Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Question 39)


21 MAY 2008

  Q39 Chairman: I welcome the next set of witnesses, Graham Kennish, Sylvie Sklan, Professor Morag Stuart and Anne Nelson. Some of you are familiar with this setting and the Committee and some are not, so I welcome you all. You have been sitting behind the previous set of witnesses and therefore know how lively the first session has been, and we are keen to build on that. I want to get right into the questioning, but would you start by saying quickly why you are here and what you think of the discussion that we have just had?

  Graham Kennish: I have a background in education throughout all the years, with a Steiner emphasis, and am here to represent Open EYE. The discussion was most refreshing. One of the most refreshing things about it was that those who differed, however strongly, were able to communicate clearly with those who were listening. I found the interchange between yourselves and within the group a refreshing experience, with people actually listening to one another. That has been absolutely and severely lacking in the exchanges that Open EYE has experienced with the Government over Ministers' replies to questions. We have received endless standard, computerised letters. There is a gulf in communication, which I saw in the video of your speaking to Ofsted last week—it was as though you were speaking different languages with the same words. We need to expose that gulf, because so many people flood into Open EYE's website, and we are just desperate to communicate some realities, which are not being heard by the people who are in power. What is happening on the ground is different.

  Sylvie Sklan: I am Sylvie Sklan. I am from the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship, the member organisation for all the Steiner early years settings and the Steiner schools in this country. I am here to represent how the EYFS impacts on them.

  Morag Stuart: I am Morag Stuart. I am from the Institute of Education. I am probably here because I was a member of the advisory group for the Rose review.

  Chairman: We like having you here.

  Morag Stuart: The Rose review recommended that by the age of about five children are ready to start learning phonics.

  Anne Nelson: I am Chief Executive of the British Association for Early Childhood Education. It is a membership organisation that promotes quality in early years. Our remit is from birth to eight, so we go beyond that of EYFS. I found the discussion stimulating, and it was good to see people listening to each other. I have several points to make that you have not covered yet, but I shall wait to see whether they come up in questions. I found it most fascinating at the beginning to touch on workforce issues. One document, although it is enshrined in law, cannot compensate for the lack of a qualified workforce, which has to be one of the greatest challenges. If you do not understand child development and do not have a strong initial qualification, you cannot use whatever document is put in front of you. That is one of my greatest concerns among the issues that came before you during the last discussion.

  Chairman: Those of you who know the history of the previous Education and Skills Committee will know that the skills, the pay and the training of the early years workforce has been an obsession of ours for a long time. We will be looking at that in another inquiry quite soon.

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