Memorandum from CARE for Education (EYF
We outline below general comments on the contents
of the Report and the Government's response. For reasons of brevity,
references to recommendations are abbreviated (R1, R23, etc).
We strongly endorse the Government's statement
in R1 that "parents are children's first and most enduring
educators", and the Committee's call for the "centrality
of the parent in the development and education of their child"
to be affirmed through a Parents' Charter. Such rhetoric is welcome,
but must be reflected in practical implementation. For example,
in R19 the Committee rightly calls for the Government to review
limitations in practice on the operation of parental choice for
entry to primary school. The Government states that it is encouraging
primary school admission authorities to allow parents to defer
a place when preferred. However, in practice the application of
such choice is often dictated by local funding requirements. In
such situations, parental choicebased on the aptitude and
needs of a childmust be upheld. Diversity of provision
must be maintained for individual children.
2. Babies and Infants
The Committee recommends in R9 that the years
from birth to five plus should be viewed as the "first phase
of education". The Government goes on to comment that following
development of the Foundation Stage, they are turning attention
to "researching best practice with regard to younger children
from birth to three". Initiatives such as Sure Start are
providing practical and supportive help to many very young children
and their families. However, care must be taken that within future
research and policy, babyhood and infancy do not become shoehorned
into an over-arching, prescriptive, "educational" framework
that seeks to channel very young children towards specific criteria
and developmental goals. Evidence suggests that parental, family
and informal nurture of babies and infants must be encouraged
and sustained as core "best practice" in the first phase
of children's development.
3. School: Entry and Style of Learning
We support the Committee's assertion in R14
that children below school age should be taught informally in
ways appropriate to their developmental stage and interest. We
also welcome the movement of baseline assessment to the start
of Year 1. R15 states that more structured learning should be
introduced gradually so that "by the end of the Reception
year, children are learning through more formal, whole class activities
for a small proportion of the day". Implementation must be
monitoredit would be very easy for such activity to encroach
upon informal learning, and become too much too soon. In R18,
the Committee states that "many argue that the age of school
entry was less important than the kind of curriculum and teaching
young children encounter when they enter statutory schooling".
The Government's response to R19 states that it "believes
the quality and appropriateness of the educational experience
is far more important than the type of setting a child attends".
In response to these statements, we would comment that different
settings do manifest a different ethos and distinct expectations.
We refer to Scandinavian models of early years care (as opposed
to US models referred to in the Report) with significantly more
relaxed and informal structures, emphases on creativity, play
and exploration, and subsequent high educational outcomes for
4. Training, Inspection and Diversity
R26 calls for the expansion of training opportunitiesparticularly
in the voluntary and private sectors"to enhance the
level of teaching skill". R30 calls for a "ladder of
training" for Early Years practitioners, R31 calls for every
setting outside the home to have a trained teacher on its staff,
R37 refers to national targets for training, and Government responses
focus on raising qualification levels in early years. We support
the availability of opportunities for training, but emphasise
the need to value experienced, common sense approaches of many
unqualified carers, particularly more mature carers. Opportunities
must be optional, and childcare must not become "professionalised"
to the point of excluding wider community input. With regard to
inspection, we support the Committee's R45that OFSTED's
contribution to schools should be one of support and not stress.
In Early Years settings inspection must not introduce a climate
of testing and rigorous inspection which results in inappropriate
expectations and pressures for this area of care and education.