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Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for those remarks. I am not absolutely sure that her brief is right about Clause 6, although I will look at the matter again. I think that Clause 6 was drawn in by my original amendment but in the new amendments we sought not to do so. I should like to check that point. Indeed, the noble Baroness made many complex points which I shall have to go back to. I was trying to find some quotations while she was speaking but I wanted to
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listen to what she was saying. I shall have to read what she said, and perhaps it would be possible for me to have a meeting with her between now and the next stage of the Bill.

The noble Baroness gave some extraordinarily important and useful information about what is being done and what is available to parents who are giving full-time care to a child—in other words, those with whom the child is residing. I find a lot of comfort in what she said, but that still does not do anything for what she described as the relatives providing informal care. I should like to pursue the idea that they should have some further help.

The noble Baroness mentioned Section 2(1) of the Local Government Act. I can only tell her that at the annual general meeting of the Grandparents' Association, which I attended last Monday, there was a hollow laugh when I read out the section of the Official Report in which the noble Lord referred to that Act. There is a big difference between what local authorities are entitled to do and what they actually do. I cannot blame them: they want to spend their money as efficiently as they can and they will spend it on the things that they must do rather than on the things that they might do. I am keen to create a situation in which they must do something for the non-resident relatives.

On the basis of those remarks, and in the hope that I can discuss matters with the Minister in the next week or two, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 not moved.]

Clause 18 [Meaning of childcare]:

[Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]

Clause 22 [Duty to secure sufficient childcare for working parents]:

[Amendment No. 24 not moved.]

Lord Adonis moved Amendment No. 25:

"(5) Except in relation to a disabled child, this section does not apply in relation to childcare for a child on or after the 1st September next following the date on which he attains the age of 14."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 27 [Duty to provide information, advice and assistance]:

Lord Adonis moved Amendments Nos. 26 to 28:

"( ) In prescribing information for the purpose of subsection (2), the Assembly must have regard to the needs of the parents of disabled children or young persons for information relating to—
(a) the provision of childcare which is suitable for disabled children, and
(b) other services or facilities, or publications, which may be of particular benefit to the parents of disabled children or young persons or to disabled children or young persons."
Page 13, line 14, leave out "also" and insert ", in addition to providing information which it is required to provide under subsection (2),"
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Page 13, line 25, at end insert—
"( ) For the purposes of this section, a child or young person is disabled if he has a disability for the purposes of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (c. 50)."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 33 [Requirement to register: early years childminders]:

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Clause 41 [The learning and development requirements]:

Baroness Howarth of Breckland moved Amendment No. 30:

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 30 stands in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Massey of Darwen, Lady Morris of Bolton and Lady Walmsley.

I had come to consider that under the Every Child Matters agenda, the childcare policies of this Government were truly focused on the child—not on structures or professionals but on the needs of the children themselves—and that the consequent structures, language, work and training of professionals would be wrapped around those needs and the development of each unique child. I have moments of doubt.

The debate about Clause 41 and the word "taught" is important because it reinforces my concern that our children are part of the Government's success plan based on concepts of external success and rigour which have little to do with the individual fulfilment of each child as a unique person and each child's, dare I use the word, happiness.

In seeking to change "be taught to" into "support the learning and development of" we are joined by the Early Childhood Forum of the National Children's Bureau. Along with members of the forum, who represent a wide spectrum of children's agencies, I believe that the inclusion of the word "taught" in relation to children from birth to age five is totally inappropriate.

It is difficult to understand why the Government have such difficulty with this point. The early years foundation stage document, currently out for consultation, is encouraging. Throughout the descriptions of each learning and development area in the early years foundation stage the words "support" and "encouragement" are used rather than the word "taught". We all know that children develop at different rates. I believe that the Minister, at the moment, has cause to understand that at first hand. In a Commons debate, the Minister in another place acknowledged that:

We know that age-related frameworks relate to those age relationships in schools where there certainly is a taught age-related framework.
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For that reason the age grids were removed, but that appears to be undermined by the use of an age-related guide in section 3.2. That causes a double problem. Less secure practitioners may then use that guide in a tick-box sense while practitioners with a sound understanding of child development will simply not need it. There should be much greater emphasis on free play and child development, the key factors that should underpin all work with young children.

The sense of the agenda being education-driven has been reinforced by the limited inclusion of the birth to three framework. Only a fraction of that framework has been incorporated into the early years foundation. The Every Child Matters agenda will fail if we do not give enough attention to those most formative years. That is why I have been so encouraged by the Childcare Bill, as it emphasises what we all know from all the research: it is the formative years that matter. Will the Minister indicate why the aspects of development, "a strong child", "a skilful communicator", "a competent learner" and "a healthy child", have not been given a more prominent role in the early years foundation stage so that the sector can be steered towards focusing on the child and not on specific areas of experience, such areas as are more likely to be taught?

In the Children Act 2004, the legislative descriptor of one of the five outcomes is education, training and recreation. The language of the childcare sector, and indeed of children if one listens to them—I gather that the Minister has plenty of time to do that—is enjoy and achieve. Some argued hard for such words to be in that Act. I remember the fervour of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. However, that argument is not about a word but a whole ethos, a whole attitude to children; it is about excellent childcare; it is about whole development; and it is about fun, play, achievement and a good life. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively. I beg to move.

6.30 pm

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