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


Memorandum from the National Association for Primary Education (NAPE) (EY 09)


  Whilst the Association is in favour of QCA's learning goals and welcomes the QCA publication, it also appreciates that QCA regards this as a starting point for further debate, discussion and refinement.

  The publication lays down significant markers that provide a continuum of learning for children. It recognises, and we must continue to recognise, that parents are children's first educators and have a major influence on subsequent learning patterns and attitudes.

  This wealth of skills, knowledge and experience should be recognised by schools and a continuing, effective, active partnership and dialogue fostered between the Home and the School.


  NAPE regards play as an essential tool for learning and, whilst welcoming the reference to play in the QCA document, considers it important to extend this area.

  There is insufficient recognition of the value of play in promoting children's learning. A teaching programme based upon curriculum goals is not appropriate for early childhood.

  Direct instruction must not impinge too much on the early years curriculum and so prevent spontaneity.

  Mathematics—in the QCA document, reference is made to specific learning goals without addressing a few fundamental issues—ie the acknowledgement that, as our world is three dimensional, this provides an appropriate starting point for work on Space and Shape; and the importance of developing the concept of conservation of numbers 0-10 rather than being too prescriptive—also the value, place and understanding of zero within the number system. Literacy—NAPE is concerned that over prescription narrows and constrains the professional's expertise and a child's diverse interests.

  It is to be hoped that the National Literacy Strategy will not restrict and narrow the development of children's language.


  NAPE welcomes QCA's recognition that appropriately trained and qualified staff are essential for all early years setting and that the ratio of adult/child needs to reflect the wide developmental stages of young children.

  All staff should have access to opportunities for continuous training and updating of knowledge.


  NAPE recognises that Baseline Assessment provides teachers with information for planning learning goals for individual children, but believe that this should be a collaborative exercise between parents and teachers, followed by periods of observation, and that frequent liaison opportunities should be created.

  Good quality observational assessments should concern the whole child, taking into consideration feelings, attitudes and the process through which a child learns and develops. This should be shared with parents and parental contribution valued.

  Assessment evidence provides a basis for planning and addressing individual children's needs and for supporting and fostering their learning potential.

  Care must be taken that the definition of a distinct Foundation Stage of education does not have an adverse effect upon subsequent primary education. While it is no doubt inevitable that the provision of education is divided into distinct stages it must not be assumed that children fit neatly into stages. Growth, development and learning are continuous and evolutionary, there are seldom sudden changes in the children themselves. A division between the Foundation and the primary stages would be as harmful as the present Primary/Secondary divide.


  It is important to preserve parental choice with regard to provision of under-fives. A national curriculum for children as young as three is envisaged in the Government's proposals. This must lead to a statutory requirement of attendance at school. NAPE believes that families must be able to choose part-time or full-time nursery education or, it is judged to be in the best interests of the child, education within the home.

  Diversity of opportunity before the child enters formal schooling is to be encouraged. There is a danger that the wrong message might be conveyed to parents. They should not be made to feel guilty if children are engaged for a disproportionate amount of the time in "free play".

National Association for Primary Education (NAPE)

January 2000

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