Select Committee on Education and Employment First Report



59. Inspections were a topic which raised many and varied issues about whether they were appropriately carried out, why there were two separate types of inspection and whether there was a danger of teaching to the test. Dr Gillian Pugh of Coram Family called for an alternative approach: "Yes, you need inspection but you need nourishment and that comes through your ongoing in-service. The model of self-assessment with a mentor, with occasional inspections, seems to me is going to do a great deal more than people coming in and waving sticks on a very regular basis".[164]

60. During the Sub-committee's visit to Bristol it was strongly argued when teachers have prepared for an inspection through a system of self-evaluation and support of colleagues there has been less stress. Inspection reports have cited the impact of the Effective Early Learning evaluation and improvement process and commented on its contribution to the development of practice and the quality of provision.[165]

61. Concern was expressed by witnesses that there was a lack of Early Years expertise in OFSTED, and there was a long way to go before everything was right. The London Borough of Barnet Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership recommended "that all Ofsted inspection teams receive training by qualified and experienced early years practitioners to develop a consistent view of what appropriate learning looks like in the foundation stage ... and that all Ofsted teams include an inspector who is an experienced and qualified early years practitioner".[166] Mr Chris Woodhead, then Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for England, told the Sub-committee that, as in any other sector, inspectors in Early Years should be "of high quality and have relevant personal experience of the area they are inspecting".[167]

62. The Sub-committee were told that it was not appropriate to have two separate inspections for the nursery schools, nursery classes and four year olds in reception classes, and for those in the voluntary and private sector. Ms Julie Fisher of the Oxfordshire Early Years Advisory Group said "there is a divide of different qualifications of the inspectors, a different length of time they will spend in a setting, different training they receive and different criteria they use. All of those things will lead to an undermining, to some extent, of the notion that there can currently be a level playing field".[168] Mr Woodhead pointed out that the existence of two inspection systems stems from the different requirements under the Education Acts.[169] In his view "it would be inappropriate if we were to mount exactly the same form of inspection for every context".[170]

63. There is a great deal of concern about the stress caused to teachers by OFSTED inspections. Mr Woodhead thought that the infrequency of inspections in schools should mean that no teacher should feel stressed.[171] In conversations during the Sub-committee's informal visits to schools, several teachers described the stress experienced before, during and after an OFSTED inspection.

64. There is a real danger, with the demands of the Early Learning Goals, that there will be teaching to the test in many instances.[172] There is a general welcome for the decision to combine the two separate social services and OFSTED inspections,[173] but there is concern about the lack of expertise in the Early Years.[174]

65. We recommend that the OFSTED's Director of Early Years should have substantial experience of the care and education of young children. In our view it is also essential that there should be a strong element of both Early Years experience of education and care within the team.

66. In our view OFSTED should recognise that the manner of inspection should a change from the current climate of extreme stress in schools both before and during an OFSTED inspection to one of support.

67. We recommend that the inspection should include the self evaluation undertaken in the setting, so that it will be more effective in improving the quality of provision.

68. We expect to subject the performance of the OFSTED Early Years Director to regular scrutiny as part of the accountability of OFSTED to Parliament, specifically to this Select Committee.


69. The welcome diversity of provision in the Early Years sector can lead to competition for scarce resources. It is argued that one reason children start school as young as they do is because it is in schools' interests to maximise their income from funded places for four year olds (and, increasingly, three year olds). It is claimed parents feel that unless they put their children into a nursery class attached to a primary school they will not be place for the child when he or she reaches the statutory age. One of the roles of the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships is to reconcile the various interests and to focus on providing good quality education and childcare for children in all settings. The annual Early Years Development and Childcare Plans, agreed locally, are subject to approval by the Secretary of State.[175] It is estimated that the investment in funding for early education, childcare and family support over the period will amount to some £7.5 billion.[176]

70. The Early Years and Development and Childcare Partnerships have only been in operation for less than three years and, in this short time, have been effective in most areas. Where, to begin with, there was unequal partnership between members, there was dissatisfaction with the outcomes of key decisions.[177] In Partnerships where the Chair is seen as an independent figure, this situation has improved.[178]

71. The Partnerships are totally independent and work as a local initiative. Ms Margaret Hodge, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment and Equal Opportunities, said "We would not want to dictate from the centre how partnerships work, but what we do want is genuine partnership, open working, an inclusive mechanism which ensures that everybody feels that they have a stake in the development of services locally".[179]

72. One of the main issues for every Partnership is that of quality. Every setting which is approved by OFSTED has the same grant for each four year old. It is unrealistic to expect the same quality from a well resourced nursery where there are graduate staff, to a setting where there are few resources or facilities and few qualified staff with possibly no qualified teachers. It is the task of the Partnership to raise standards and enhance quality in all settings, and this is expensive, time consuming and labour intensive.

73. Training of staff is the key to raising standards in all settings, but this presents Partnerships with difficulties. According to Ms Julie Fisher of the Oxfordshire Early Years Advisory Group, "although everybody can undertake training, and increasingly people are, it is very hard to make up on a deficit where one sector starts with a four year graduate training to specialise in how children learn, what they should learn and all that entails. When you are trying to make up that sort of gap, very often it is too massive ... one day's training does not make up that sort of gap".[180]

74. The Partnership approach enabled representatives of all those concerned with the education of young children—the local authority, the voluntary sector, the school sector, the health sector, the private and independent sector, employers, ethnic minority representatives and, very importantly, parents—to meet together around a table to discuss the issues which concerned them.[181] It would be an advantage for planners also to be included in the Partnership. Consideration could be given when giving conditional planning permission for large scale developments to the inclusion as 'planning gain' of on- or off-site of child care facilities on the scale appropriate to the expected workforce or local population in the new development.

75. Having meetings of the Partnership open to the public helps to engender the trust that has been established between the various interests. The Sub-committee was informed that the meetings of each of the three Partnerships represented by the witnesses appearing on behalf of the Local Authorities Early Years Co-ordinators Network were open to the public.[182] Ms Hodge told the Sub-committee that she could see absolutely no reason why the meetings of Partnerships should not be open to the public.[183]

76. We recommend that the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should continue to be supported in every way, but particularly in the consistent training for members and Chairs.

77. The most effective Partnerships have Chairs who are regarded as independent, from both the local education authority on the one hand and from too close an identification on the other hand with any of the other sectors represented on the Partnership. We recommend that all Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should work towards establishing an independent Chair who is acceptable to all members.

78. We recommend that quality should be monitored closely by the DfEE where Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships are not working well and that these Partnerships should be identified, supported and have the opportunity to observe and emulate good practice where it already exists.

79. We recommend that every meeting of a Early Years Development and Childcare Partnership should be open and that members of the public should be invited and encouraged to attend.


80. There has historically been a low base of funding and investment in early education in the UK compared with other developed countries. The structure of funding in education has favoured education at the later stages. The funding of care for young children has not been viewed as a public responsibility at all in the UK unless the child was deemed to be 'at risk' in some way. Provision for families where parents worked or were in training was largely left to the market place. This situation has changed radically in the last three years. Ms Hodge told the Sub-committee:

81. Free early education places for four year olds in schools and nurseries in the maintained sector are funded by the Under Fives Standard Spending Assessment, which is calculated according to the population of birth to three year olds and the number of four year old children in local education authority maintained provision. Local education authorities determine through their Fair Funding arrangements how the standard spending assessment should be distributed to schools and nurseries in the maintained sector.[185]

82. The specific nursery education grant is based on a headcount of eligible four year old children attending settings in the private and voluntary sectors (and for new places in the maintained sector since the last schools census). Funding for three year olds is not based on universal provision. It is planned to expand the proportion of three year olds able to access a free place to two-thirds by 2002. The required funding is being phased in, beginning with the areas of greatest social need.[186]

83. International research has demonstrated the cost effectiveness of investment in early education and care by the state.[187] The links between funding and the quality of early education and care provision have also been demonstrated.[188] Recently, the need for a significant increase in funding, and a shift in funding priorities, has been acknowledged at Government level and significant increases in the funding for early education and care has occurred. In their background report on the United Kingdom for the OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, Dr Tony Bertram and Professor Christine Pascal drew attention to "the international evidence emerging from economic, social and educational sources [has] provided the Government with an irrefutable case for significantly increased investment in services for young children and their families".[189] There has also been pressure to revise the funding structure in favour of the youngest children.[190]

84. The separation of funding streams between education, health, social services, has been demonstrated to limit the effectiveness of delivering integrated, comprehensive early education and childcare.[191] The differential in funding levels between the state, private and voluntary sectors has also led to inequalities in the quality of provision. There are moves to bring these different funding streams together to support the further integration of Early Years services.[192] There is also a shift to allocate funding for the local development of Early Years services through Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships to encourage partnership and collaboration between sectors, and more locally responsive delivery of services.[193] The Chief Education Officer for Oxfordshire told the Sub-committee: "I do not think you can separate the social services provision for families and childcare from an education authority. They are one and the same thing, which is why the Children's Committee makes sense".[194] He also told the Sub-committee that the whole mechanism for funding "needs to be sorted" and "we need to look carefully, because we have been talking a lot about granting funding today, at getting the balance right between the revenue funding and the hypothecated funding that comes through grants because otherwise you have so many programmes that are so earmarked you get the tail wagging the dog. That is true of both social services and education. There needs to be a radical examination".[195]

85. We recommend that the increased Government investment in early education and care should be sustained over a long-term period.

86. We recommend that those responsible in the DfEE should continue to review the relative fairness of access to funding for places, staff, resources, capital, and training across the sectors in the Early Years.

87. We recommend that the long-term aim of DfEE Early Years funding policy should be to ensure the development of a diverse and innovative pre-school sector which meets the need of children and parents in all situations.

164  Q. 13. Back

165  Ev. p. 166. Back

166  Appendix 4 paras. 25-26. Back

167  Q. 401. Back

168  Q. 67. Back

169  Q. 396. Back

170  Q. 396. Back

171  Q. 398. Back

172  Appendix 10 paras. 37-38, Appendix 24 paras. 14-15, Appendix 25 para. Q. 5.4. Back

173  Appendix 8 para. 20, Appendix 14 para. 17, Appendix 15 para. 4.3, Appendix 19 para. 5(a). Back

174  Appendix 1 para 1.2.5, Appendix 10 para. 70, Appendix 17 para. 3.1, Appendix 24 para. 24. Back

175  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 40. Back

176  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 59. Back

177  Q. 54. Back

178  Q. 58. Back

179  Q. 438. Back

180  Q. 67. Back

181  Q. 54. Back

182  QQ. 267-269. Back

183  Q. 437. Back

184  Q. 434. Back

185  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 59. Back

186  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 59. Back

187  For example, the High/Scope pre-school programme in the USA has been estimated to deliver a return of $7.16 for every dollar invested-Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, Early Years Learning POST Report 140, June 2000, page10. Back

188  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page36. Back

189  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 30. Back

190  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 60.  Back

191  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 33. Back

192  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page39; Q. 145. Back

193  Tony Bertram and Christine Pascal, UK Background Report for OECD Thematic Review of Early Childhood Education and Care, page 40; Q. 54. Back

194  Q. 145. Back

195  Q. 146. Back

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