call for evidence for the above inquiry.

THE APPROPRIATE CONTENT OF EARLY YEARS EDUCATION, TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE RECENTLY PUBLISHED QCA EARLY LEARNING GOALS

  1.  The goals set out what is expected to be attained by most children by the end of the new Foundation Stage, ie at the end of the academic year prior to entering year 1, Key Stage 1. It is acknowledged that by this age, some children will have progressed beyond the goals and some children, especially those who are almost a year younger than their peers, will still be working towards them. There should continue to be strong practice and provision links between the Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 (Year 1 and Year 2 of the National Curriculum). The "Early Years" title should continue to be applied to the period of development and learning from 0 to seven years.

  2.  The content of the learning programme and the processes of effective learning and development cannot sensibly be separated and this is captured very well in the guidance published by QCA for the Early Learning Goals (ELGs). This will be strengthened by QCA's publication of more details curriculum guidance in the Summer Term 2000.

  3.  The six Areas of Learning identified by QCA:

    —  Personal, social and emotional development.

    —  Language and literacy.

    —  Mathematics.

    —  Knowledge and Understanding of the world. (Comprising scientific, technological, historical and geographic knowledge, skills and understanding)

    —  Creative development.

    —  Physical development.

  provide an appropriate curriculum framework for planning in order to secure a broad and balanced education.

  4.  It will be important to ensure that sufficient attention is given to physical and creative development as these are the aspects of learning which have suffered recently from the downward pressures of the Standard Attainment Tests (SATs). It is very encouraging to see that the new guidance strengthens the provision of good Personal & Social Education (PSE) development as a "pre-requisite for success in all aspects of children's lives and in all other areas of learning." (ELGs/QCA)

THE WAY IN WHICH IT (THE CURRICULUM) SHOULD BE TAUGHT

  5.  Teaching must be well planned to improve the quantity, quality and range of what children already know, understand and can do.

  6.  Teaching must also promote the child's disposition to learn and to apply their learning. Over-emphasis on didactic teaching methods tends to disable learners in this respect.

  7.  Teaching must combine knowledge of the needs of the learner, knowledge of what is to be learned and knowledge of how effective learning is best promoted.

  8.  Teaching methods will include clear explanations, demonstrations and modelling of skills and behaviours, as well as talking with and observing children as they engage in planned and spontaneous activity in order to develop their thinking and plan further learning. Both approaches need to take place in an environment where adults and children are working flexibly in large and small groupings and individually.

  9.  Research into effective teaching and learning with 3-5 year olds shows that more effective and long-lasting learning takes place where children are given some responsibility for initiating their own ideas within a structured and stimulating programme.

  10.  For these reasons (as well as those relating to care and welfare) staffing in reception classes (Foundation Stage) should be to at least the DfEE recommended ratio of 1:30 with a qualified teacher and a qualified nursery nurse.

THE KIND OF STAFF THAT ARE NEEDED TO DELIVER THIS CURRICULUM AND THE QUALIFICATIONS THEY SHOULD HAVE

  11.  All staff need to be broadly educated to at least GCSE "O-level" or equivalent and have a recognised qualification in childcare and education.

  12.  Key support staff should be educated to GCSE "A-level" or equivalent and have a more advanced qualification in childcare and education.

  13.  Lead staff should be educated to degree level of equivalent and have Qualified Teacher Status with a specialism in early childhood studies.

HOW THE QUALITY OF EARLY YEARS TEACHING SHOULD BE ASSESSED

  14.  By developing a set of criteria combining:

    —  the OFSTED criteria is outlined on page 72 of the OFSTED handbook for the Inspection of Nursery Education in the Private, Voluntary and Independent Sectors, and on page 17 of the OFSTED guidance issued to inspectors of schools, with

    —  the Adult Engagement Scale as described in pages 96-101 of the Effective Early Learning (EEL) self-evaluation programme. ("Evaluating and Developing Quality in Early Childhood Settings", Early Childhood Research Centre, University College Worcester).

AT WHAT AGE SHOULD FORMAL SCHOOLING START?

  15.  The wording of this question is curious, assuming that it refers to the age at which children are required to attend school, ie the start of compulsory education. The words "formal schooling" suggest something that is not and should not be associated with the best early education practice.

  16.  If schools were funded to provide high quality early education, ie with adequate staffing levels, appropriate and accessible indoor and outdoor space, facilities and equipment (eg as in Leicestershire's designated 4+ Units), then it would be appropriate at the beginning of the year in which children reach their fifth birthday. (With part-time attendance for the youngest children in the first term).

  17.  All funded early education before this age should be non-compulsory but should be developed to the same high quality standards.

  18.  The start of "formal schooling" should take into account that children develop at different rates. Parents are concerned about the readiness of their child to attend school and notice that one child in the family may be ready whilst another was not at the same age. Things like length of day, environment, meals, toilet training all worry parents of less mature children.

  19.  There is good evidence from other European countries that early years education has an impact on social, emotional and pre formal education skills such as language and has major long term benefits for formal educational achievement later on. If the government was really serious about children's learning rather than placing an emphasis on getting parents back into work—there may have been very different policies developed. For example, a kindergarten model.

  20.  Parents have less choice about what happens to their pre fives the earlier formal education is started. This is ignoring the wishes and needs of parents who want to spend time with their children at home or offer their children particular kinds of experience. The likely demise of play groups as "formal education/compulsory schooling starts earlier and earlier, will disadvantage these parents and their children.

  21.  Early formal education does not have strong support from most national organisations concerned with pre school children.

Society of Education Officers

January 2000


 
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