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Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I declare an interest as the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, which has discussed this Bill at some length.

In supporting the amendment, I thank the Minister and the Minister for Children, Beverley Hughes, for the time they have spent considering the appropriateness of "taught" as it applies to young children. I hope for some eventual movement on that. The use of "taught" and "learning and development" were also discussed at some length in another place. I understand that the Minister and the Minister for Children want to ensure rigour in the approach to pre-school education. I cannot agree that the word "taught" in the Bill is the right way to go about it, however.

I said in Committee that "taught" implies to professionals and parents a formal system of education entirely inappropriate to young children. The Early Childhood Forum and member organisations have some serious concerns, and will be responding to the early
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years foundation stage document, currently out for consultation. Early years practitioners—I was one, once—want to support young children's development and learning, as the amendment states, rather than "teaching", which implies instruction.

I gave the example in Committee of young children and artwork. In art, children have materials to draw and paint, and their imaginations take over. No good practitioner would say "This is how you draw a house"; that is teaching: instruction. Perhaps the Minister could reassure us that there will be, in the final early years foundation stage document, a consistent definition of "teaching"—I will come on to that in a minute—a more extensive section on child development and the important role of free play, a more prominent focus on the "birth to three" aspects, and a reference to the early support programme as guidance for working with young disabled children.

I shall not go into detail, but there are two definitions of what "teaching" might mean in the early years foundation stage document; one in paragraph 3.6 on effective practice, and one in the glossary. There may eventually be some room for manoeuvre on this. There should be a much greater emphasis on child development, as it underpins all work with young children. As regards Birth to Three Matters, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, I, too, wonder 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. It is excellent that these considerations have been made about young disabled people, and I thank the Minister for that.

In short, this is a simple but sensible amendment, which would clarify the approach to development of young children and their learning. I beg to move.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, anyone who listened to "The Learning Curve" on Radio 4 in the past two weeks will have been struck by the difference between the approach to childcare in Sweden and that in the UK. In Sweden, there is no formal curriculum, and children play, socialise and learn to become well integrated young people.

Childhood is so precious, we should do everything we can to preserve its spark and spontaneity. I listened to what the Minister and the Minister for Children, Beverley Hughes, said when we met last week. We took the opportunity to discuss with Bernadette Duffy and Ruth Pimentel the early years foundation stage. I understand why the Ministers wanted us to talk to them: they were professional, approachable, charming and full of enthusiasm. We are lucky to have such people working with our young children. However, I genuinely believe that all they wish to accomplish will not crumble if this amendment is accepted. The word "taught" is too prescriptive and gives the wrong impression. I fully support its removal from the Bill.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. The word "taught" indicates to some a didactic practice that is quite inappropriate for young children. The Minister had a bit of fun with me in
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Grand Committee, saying that I wanted more teachers yet I wanted to remove the word "taught", and that perhaps I wanted to re-name teachers. As I think I said to him, I want to re-name them early years specialist teachers. Those early years specialist teachers know that "taught" is completely the wrong word. In fact, such highly trained people should be leading learning in early years settings, not just children's learning but also that of the other professionals in the setting, particularly those with fewer qualifications than they have. That is the approach we all want to see and what I hope the Minister will accept in this amendment.

Lord Adonis : My Lords, I thought the significant part of what the noble Baroness has just said is that, although she proposes to re-name these professionals, she still wishes to retain the word "teachers". She wishes them to be called early years specialist "teachers". I latch on to that word because the reason my right honourable friend the Minister for Children is so concerned about this issue is precisely to underpin the professional status of those who engage in this sector of our children's workforce to ensure that it has the proper professional recognition it deserves. The word "taught" already appears in statute; the 2002 Act already uses the phrase in respect of three to five year-olds. We are simply re-enacting that provision word for word and extending it across the under-fives age range. It is not a new provision, and it has not had the deleterious consequences feared.

There is nothing that the Government like less—I personally dislike to do it—than to disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, let alone my noble friend Lady Massey. I do so with all humility because I completely share the objectives they wish to see encompassed. My response is in two parts. We are certainly happy to look again at the consultation on the early years foundation stage and the incorporation of the Birth to Three Matters objectives and materials, referred to both by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and my noble friend.

The early years foundation stage document, which is out to consultation, is precisely that, a consultation document. We welcome all views submitted on that, and are very content to look at it to see how it can more accurately reflect the approach set out in Birth to Three Matters, if there are concerns that it does not sufficiently do so. In the early years foundation stage consultation, the draft areas of learning and development include all the Birth to Three Matters materials, from development matters, from Look, Listen, Note and from the practice sections of Birth to Three Matters. But we are always alive to the advantages of seeking to improve our documentation, and we will certainly look at that.

On the word "taught", I do not believe we are as far apart as one might think from listening to this debate and that in the Grand Committee. On page 134, the glossary in the early years foundation stage consultation document defines teaching very clearly:
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The word "teaching" is used to include all those aspects of their role, including, I stress,

That is set out at length on pages 23 to 24. My noble friend suggested that there might be some inconsistency. We do not believe that there is any inconsistency in the definitions; it is simply that pages 23 and 24 set out at greater length what practices we expect early years practitioners to take forward. On page 23 it says:

It continues:

That is all in fulfilment of the principles underpinning the early years foundation stage, which are set out at the beginning of the document. It states that the principles should include the recognition that learning through play and the development of imagination and creativity is a shared endeavour, some of it led by the child and some of it by an effective practitioner. There is a substantial section in that document on the importance of learning through play and play-based activities and of nurturing the creativity of children.

That is the context in which early years professionals will interpret the wording of the Bill. We believe that the objectives set out by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, and my noble friend Lady Massey are met.

We have already met the Early Childhood Forum and had helpful discussions with it on the issue. Now that the early years foundation stage consultation document has been published, the forum is keen to focus the debate on the content of that document and get the detailed requirements right. So are we. It has raised a number of areas for further work, such as a more extensive section on child development, the important role of free play and giving Birth to Three Matters aspects more prominence. As I said, we are happy to provide assurances that we will seriously consider those issues in developing the framework further.

I should add that we will also be producing a CD-ROM to support delivery at the early years foundation stage. Those issues will be addressed more fully in that, including the central importance of play in the development of children.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, referred to Bernadette Duffy, the head of the Thomas Coram family centre in Camden and an outstanding early years practitioner. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, brought her
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to see me so that we could discuss precisely such issues and wider issues about training of the early years workforce. In correspondence with us, Bernadette Duffy said:

Those are not my words; they are the words of an outstanding early years practitioner with whom we have worked closely in this area. It is precisely for those reasons—to sustain the professional status of those who work in this area, but to do so in the context of the early years foundation stage, which we have published, and which I have cited at length—that we believe that our position is entirely reasonable and I hope that the noble Baroness will not feel that she must press the amendment.

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