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


Memorandum from Smokefree London (EYF17)

  I apologise for the late submission of this note for the Education Sub-Committee's evidence session with the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Employment and Equal Opportunities tomorrow morning.

  It concerns the decision to allow childminders to smoke in the presence of the children in their care with parental consent. The Sub-Committee has already expressed concern about this proposal. There is one aspect of the issue which has received little attention which Sub-Committee members might wish to question the Minister about; that of whether the parents are giving informed consent.

  The level of public awareness that passive smoking causes cot death and ear infections has significantly decreased in recent years, according to the latest ONS survey on "Smoking Related Behaviour and Attitudes, 1999".

Table 4\3: Views on whether or not passive smoking increases a child's risk of certain medical conditions, adults 16+.
Does not increase the risk of cot death 1999—32%1997—26% 1996—28%
Does not increase the risk of ear infection 1999—48%1997—36% 1996—27%

  Furthermore, smokers are significantly more likely than non-smokers to underestimate the impact of passive smoking on children's health.

  It is reasonable to suggest that the only parents who will give consent to their childminders to smoke in the presence of their children will be smokers themselves (so no respite for the children concerned). They are the least likely to be informed of the risks passive smoking poses to their children's health.

  If the DfEE cannot be persuaded to drop this proposal in spite of the Sub-Committee's recommendation and the many submissions (ours is attached for information) urging they do so, might they accept the need to:

    (a)  Require OFSTED to monitor the extent to which smoking actually occurs in childminders' homes.

    (b)  Require those childminders who seek consent to smoke to first provide parents with a factsheet about the impact of passive smoking on babies and children as part of the consent process.

May 2001


Submission by SmokeFree London to the Consultation on National Standards for the Regulation of Day Care and Childminding in England

  The current proposed wording for Standard 7.14 is: "The childminder and others in the childminder's home do not smoke in the presence of children unless otherwise agreed between parents and childminder."

  SmokeFree London proposes that Standard 7.14 should be amended as follows: "The childminder and others in the childminder's home do not smoke in the presence of children."

  As it stands, the proposed wording gives cause for concern for four main reasons:

    —  Smoking by childminders in the presence of children seriously affects the health and development of an unknown number of very young children.

    —  Allowing this practice to continue will certainly undermine the Government's efforts to reduce smoking amongst young people.

    —  It does not appear to conform to the principles of the Children Act 1989.

    —  It is inconsistent with Government policy to reduce workplace smoking.


  1.1  A major review by the Government-appointed Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health in 1998 concluded that passive smoking is a cause of respiratory disease, cot death, middle ear disease and asthmatic attacks in children[2].

  1.2  Further studies have shown that some of the immediate effects of passive smoking on children include eye irritation, headache, cough, sore throat, dizziness and nausea[3].

  1.3  Long-term effects include a reduction in lung function and increased severity in the symptoms of asthma in children[4].

  1.4  Passive smoking also increases the risk of children contracting lower respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia and bronchiolitis[5].

  1.5  More than 17,000 children under the age of five are admitted to hospital every year because of the effects of passive smoking[6].

  1.6  Childhood respiratory illnesses caused by passive smoking may also contribute to the development of respiratory disease in adult life among non-smokers[7].


  2.1  Parents and childminders are role models for the young and are a main source of primary socialisation. Their influence is very strong, particularly in the pre-school phase of a child's life[8].

  2.2  It has been shown that a significant reduction in the number of children taking up smoking will only occur when smoking among adult role models is considerably reduced[9].

  2.3  Studies have also shown that children are almost three times as likely to be regular smokers if both their parents smoke than if neither did[10].

  2.4  A childminder is a figure of authority in a child's life (similar to a teacher), thus a childminder smoking legitimises the habit and endorses its acceptability as an adult activity for the child.


  3.1  The Children Act 1989, Part I, 5 states: "A person who (a) does not have parental responsibility for a particular child; but (b) has care of the child, may (subject to the provisions of this Act) do what is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the child's welfare." Given the known detrimental health effects of passive smoking on children, allowing a childminder to smoke could be interpreted as directly contravening the above regulation.

  3.2  Furthermore, Part X, 71(2) states: "a person acts as a childminder if . . . he looks after one or more children under the age of eight, for reward". This definition allows the registering authority to register a childminder for suitability to undertake the care of any child under eight, not specific named children. One parent may give consent to a childminder smoking while the parents of other children in the childminder's care may not have given consent.


  4.1  The greatest progress in restrictions on smoking has been made at the workplace. As the risks of exposure to other people's smoke have become better known, there has been an increasing demand among non-smokers to work in a smokefree environment.

  4.2  Smokers also agree with restrictions being implemented: in 1987, 81 per cent of smokers agreed that people who do not smoke should have the right to work in air free from tobacco smoke[11].

  4.3  When a childminder is taking care of children s/he is at work. Therefore a child in a childminder's care should be afforded the same rights as a non-smoking work colleague and be entitled to breathe clean, smokefree air.

Memorandum from the National Union of Teachers (EYF 18)



  1.  The National Union of Teachers welcomed the above report which was published in January 2001 and the majority of the recommendations made by the Education and Employment Committee. The fact that the Select Committee agreed with a number of the recommendations made by the NUT in its submission to this parliamentary inquiry into "Aspects of Early Years Education" was also welcomed.

  2.  The NUT's response focuses on the summary of recommendations published as a numbered list at the back of the Select Committee report rather than the main detail of the report. The rationale being that policy makers and the media are more likely to focus on this list.


  3.  As stated above the NUT welcomes the majority of recommendations. The NUT's criticisms of the report mainly focus on the significant omission of references to issues concerning equality of access and social inclusion.

  4.  The NUT is concerned about the lack of reference to access to high quality provision for all children including those with Special Educational Needs or with disabilities.

  5.  Similarly there is scant reference amongst the report's recommendations to the important future role of improved policy in order to ensure access to high quality early years services for children and families from disadvantaged areas.

  6.  In its submission to the Select Committee the NUT stated "Any curriculum for young children should aim to challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes and help children begin to challenge racist and other discriminatory attitudes for themselves. All children must feel equally "at home" if they are to have equal opportunities to learn and pursue their interests." The NUT is disappointed and seriously concerned that none of the Select Committee recommendations refer to the need to challenge, via an appropriate curriculum and relevant awareness training, racist and discriminatory attitudes in young children, as well as the staff that work with them.

  7.  The NUT also believes that in certain areas the Select Committee should have been more precise in its language. For instance recommendations refer to "adult:child" ratios without reference to the training and qualification of the adult.

  8.  A few of the recommendations could have benefited from further expansion or clarification as they may not be easily understood by those who have not read the full report.


  9.  The NUT welcomes recommendations 7 and 8 (paragraphs 27 and 28 of main report). In its response to the DfEE consultation on the proposed national standards for daycare services for children under eight the NUT stated:

    "The standards are intended to ensure safe, high-quality care for all children and yet childminders are allowed to smoke around the children in their care if the parents agree. The NUT believes that any standards should encourage children's good health and that it would be irresponsible and potentially dangerous for a childminder to smoke in the presence of the children in their care.

    In addition to the potential dangers of passive smoking and the increased risk of fire the DfEE should consider the appropriateness of adult behaviour that may be modelled by young children.

    The standards are intended to ensure safe, high-quality care for all children and yet it is proposed to allow children cared for by childminders to be smacked if prior parental permission is obtained. The NUT believes any form of corporal punishment to be unacceptable."

  10.  While the NUT would welcome the reduction in group/class size as suggested in the recommendation number 13 "the adult:child ratio should be no more than 15:1 in Reception and Year 1" (paragraph 44) it regrets the lack of emphasis within this recommendation on the qualifications and training of the "adult". The NUT would have preferred that the Select Committee had recommended a ratio of 2:30 where half the staff are qualified teachers and half qualified nursery nurses (or equivalent).

  11.  The NUT would argue similarly with regard to recommendation number 14 which refers to "fifteen or fewer children for each member of staff" (paragraph 51).

  12.  It is presumed that recommendation 16 (paragraph 53) refers to initial teacher training. Yet, currently Higher Education Institutions and Teacher Training Colleges offer 3 to 8 courses rather than "Key Stage 1 courses". The NUT has always been concerned about specialist early years courses which do not allow for a sound knowledge and understanding of the National Curriculum and an awareness of the importance of progression and continuity between stages for children. Initial teacher training courses that concentrate solely on the Foundation Stage may hamper the potential professional development/ career opportunities for teachers and may exacerbate the issues concerning the recruitment of men into the early years, thus contradicting the Select Committee's own recommendations regarding professional development and recruitment and retention (numbers 34 to 43). There is always a danger that such courses may eventually "hive off" the Foundation Stage from the rest of primary education.

  13.  Conversely the NUT believes it is equally import for Key Stage 1 and 2 teachers to have a sound knowledge and understanding of the Foundation Stage curriculum, child development theory and the way in which young children learn.

  14.  The NUT would, in particular, endorse recommendation number 20 which recommends that the "compulsory age of school entry should remain at the term after the child's fifth birthday; and the Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage should be fully implemented in primary schools to ensure that children receive the style of education appropriate to their stage of development" (paragraph 60). The substantial research evidence which highlights the detrimental effects of "too formal, too soon" cannot be denied. Scientific and educational research has shown that child development does not easily fit with institutional systems reliant on age or academic terms. Yet, by focusing on whether to increase the age of entry to compulsory schooling, there is a risk that the more serious questions about how to best meet the learning needs of young children are avoided. Such a quick-fix solution should not be seen as the panacea to raising the quality of experience for children. In fact, there is a grave danger that any proposal to raise the compulsory school age from five to six could be seen as an opportunity to reduce investment in early-years education.

  15.  In its response to the QCA consultation the NUT has argued that baseline assessment should be moved to the start of Year 1 in preference to the end of the Foundation Stage. The Select Committee in recommendation number 21 (paragraph 63) has done likewise.

  16.  If a single national "baseline" scheme were to eventually be introduced it may be preferable for it to be conducted at the beginning of Year 1, as a "baseline" measure of children's learning potential on entry to the National Curriculum. If conducted at the start of a school year these assessments would be more likely to inform the planning process of the year ahead, rather than at the end of a year when prior attainment on entry to Year 1 would be the focus. If the assessments were conducted at the beginning of Year 1 this would be more likely to encourage liaison between the teachers involved and their colleagues in reception classes. A national baseline assessment scheme cannot allow a reliable or valid "measure of value-added during Key Stage 1" unless it gives a true measure of a particular starting point, in this case the child's entry to the National Curriculum.

  17.  The Select Committee recommendation number 27 that "every setting that is inspected by OFSTED should have such areas available to the children" (paragraph 87) is welcome. The meaning of "such areas", however, is unclear unless the detail of the report is referred to. The summary recommendation needs to specifically refer to "outdoor play areas" for further clarification.

  18.  The NUT also welcomes recommendation number 28 (paragraph 88) - there is a particular need for additional funding to schools to provide safe outdoor play areas for Reception (and Year 1) children.

  19.  The NUT is concerned about the language used and intention behind recommendation 30. The Select Committee state "We recommend that as a long term vision the DfEE should foster the creation and development of a ladder of training for Early Years practitioners which could lead to a graduate qualification equivalent to that of qualified teachers" (paragraph 97). The NUT has been consistent in its welcome of increased access to training, qualifications and career progression for early years workers as long as teaching remains a graduate profession and there is no dilution of the standards required for Qualified Teacher Status. The NUT is concerned, however, about the Select Committee's use of the term "early years practitioners" and the previous reference in paragraph 96 to "pedagogues" in Denmark.

  20.  In paragraph 96 the Select Committee states "The `pedagogues' are members of a well-regarded and highly respected profession, which is almost on a par with qualified teachers in terms of pay". The point is "pedagogues" are not paid the same as teachers. The long-term implications of such a qualification is a dilution in investment into the early years and the Foundation Stage being "hived off" from the rest of primary education.

  21.  The NUT welcomes recommendation number 31 (paragraph 99) regarding the involvement of a qualified teacher in every early years setting. In its submission the NUT stated "The Select Committee should recommend that the next round of plans by Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should be required to show how, over time, all provision designated and funded as education for three and four year olds will be taught by a qualified teacher. Government investment should increase incrementally to allow that target to be met."

  22.  The Select Committee recommend that "Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships should publish surveys of the typical rates of pay in their area for different categories of practitioners" (recommendation number 32, paragraph 100) and that the Government and Partnerships should "adopt an objective of ensuring equitable pay and conditions for all categories of practitioners across all settings" (recommendation number 32, paragraph 101). As a trade union these recommendations are of course welcome, as long as there is a recognition of the relative value of qualifications and training.

  23.  The NUT welcomes the recommendations as numbered 34 to 43 regarding recruitment and training.

  24.  In addition the NUT appreciate recommendations 44, 45, 46, & 47 which refer to OFSTED and the regulation and inspection of early years provision. These recommendations reflect the NUT's submissions to the Select Committee Inquiry into the "Work of OFSTED".

  25.  The Select Committee recommend (number 52) that the "increased Government investment in early education and care should be sustained over a long-term period" (paragraph 149). In particular the NUT is concerned about LEA maintained nursery schools. In its submission it stated "the threat to free-standing nursery schools is perhaps the most obvious manifestation of the inadequacy of current levels of funding for three and four year olds. But it is also indicative of the short-termism that can prevail when political targets appear to drive the expansion and development of services rather than the needs of the community to be served".


  26.  The Select Committee report highlights an overall concern about the quality of early years education. The National Union of Teachers shares this concern and believes that only a high quality educational experience for young children will bring genuine benefits. It hopes that the next Government will be committed to making proper sustained investment in high quality early years education. It is not enough to simply expand the number of "education" or "care" places for young children. Any expansion and development must be based on the concept of high quality.

2   Report of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health. Department of Health, 1998. Back

3   Health effects of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke. The report of the California Environmental Protection Agency, 1992. Back

4   Ibid. Back

5   Strachan, DP and Cook DG, Thorax 1997. Back

6   Smoking and the Young, Royal College of Physicians, 1992. Back

7   Fourth report of the Independent Scientific Committee on Smoking and Health. HMSO, 1988. Back

8   Tones BK, Health promotion, effective education and the personal-social development of young people. In: Smoking and the Young, The Royal College of Physicians, 1992. Back

9   Smoking and the Young. The Royal College of Physicians, 1992. Back

10   Teenage Smoking Attitudes in 1996. Office for National Statistics, 1997. Back

11   NOP, London Evening Standard, 27th July 1987. Back

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