Memorandum from the National Association
of Head Teachers (NAHT) (EY 37)
1. The Association has a high percentage
of head teachers and deputy heads in the early years sector and
welcomes the opportunity to give evidence on this important issue.
NAHT gave detailed consideration and consultation on education
in the early years in 1999 and in July 1999 published a paper
that covers the aspects of early years education being considered
in this inquiry. The NAHT Working Document on Education in the
Early Years sets out the Association's policy and proposals for
the development of children's learning between the ages of three
and seven/eight. It was drawn up in the context of Desirable Outcomes,
National Curriculum requirements Key Stage 1 and Agreed Syllabuses
for Religious Education, National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies,
Baseline Assessment and end of Key Stage 1 tests.
The appropriate content of early years education,
taking into account the recently published QCA Early Learning
2. The Association is generally supportive
of the Early Learning Goals which replace Desirable Outcomes from
September 2000, welcoming the emphasis on play and the recognition
of its importance within the learning process.
3. NAHT has set out the broad curriculum
expectations in three interactive circles based on the understanding
that the learning of young children is holistic and not dependent
upon discrete subjects. (See Figure 1 below).
4. The inner circle represents The Heart
of the Curriculum (the development of the individual as a person)
encompassing Personal, Social, Emotional Development, Religious
Education and Physical Development.
5. The middle circle represents The Skills
for Learning (essential for further learning) encompassing Language
Development, Mathematical Development, Information and communication
Technology and Thinking, Observing, Discriminating.
6. The outer circle covers The Curriculum
of Entitlement and Enrichment (what is learnt) encompassing Creative
and Aesthetic Development, Science, Technology and the Wider World,
7. The content of the curriculum is listed
in more detail in the attached NAHT Early Years Document Sections
2.2, 2.3 and 2.4.
The way in which it should be taught
8. The early years curriculum should be
based on the provision of opportunities for learning through play,
on practical activities and routine which will promote learning,
as well as on the need to acquire an established body of knowledge
9. When planning such a curriculum it is
very important to take the following principles into consideration:
Young children need to develop independence,
confidence and self-esteem which will empower them to access the
curriculum and to live life to the full.
They must be actively involved in
their learning which should be based as much as possible on practical
experiences and on using a variety of materials.
There should be a balance, too, between
activities initiated by the child and those initiated and demonstrated
by the teacher.
A balance must also be kept between
the familiar, which helps children feel secure and the new or
unusual, which will stimulate interest and arouse curiosity.
Teacher intervention should be sensitive
and constructive with an atmosphere of trust built up so that
the children feel confident enough to ask questions and use the
staff as a learning resource.
Teachers must be confident in their
knowledge of young children's learning, using their knowledge
to develop a form of questioning appropriate to individual children.
All learners, but young children
in particular, need to repeat activities if they are to assimilate
properly what they have learned and move on to develop new concepts.
Good use must be made of available
indoor and outdoor space.
Parental support and involvement
is crucial and helps to make their children feel that what they
do at school is worthwhile and enjoyable. If parents are to support
their children's learning at home, schools need to take positive
steps to secure a high level of interest and involvement.
The kind of staff that are needed to teach it
and the qualifications they should have
10. NAHT firmly believes that all early
years education must be in the hands of qualified early years,
graduate teachers, who are supported by suitably qualified additional
staff, as well as by voluntary support, with the teacher in overall
control of the planning, teaching and assessment of high quality
learning for young children. A well qualified, graduate teaching
force is essential for quality provision. Teachers of the youngest
children need a thorough knowledge and understanding of child
development and the continuity of learning across the three to
seven and eight age range.
11. The minimum staffing for nursery classes
should be one qualified teacher and one qualified nursery nurse
(NNEB or equivalent) to 26 children. All other early years/infant
classes should have a qualified teacher and a full time, trained
and qualified classroom assistant working with a class of not
more than 30 children. Where classes have children with special
educational needs, additional trained and qualified support staff
are required. The teacher must be responsible for managing the
duties of support staff.
12. The Association welcomes the introduction
of the Framework of Nationally Accredited Qualifications in Early
Years Education, Childcare and Playwork. The expansion of early
years education has raised the profile of support staff and reinforced
the need for a career structure that recognises the skills and
competences that are required. It has highlighted the need for
high quality training and national standards for qualifications
that are appropriate for the different occupational areas and
job roles within early years educational support. High quality
support staff are an essential part of high quality early years
education provision. Appropriate levels of pay for trained and
qualified support staff need further consideration and the funding
implications for school budgets must then be addressed.
The way quality of teaching and learning in the
early years is assessed
13. In educational terms the key reason
for assessment of young children should be diagnostic, an integral
part of the curriculum, informing planning and supporting future
learning. SATS were introduced to assess children's attainment
at the end of Key Stages and more recently we have seen the introduction
of Baseline assessment, which assesses children against Desirable
Outcomes for Children's learning on Entering Compulsory Education.
Both baseline assessment and end of Key Stage 1 tests have been
introduced to provide formative and summative data and fail to
provide reliable information for either area.
14. NAHT urges the use of a coherent assessment
model for diagnostic purposes that:
builds on baseline assessment and
measures a child's progress and attainment through the school;
informs curriculum planning and target
is based both on standardised tests
and on teacher assessment.
Results would be shared with the child and parents
as well as used to inform discussion on the child's progress.
15. The Association commissioned research
from Newcastle University on an Evaluation of Baseline Assessment
Schemes. The main recommendations are listed on page 7 of the
NAHT Early Years Document.
16. NAHT is opposed to the use of Baseline
Assessment as the starting point of any national "value added"
17. There are currently different models
for assessing the quality of teaching and learning through the
inspection process, depending on the setting within which the
early years education is provided. NAHT believes that any setting,
school or otherwise, which offers education, should be liable
to the same model of inspection. Therefore, whilst the Care Standards
Bill for a single inspection framework for non-maintained settings
is very welcome, it does not go far enough in the Association's
view. Further, NAHT would like to see a system which acts as moderation
of the school's own self-evaluation processes and to which the
staff of the school are able to make a genuine professional input,
as outlined in Section 5 on page 7 of the NAHT Early Years Document.
18. Teams inspecting early years education
must have recent, relevant experience of the education of very
young children, to ensure that their findings are accurate and
19. The inspection process should, in conjunction
with the LEA, validate an on-going assessment of a young child's
learning rather than make "snapshot" judgements and
rely on end of Key Stage tests.
At what age formal schooling should start
20. This raises the question as to what
precisely is meant by the term formal schooling, its relationship
to the statutory age for starting school and the provision of
a curriculum delivered in a more formal way. The curriculum should
be developed, planned and delivered in a way most appropriate
to the age, needs and abilities of the child.
21. The NAHT supports the formation of a
foundation stage for all three, four and five year old children
up to the end of the reception year with Key Stage 1 beginning
in Year 1. The Key Stage 1 curriculum should be based on the same
areas of learning as the foundation stage in order to provide
continuity and progression for children's learning from the ages
of three to seven and eight, with the move to a more formal curriculum
taking place at the end of Key Stage 1.
National Association of Head Teachers
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