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


Memorandum from Rosemary W Peacocke (EY 08)

Thank you for sending me the information about the Early Years Education Inquiry. I am delighted that the Select Committee is following its intention in the conclusion of its 1994 report to keep the subject of educational provision for the under-fives under review.

  There are four major issues which I wish to address.

  1.  I welcome the new "Early Learning Goals". Children learn through first hand experience, play, talking and listening, and all these are given due weight. Early Education is an important phase in itself and not merely a preparation for something else (as was stated in a predecessor committee in 1988-89, paragraph 2.13.) The goals described are appropriate for any setting working towards quality provision and are not over prescriptive, or geared to the needs of the next phase. Children develop as individuals and should not be forced to proceed at any particular prescribed rate.

  2.  It is a serious omission that very little attention is paid to spiritual development. It receives a brief mention under "Personal social and emotional development" but later on page 21, in the list of "Early learning goals", there is no mention of the important elements of mystery, awe, wonder and delight which children experience in the natural world, and through the media of music, drama and the visual arts. The national curriculum is concerned with all these areas in primary and secondary education, and recognise their importance; in the early years the foundations are laid for these crucial experiences and they need a place in this document.

  3.  Qualified early years teachers are the best staff to teach young children, assisted by nursery nurses. This is a direct answer to your straight question, but I would be happy to expand on this answer at length if you wish me to do so.

  4.  I welcome the new foundation stage, but believe strongly that formal schooling should remain at five years of age. The reason it should not be raised to six is because there are insufficient qualified teachers of young children to ensure that every child will have the best foundation possible. There would be a very real danger that the settings without qualified teachers would admit children from four to six, until compulsory schooling began.

  Please get in touch with me if you would like any further information about my brief response.

Rosemary W Peacocke

Former HMI,—Staff Inspector for the education of Young Children

January 2000

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