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.
PUBLISHED QCA EARLY
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
Personal, social and emotional development.
Knowledge and Understanding of the
world. (Comprising scientific, technological, historical and geographic
knowledge, skills and understanding)
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)
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
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
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.
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.
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
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 workthere 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