Note from QCA on early years work since
QCA gave oral evidence to the Select Committee on
Education and Employment on 14 June 2000. The session explored
a number of aspects of early years provision. The notes that follow
summarise work that has taken place since June 2000 that is relevant
to the issues raised by the Select Committee.
Literacy and Numeracy strategies
Committee members reported practitioners' concerns
about what they saw as unhelpful impact of the literacy and numeracy
strategies in determining practice in reception classes.
The DfES delivered a series of six national
conferences on "Effective Reception class Practice"
in March 2002. The Directors of the Literacy and Numeracy strategies
gave presentations followed by question and answer sessions. Barnsley
and Kingston upon Hull exemplified LEA support for reception class
practice. Speakers emphasised the central importance of joint
working between early years advisers and literacy and numeracy
consultants at local authority level.
Professor Carol Aubrey presented research evidence
from her telephone survey of primary school head teachers and
reception class teachers. Conferences held in autumn 2000 had
identified a range of challenges in implementing the foundation
stage curriculum, one of which was the perceived tension between
pedagogical approaches of the foundation stage and the National
Literacy and Numeracy Strategies. Professor Aubrey's survey, however,
found that "alongside direct teaching, opportunities are
being found for spontaneous and self-initiated activity. Key skills
of enthusiasm for learning, motivation, working with others and
active independence are valued, as well as literacy and numeracy."
Foundation stage training programme
The Committee raised some concerns about the
provision of trained professional in early years education. A
foundational stage training programme was just beginning at that
time. The programme was funded by the then DfEE and was delivered
by the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership (EYDCP)
between June 2000 and March 2001. The programme was designed to
be delivered in one day to representatives from all EYDCP member
settings and then to be cascaded to all staff.
The content of the training was designed to
support practitioners in understanding the principles underpinning
the guidance, the nature of early years curriculum provision and
the uses of planning.
The programme was evaluated as follows:
training helped to raise confidence
and provide legitimate reasons for evaluating practice;
training provided a common language
throughout a diverse sector;
training established a new culture
of awareness of the need for training;
future training should use resources
which were flexible and adaptable to local needs in the sector;
future training should build upon
and extend the scope of training offered within EYDCP member settings;
future training should address a
broader constituency including parents, governors, head teachers
and LEA advisers.
Related to the issues about training are those
concerning the provision of appropriate qualifications for early
QCA published an update of the 1999 framework
of nationally accredited qualifications in childcare and play
work in June 2001. This document links job roles, vocationally
related qualifications and occupational qualifications. The document
sets out the Government's intention to move towards closer integration
of early years and childcare qualifications.
Evaluating the curriculum guidance for the foundation
When the Select Committee questioned QCA, the
early years guidance had only recently been published. As with
other areas of the organisation's work, QCA was keen to evaluate
the effectiveness and impact of its advice to practitioners.
QCA commissioned New Directions Consulting in
January 2001 to carry out an evaluation of the guidance using
a questionnaire survey. Overall, respondents found the curriculum
guidance helpful and commented positively on its accessibility,
presentation and conciseness. Suggestions were made to improve
presentation to assist practitioners in finding relevant sections.
The survey found that the guidance was used for several purposes,
including: training and development; planning the curriculum;
assessing children's progress; and developing policies and procedures.
Monitoring the foundation stage curriculum
Further to the specific evaluation of the guidance,
as part of its monitoring programme, QCA commissioned MORI to
conduct a questionnaire survey and provide a summary report for
internal use covering three broad areas; partnership with parents,
curriculum and equal opportunities. The findings were positive,
90 per cent practitioners find the curriculum guidance useful
in implementing the foundation stage. Differences emerged in prioritising
the areas of learning, with the maintained sector broadly prioritising
the personal, social and emotional development, mathematical development,
and communication language and literacy, areas of learning. The
non-maintained sector tended to prioritise the other areas of
learning: knowlegde and understanding of the world, physical development,
and creative development.
The report highlighted the range of assessment
methods adopted in both sectors, and gave useful data on LEA and
EYDCP requirements. The report suggested that the majority of
settings involved parents in their children's learning, and highlighted
a range of methods adopted. The report suggested that a majority
of settings had equal opportunites policies in place, and had
checks in place to ensure policy implementation.
Planning for learning
Additional guidance on planning was published
by QCA in October 2001. This was intended for all sectors and
was designed for insertion in the guidance folder. The planning
guidance used case studies to emphasise the breadth of provision
within the foundation stage and included nursery school, a private
day nursery, a community centre based pre-school, an accredited
child-minder and a first school.
Outdoor play and learning
Outdoor play has been a theme threaded through
the early years guidance documentation. This is an area that QCA
will explore in depth in its monitoring programme during 2002-03.
Additional guidance is planned to support teachers
in mixed age classes. The guidance will explore practical ways
to integrate the foundation stage and key stage 1 curricula illustrated
by case study examples.
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority