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


Note by Committee staff on Visit to Bristol: Wednesday 10 May 2000

Members: Mr Barry Sheerman, Charlotte Atkins, Valerie Davey

  Specialist Advisers: Professor Christine Pascal, Professor Kathy Sylva and Ms Rosemary Peacocke; also P.O.S.T. Fellow Ms Sarah Jayne Blakemore

  Committee Staff: Mr Liam Laurence Smyth (Clerk)


  The nursery is run as two 60-place units, each led by a trained teacher with assistance of Nursery Nurses and other teachers. There are 240 children, half of whom attend in morning and half in afternoon. The catchment area is a large estate on the northeast side of the city. The nursery has adapted the High/Scope programme in a flexible way suited to the children and to the Early Learning Goals/Desirable Learning Outcomes.

  Ms Joan Sharp has been head for four years. Previously she was Headteacher at the Hartcliffe Nursery (which has recently become a Centre of Excellence). While head at Hartcliffe, she was host to the 1989 Select Committee looking into pre-school education.

  The nursery has a thriving "Carer and Toddler Group" which meets each morning 9-10.45 am for parents/childminders of children 18 months to three years. The nursery has received external funding for "Caring Start" which is a High/Scope programme for young children nought to three years at home with parents and childminders. Caring Start is led by the nursery although "delivered" in homes. Filton Avenue Nursery and the Ashley Down Infants School jointly run a programme for parents aimed at smoothing the transition to Reception. Part of the programme takes place when children are still at nursery and other part takes place after children have moved on to the Reception. It aims to help parents support their children's move "to the big school" and also to help them support their children's learning.

  Filton Avenue Nursery sends its children to 24+ infant and primary schools. Its closest links are to the Ashley Down Infants School, which is 10 minutes away by car.

  Filton Avenue Nursery serves the nought to three's by intensive work with parents (Caring Start) and with its Carer Toddler Group. The Carer Toddler Group will be in session in the first part of the morning. The children on roll are two plus five years and they receive a broadly based curriculum based on a balance between free and guided play. At the beginning of each session children participate in the Plan/Do/Recall programme of High/Scope in which children devise and carry out their own plans. Towards the end of the session, children participate in Circle Time as well as Small Group Time. In the latter, adults take the lead in an activity planned around carefully targeted learning objectives and diagnostic assessment.

  The Committee visited the nursery while the children were engaged in a number of different activities inside and outside, led by a five adults. The children had discussed beforehand what they would do, and then they tidied up and gathered in groups to discuss what they had been doing. The Committee also gathered for a brief discussion in the staffroom. The headteacher displayed examples of documentation on each child on which any significant event or milestone was entered on a chart using the High/Scope methodology.


  Henleaze Infants School is an LEA Infant School which has three Reception Classes and provided evidence of the issues around continuity and progression between nursery and infant school and the appropriateness of the curriculum for the four year olds.

  The Infant School takes children from four to seven years of age and has 281 pupils.

  They are divided into three year groups: three classes at Year R, three classes at Year one and three classes at Year two. Members may be interested to know that they have been unable to get class sizes below 30 as yet!

  The school catchment area is fairly middle class, professional with high expectations for children's achievement.

  They attain above the national average for literacy and numeracy for 95 per cent of their children, but do not introduce the Literacy and Numeracy hours until Year 1, keeping very much a play based curriculum for their reception classes.

  Each of the three Members attended one of the three reception classes. Each class was working in four groups, loosely stratified according to literacy; one led by the teacher, one by a teacher support assistant, one by a parent and the fourth group engaged in self-selected play inside or outside the classroom. Each of the groups would take it turns to cover all four activities. At the end of the morning the whole class convened to discuss what they had been doing.

  As the children went their separate ways for packed lunches or school dinners, the Reception teaching staff and the Headteacher met the Committee in the staffroom for a discussion. The Headteacher had been resisting pressure to introduce a Literacy Hour as such, although the aims of the literacy strategy were delivered in other ways. The OFSTED inspection was said to have been a very stressful experience.

  [Ms Airlie Fife, Bristol's Education Adviser for the Early Years, later supplied the Sub-committee with the following information, which had been requested by Members of the Sub-committee:

    In Autumn 1999, the percentage of four year olds in LEA settings was 95 per cent. The percentage of three year olds in LEA nursery provision was 70 per cent.

    There were four ISR salary ranges for the nursery schools in Bristol: one to seven, two to eight, three to nine and four to 10.

    These reflected the different size and complexity of the settings. The ISR for Filton Avenue was two to eight; the Headteacher there was currently on point two].


  Dr Brian Caddick welcomed Members of the Committee to the School of Policy Studies and explained a little about the Early Childhood Studies course.

  Child Members of the Committee had a number of informal conversations over lunch with the various guests invited by Dr Caddick to meet the Committee:

University of West of England:

  Helen Butcher (Early Years PGCE Co-ordinator)

  Emma Sisley (Early Years PGCE Student)

College of Care and Early Education:

  Sally Jaeckle (Lecturer in Early Years Education)

Bristol University Graduate School of Education:

  Malcolm Lewis (PGCE Co-ordinator)

  Sara Meadows (Senior Lecturer in Psychology)

Bristol University for Policy Studies:

  Professor Hilary Land (Head of School for Policy Studies)

  Margaret Boushel (Early Childhood Studies Lecturer and Director of Sure Start in Hartcliffe)

  Julie Selwyn (Early Childhood Studies Lecturer)

  Mary Fawcett (Early Childhood Studies Lecturer)

  Kay Sargent (Early Childhood Studies Lecturer)

  Brian Caddick (Co-ordinator of Early Childhood Studies Programme)

Current Early Childhood Studies Students:

  Year 3—Joanna Arnold, Catherine Rooley, Ellen Jones, Lisa Clarke

  Year 2—Goretti Perkins, Jet Davis, Freya Monk, Joanna Simms

Early Childhood Studies Graduates:

  Dawn Foley, Alison Hall, Sally Sibley, Karen Screen, Gemma Pockett, Amy Roe, Sarah Ross


  Professor Jean Golding and Dr Sara Meadows gave a presentation on the work of the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (ALSPAC). Professor Golding described the methodology and techniques of the unparalleled collection of data on a very large sample of children now around eight years old. She also described the funding difficulties which the project had encountered.

  The 14,000 children who form the basis of the project were born in 1991 and 1992.

  The study has many advantages:

    —  A wealth of high-quality detailed data collected prospectively from early pregnancy is already available.

    —  The DNA resource available for elucidating genetic interactions with environmental exposures is unique.

    —  The population of parents and, increasingly, the children, is enthusiastic and compliant and provides a useful basis for mounting in-depth studies on specific attributes—from measurement of environmental pollutants to a study of sibling interactions.

    —  The European components of the study (Isle of Man, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine) can provide useful confirmation or contrast of relationships found in ALSPAC and thus provide a background from which to derive further hypotheses.

  Internet site:


  The Committee were escorted around the exhibition by Sue Danvers, Mary Fawcett and Ann Patterson of Early Education (BAECE). The exhibition had been in London and Newcastle in 1997. Among those present at the exhibition was Mr Stephen Price, The Director of Bristol City Museums Service. Displays included work by Italian children on a number of projects which illustrated how they could find things out and express themselves.

May 2000

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