Rumbold (1990)

Background notes

The complete report is shown in this single web page. You can scroll through it or use the following links to go to the various chapters.

Preliminary pages (page iii)
Correspondence, Contents, Membership

Part 1 Issues and proposals

1 Introduction (1)
2 Starting points (2)
3 Characteristics of young children (7)
4 Aims of early childhood education (8)
5 A curriculum for the under fives (9)
6 Effective curriculum planning and implementation (10)
7 Continuity and progression (13)
8 Observing, assessing, reporting and recording (16)
9 Monitoring, evaluation and review of provision (17)
10 Education, training and support for adults working with under fives (19)
11 Organisation and co-ordination of services (27)
12 Issues to be addressed (30)

Part 2 Material to aid practitioners

13 Introduction (35)
14 The process of learning for the under fives (36)
15 Areas of learning and experience (37)
16 Adults working with the under fives and their families (47)

References (48)


1 Evidence received (53)
2 Statistics (54)
3 Childcare services in Europe (56)

The text of the 1990 Rumbold Report was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 10 February 2008.

The Rumbold Report (1990)
Starting with Quality

The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Quality of the Educational Experience offered to 3 and 4 year olds, chaired by Mrs Angela Rumbold CBE MP

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1990
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

[title page]


The Report of the Committee of Inquiry
into the Quality of the Educational
Experience offered to 3- and 4-year-olds,
chaired by Mrs Angela Rumbold CBE, MP

London: HMSO

[page ii]


We wish to thank the Pre-School Playgroups Association and Her Majesty's Inspectorate for the photographs which appear in this report.

Note on the terms used

1. Education for the under fives can happen in a wide variety of settings, and can be supplied by a wide range of people. Some will be professional teachers; many will not. This report is not aimed simply at professional teachers; we have therefore used the term 'educator' throughout to describe an adult working with the under fives, unless our meaning is more limited.

2. We have used the term 'under fives' to describe children who have not reached their fifth birthday. The term 'rising fives' is often used to mean children between four years and nine months and five - strictly speaking, children attending primary school who will reach their fifth birthday during the term in question.

3. The phrase 'early years', which applies to the age range for which teachers are trained, and sometimes to the remit of local education authority advisers, means the 3 to 7/8 age range, and thus embraces both nursery and early primary education.

4. All other terms of art, abbreviations and acronyms are explained or set out in full at the point where they are first used.

Crown copyright 1990
First published 1990

ISBN 0 11 270721 1

[page iii]


27 September 1990


Early last year, when, as Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science, I had responsibility for education for the under fives, Kenneth Baker asked me to chair a Committee of Inquiry on the quality of the educational experience offered to 3 and 4 year olds.

I am very grateful to the members of the Committee for the time and painstaking care they devoted to their task, and to the assessors, observers and secretariat for the able support they provided. I now have pleasure in submitting the Committee of Inquiry's report.


The Rt Hon John MacGregor OBE MP
Secretary of State
Department of Education and Science

[page iv]

TELEPHONE 071-934 9000


Mrs Angela Rumbold CBE MP
Minister of state
Home Office
Queen Anne's Gate

25 October 1990

Many thanks for your letter of 27 September, and for the report of your committee of Inquiry on the quality of education for the under fives. I am very grateful to you for undertaking this work, and seeing it through, despite your departure from DES, to its conclusion.

I have not yet had time to study the report properly, but I shall do so shortly; at the same time, we shall decide on matters such as its handling and publication, and how to take forward its recommendations. Meanwhile, I would be grateful if you would pass on my sincere thanks to all the members of the committee for the hard work and detailed thought they gave to this demanding brief; and above all I am indebted to you.

[page v]


Membership of the Committee of Inquiry into the educational experience offered to 3 and 4 year oIdsvi

Part 1: Issues and proposals
1 Introduction1
2 Starting points2
3 Characteristics of young children7
4 Aims of early childhood education8
5 A curriculum for the under fives9
6 Effective curriculum planning and implementation10
7 Continuity and progression13
8 Observing, assessing, reporting and recording16
9 Monitoring, evaluation and review of provision17
10 Education, training and support for adults working with under fives19
11 Organisation and co-ordination of services27
12 Issues to be addressed30

Part 2: Material to aid practitioners
13 Introduction35
14 The process of learning for the under fives36
15 Areas of learning and experience37
16 Adults working with the under fives and their families47


1 List of those submitting evidence53
2 Statistics54
3 International comparisons56

[page vi]

Membership of the Committee of Inquiry into the quality of the educational provision offered to 3- and 4-year-olds

Mrs Angela Rumbold CBE MPMinister of State, Department of Education and Science

Ms Lesley AbbottPrincipal Lecturer in Primary Education (Early Years), Manchester Polytechnic
Professor Neville BennettProfessor of Primary Education, University of Exeter
Mr Peter GedlingCounty Education Officer, Dorset
Ms Lesley GrundyHeadteacher, Grandpont Nursery School, Oxford
Mrs Rose JohnsonHeadteacher, Brentfield Primary School, Brent
Dr Christine PascalSenior Lecturer in Education, Worcester College of Higher Education
Mrs Gillian PughHead of Under Fives Unit, National Children's Bureau
Mrs Ann SharpAdviser (Early Childhood Education), Sheffield Local Education Authority
Mrs Jennie Shawformerly Chair, National Executive Conunittee, Pre-school Playgroups Association

Ms JF CramphornDepartment of Education and Science
Mr AJ Rose HMIHer Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools

Miss C BainesDepartment of Health
Mr MJP CunliffeScottish Education Department
Dr R WebbNational Curriculum Council
Mr MJ F Wynn HMIWelsh Office Education Department

Mr CJ DoweSecretary to the Committee
Miss S E GrayAssistant Secretary to the Committee (till September 1989)
Mrs G DavisonAssistant Secretary to the Committee (from October 1989)

[page unnumbered]

Part One
Issues and proposals

[page 1]

1. This Committee was established by the Secretary of State for Education and Science in March 1989, with the following terms of reference:

To consider the quality of the educational experience which should be offered to 3 and 4 year olds, with particular reference to content, continuity and progression in learning, having regard to the requirements of the National Curriculum and taking account of the government's expenditure plans.

To take into account in this consideration:

i. the diversity of needs and types of provision;
ii. demographic and social factors;
iii. the nature of training for teachers and other professional staff involved in the education of children under 5.

2. We have endeavoured to remain within these terms of reference, particularly in framing our recommendations. This has meant confining ourselves to issues directly concerned with the quality of provision for the under fives. We believe, however, that there is a compelling need to address the issue of quantity; and we would urge those who make provision to recognise the extent to which demand outstrips supply, and to secure a continuing expansion of high quality services to meet children's, and their parents', needs.

3. As the terms of reference make clear, diversity has been the hallmark of provision for the under fives. The various parts of the system may change in size and character as a result of central and local decisions, public and private, but this essential feature will remain.

4. Schools and parents are not, therefore, the sole educators of 3 and 4 year olds. It is the Committee's view that all adults who spend time with the under fives - whether they be parents, teachers, playgroup workers, nursery nurses or other staff in day nurseries, childminders or nannies - have their own distinct and important contribution to make to the education of young children.

5. We believe it to be vital that all who work, or are involved, with young children recognise the importance of their educational role and fulfil it. While our report is likely to be of greatest relevance to those engaged specifically in under fives' education, in whatever setting, it is designed to offer a framework for development and practical help for all concerned with young children.

6. Within this wide audience different groups will vary markedly in their special interests; for example, policy makers may well have less interest than teachers and trainers in teaching method; and providers will differ in the scope and formality of their educational approach.

7. In this light our report is presented in two parts. Part 1 discusses the issues and sets out our proposals. Part 2 offers more detailed thoughts and guidance from which providers of all kinds are invited to draw according to their need.

8. Much sound work is going on in the education of children under 5. But we believe that there is a need, made the more urgent by the rapid pace of current change and development within the education system as a whole, to raise the quality of a good deal of existing provision. Given the limited time available to us, therefore, we have not attempted to make this report all-embracing; rather, we have tried to distil and clarify those issues we consider it essential to address in order to secure improvement in quality, and to draw attention to other, often consequential, issues and implications. We invite all those working with the under fives to reflect on these points and to consider the most effective response.

[page 2]

Starting points

Facts and figures
9. Provision for the under fives takes a variety of forms. This chapter outlines the characteristics of the main ones, and indicates the scale on which they operate. Further statistics appear in Annex 2.

10. The data we are able to give suffer from a number of defects. The Department of Education and Science and the Department of Health collect figures at different times in the year and on different bases, educational figures being for children and childcare figures being for places. The figures are not complete: those for family centres and combined nursery places do not appear, nor those for peripatetic nursery teachers. For these reasons it is not possible to derive a comprehensive statistical base.

11. The national statistics for particular services may conceal wide local variations in what is available. Where they permit meaningful comparisons to be drawn these relate entirely to the quantity of the facilities provided and say nothing of their quality. We believe a more satisfactory statistical base is needed as a basis for policy making and recommend that the two Departments commission a study to establish how this might be done.

12. Unless otherwise specified, all figures are for England only for 1989; a subsequent figure in brackets indicates the comparable figure for 1979. As general background, the numbers of 3, 4 and 5 year olds in England for every alternate year during the last decade are given below:

Estimated population figures (thousands)


(Sources: Office of Population Censuses and Surveys and Government Actuary's Department)

Local authority: nursery education

13. Nursery education is designed to further children's emotional, social, physical and cognitive development, complementing the learning that takes place in the home. Nursery schools and classes run by local education authorities provide free education for children between the ages of 2½ and 5. They are staffed by trained teachers, who will generally have had specific training in the education of very young children, and nursery nurses. The availability of places in nursery schools and classes varies considerably between local education authorities, from 0 per cent to 65 per cent of 3 and 4 year olds. 78 (71) per cent of children in nursery schools and 87 (81) per cent in nursery classes attend part time, usually for five half days a week.

14. Overall, 296,000 (210,000) - 24 (19) per cent - of 3 and 4 year olds attend nursery schools or classes. Staff:child ratios are slightly higher than in 1979, at just over 1:10 overall and 1:23 for teaching staff only, but remain within the variations experienced over the period as a whole.

15. In 1986-87, the latest year for which such data are available, the average annual cost per pupil was 1,505 in nursery schools and 1,030 in nursery classes, the figures for 1979-80 being 805 and 510 respectively. Forecast out-turn for nursery capital expenditure in 1988-89 was 17.1m, the out-turn for 1979-80 being 4.7m. Local authority recurrent expenditure on all under fives in school was approximately 510m in 1988-89, implying expenditure per pupil of 1,255. It is not possible to provide an equivalent per capita figure for 1979-80; recurrent expenditure on the under fives in that year was 177m.

Local authority: reception classes in primary schools

16. Parents are obliged by law to send their children to school from the start of the term after their fifth birthday but it is open to LEAs and schools, if parents wish, to admit their children to primary school earlier in the year in which they become 5. Policies on early admission vary between, and within, authorities. It has been relatively commonplace for children to be admitted at the start of the term in which they become 5, when they are known as 'rising fives', but the trend

[page 3]

is towards once-yearly admission. This brings in younger 4 year olds.

17. Primary schools are staffed by trained teachers (of whom, however, few have received nursery training) and some also employ nursery nurses and/or untrained ancillary staff in reception classes; policies vary from authority to authority. Similarly, the quality of education provided for the under fives in reception classes varies very widely, depending on a range of factors, including planning, staffing provision, and staff training.

18. The number of 3 and 4 year olds in reception classes fell markedly between 1975 and 1982. Since then numbers have risen at a rate comparable with those in nursery provision. Contrasting with the latter, the whole of the increase has been in the 4 year olds. Most of the 252,000 (218,000) children in reception classes attend full-time.


19. Playgroups cater for children aged 3 (or sometimes 2½) to 5, aiming to provide education through play. Parents pay a fee for each session. Groups also offer support to parents, and many offer opportunities for learning and involvement. The local availability of playgroups varies; numbers are highest where there is least LEA nursery education provision.

20. The playgroup movement has stressed the notion that parents are the prime educators of their children. There are many different types of playgroups, but two thirds are community groups. These are managed by parent committees and run by playgroup workers with parent helpers. Group leaders are usually trained through the Pre-school Playgroups Association (PPA), a registered educational charity to which about 80 per cent of playgroups belong. Other playgroups are run by local authorities or by private individuals. It is estimated that about 64 per cent are non profit making groups run by committees of parents; 33 per cent are run by individuals, on either a commercial or a non profit making basis; and 3 per cent are run by social service departments.

21. Most children attend playgroups for two or three half-day sessions a week. Most groups are open for five sessions a week but have to restrict the number of attendances per child so that more children can be accommodated. A growing number of playgroups in membership of the PPA - currently 700 - operate extended hours and rather more than 200 are 'opportunity groups' catering for children with special needs. In addition, some 25,000 children with special needs are integrated into other playgroups.

22. All groups, except those operating on Crown premises, have to be registered with the local authority social services departments. The registration requirement is preserved by the Children Act 1989; but from now on it is persons - individuals or committees - who run a playgroup outside of a domestic setting who will be registered.

23. Playgroups currently provide some 407,000 places (the figure for 1979 is not available). It is estimated that they are attended by between 40 and 60 per cent of 3 and 4 year olds. Parents pay a fee averaging 1 per session. Average annual expenditure per child is 90; the estimated income from all sources to playgroups is 50m - through fees, grants and fund raising.

Private nursery education

24. Little information is available on private nursery schools. If they take only children under 5 they are not obliged to register as schools with the DES, and are registered by social services departments either as private nurseries or as playgroups. No data are available on the number of such schools or on their staffing or the fees they charge.

25. The Department of Education and Science collects information by age on the number of pupils in independent schools. Such schools provide for 23,017 (16,986) under fives on a full-time basis and 18,158 (11,078) part time - around 3 per cent (2 per cent) of 3 and 4 year olds.

Local authority day nurseries

26. Local authority day nurseries provide full or part time day care for children who are considered to need specialist help. They are run by social services departments, and most children are referred by those departments because they or their families are experiencing health or social difficulties. Many day nurseries are now changing their approach, working for shorter sessions with parents and children together rather than simply providing care for the child through the day; these are sometimes known as 'family centres' (see also paragraphs 35-36 below).

27. Most day nursery staff are trained nursery nurses, and some have additional social work qualifications. Section 26 (1) of the Education Act 1980 empowers local education authorities to make the services of a teacher employed at a nursery school, or a primary school with a nursery class or classes, available to a day nursery with the agreement of the teacher and school governors. However, this is seldom done. The age range catered for is 0 - 5, though very few nurseries take children younger than 18 months. Day nurseries provide 28,789 (28,313) places -1 per cent of the number of children under 5.

[page 4]

Private day nurseries

28. In the last two or three years there has been considerable growth in the number of private and voluntary day nurseries registered by local authority social services departments. From 1,044 in 1986 the number increased to 1,696 in 1989. The available data do not distinguish the different types of registered day nursery or provide information on staffing or fees.

29. The provisions of the Children Act 1989 require the registration of persons - individuals, private companies and committees - who provide day care services outside of domestic premises. The regulatory framework remains unchanged.

30. Private nurseries provide 45,026 (22,381) places, rather over 1 per cent of the number of children under 5.

Combined nursery centres

31. Combined nursery centres, usually run jointly by the local education authority and the local authority social services department, provide day care and nursery education for a full day for children from a few months to 5 years old - though in practice few take many children younger than 18 months. Many also offer a range of support services for parents.

32. The centres are staffed by teachers and nursery nurses; some also employ social workers and health visitors. There are no national data on nursery centres; but some 40 are in membership of the National Association of Nursery Centres. They vary widely in their approaches.


33, Childminders, who must be registered with local authority social services departments, take children under 5 into their homes for two or more hours per day, for which the parents pay a fee. The arrangement is usually a private one between parent and minder, though some local authorities sponsor the placement of 'priority' children.

34. Since 1982 (the first year for which national figures are available) the number of registered childminders has increased from 44,145 to 83,904. Nearly half are members of the National Childminding Association which provides information, advice and support. Firm evidence is lacking, but the available information suggests wide local variations between minders in terms of whether they are trained or not, the hours they work, the level of facilities they offer and the degree to which they receive support from their local authority.

Family centres and other forms of family support

35. There are no national data on family centres (although it is known that some 500 belong to the Family Centre Network); and no single definition of what such a centre is. The main types are:

a. therapeutic centres;
b. centres which have evolved from social service day nurseries (see paragraph 26 above). While some may have changed little more than their name, others admit children only in the context of a programme of work involving the parent(s);
c. centres focusing on community work, often established by voluntary childcare organisations;
d. 'self-help' centres which have grown out of voluntary community groups such as playgroups.
36. In addition to family centres, there is a rich diversity of family support schemes provided largely but not exclusively by the voluntary sector. These include parent and toddler groups (often linked to playgroups); one o'clock clubs; adult education groups; drop-in centres; toy libraries; play buses; home visiting schemes (both voluntary and school-based); and parent support groups, many of which focus on parents of children with special needs.

Parents at home

37. We estimate that nearly 10 per cent of children start compulsory schooling with no experience of pre-school groups outside the home, either through parental choice or because no provision is available. But we believe it is important to recognise that the remaining 90 per cent spend more of their waking hours with their parents than they do in nursery provision; the role of parents as the first educators of their children must not be underestimated. Many parents lack confidence in their ability to support their children's early development, however; and we believe that early educators have an important part to play in enabling parents to take an active part in their children's learning.

Special needs

38. Health authorities are under a duty by virtue of Section 10 of the 1981 Education Act to inform a child's parents if they form the opinion that a child under 5 has, or is likely to have, special educational needs, and to bring that opinion to the attention of the LEA, after discussion with the parents. A distinction is drawn between those children under 2 and those aged between 2 and 5. Under the 1981 Act a child under 2 may be assessed by the LEA if the parent agrees and must be assessed if the parent requests it.

[page 5]

39. 'Special educational provision' for a child under 2 means any kind of educational provision including support and advice to help parents to help their children. Parent and toddler groups, opportunity groups, and other forms of provision by social services and voluntary bodies are important in the educational context. LEAs are advised to give priority to children with special educational needs in admitting children to nursery provision. Many local authorities operate Portage services - programmes of early intervention developed in the United States of America - and other pre-school parent support and home-based learning programmes. Most Portage schemes are receiving, or have previously received, funding through the Education Support Grant Scheme. At January 1989, about 3,970 children under 5 had statements of special educational needs.

Toy libraries

40. Educators may benefit from specialist resources and advice. One such service is offered by Play Matters, the National Toy Libraries Association. 1,200 toy libraries are in membership, some 40 per cent of which are in educational establishments. They undertake community work with children under 5 and disadvantaged families, and currently serve more than 14,000 families in all.

International comparisons
41. Because of the wide variety of education and care provision within and between countries, and the different educational systems they operate, international comparisons are difficult to draw. One factor affecting comparisons is the different ages at which compulsory schooling begins. Among countries for which the Department of Education and Science has statistics, only the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have a starting age of 5 (the latter only since 1985): over most of the European Community it is 6, and in Scandinavia it is 7. Taking all group provision, and both full time and part time attendance, the rate of participation of 3 to 4 year olds in the United Kingdom (estimated to be 86 per cent in 1987) is relatively high. It is exceeded only by Belgium and France where over 95 per cent of these children attend school for all or most of the day.

42. For education settings alone, the participation rate in the UK is 45 per cent, a figure exceeded in most EC countries. However, EC countries generally have a much larger proportion of enrolments than the United Kingdom in the private sector of education. A contrasting pattern is found with day care. In the United Kingdom a very high proportion of day care facilities are provided outside the public domain. Of these facilities by far the majority are provided by the largely voluntary playgroup movement.

43. Even at this level of generality comparisons relate only to the quantity of what is offered. Comparisons of quality are even harder to draw. With these qualifications, however, we include at Annex 3 a summary prepared by Peter Moss in 1988 for the EC. It sets out the main characteristics of provision within member states for children in the age groups 0-2, 3-5 and 6-10 between the years 1985 and 1986.

Recent trends and
44. The outline of existing provision set out above illustrates the diverse nature of provision for the under fives. This is the result, at least in part, of a historical distinction between 'education' and 'care' which has resulted in the formulation and implementation by a variety of agencies in the public, private and voluntary sectors of their own policies designed to meet specific perceived needs.

45. In education, the expansion of nursery provision during the 1970s, in the UK as elsewhere, had a substantial 'compensatory' component: much was financed, for example, through the Urban Programme as a means of providing enrichment for children who were considered economically and socially disadvantaged. In part the aim was to minimise, by the time children embarked on their statutory period of schooling, inequalities arising from their differing backgrounds.

46. Thus nursery education was widely seen, in crude terms, as existing to provide what the home could not. The consequent targeting of resources to providing mainly for those children considered most in need meant that, overall, nursery education was insufficient to meet the requirements of all parents. Many families who were outside the categories considered disadvantaged therefore turned to alternative forms of provision. The playgroup movement, for example, saw a steady growth during the 1970s. The playgroup philosophy is based on self-help, and is intended to foster parents' constructive involvement in all areas of their children's development.

47. During the last decade, the overall educational context has changed considerably. Legislation has, for example, increased the involvement of parents in their children's education in various ways; established the principle that children with special needs should wherever possible receive education within mainstream provision; and introduced a nationally-determined framework for the curriculum.

48. These changes have direct or indirect effects upon education for the under fives; and there have also

[page 6]

been specific developments within nursery education. For instance, the compensatory aspect now has less emphasis. Increasingly, 4 year olds have been accepted into reception classes of primary schools. This trend has been partly due to falling primary rolls in some areas and the resultant release of space, and partly to parental concerns, especially over summer-born children who otherwise may have only seven terms of infant schooling. While this development is generally to be welcomed, there has been widespread concern over the adequacy of much of this provision, from the standpoint of the staffing and equipping of classes and the breadth and balance of the education offered; this concern has been borne out by research and by a survey of the quality of provision undertaken by HM Inspectorate (1).

49. Also during the 1980s, attempts were made to consolidate views on the aims and methods of education for the under fives. Professor Margaret Clark's analysis of the findings and implications of recent research (2) draws together a substantial body of information. HMI have considered various aspects of education of the under fives, both as a discrete topic and in the context of broader analyses of aspects of education (3). Provision for the under fives has also been the subject of review by the House of Commons Education, Science and Arts Committee (4).

50. A number of developments in recent years have had significance across the various different forms of provision for the under fives. Increasing recognition has been given, and value attached, to differences in children's cultural background. Encouraged by joint circular letters from the Department of Education and Science and Department of Health in the late 1970s, local authorities have sought to develop collaboration by the providers of services for the under fives; and these efforts receive reinforcement from the Children Act 1989. The demand for services has continued to outstrip supply though there has been substantial expansion in both the voluntary and private sectors.

51. There have been a number of significant developments in the field of day care: greater emphasis on local authority social services departments and other statutory authorities working to keep together families under stress; increased focus by local authority day nurseries on helping parents to develop their parenting skills; growing interest from employers in the private and voluntary sectors in developing services in order to recruit and retain female staff; a greater recognition of the educational role of parents; and an improved image for childminding as a parallel form of day care to day nurseries. The Children Act 1989 - a major landmark in the development of services for children - brings together local authorities' duties and powers to provide day care themselves; to regulate independent provision; and to review, and report on, all the services in their area taking account of the educational facilities available.

52. Provision for the under fives has also received increased attention from the wider public. Demographic change has alerted employers to the need to attract mothers of young children back to work. In consequence, there is an increasing market for childcare of various kinds. This and the legislative developments outlined above have increased interest in what is provided, and pressure for a more coherent and comprehensive set of services for children under 5 and their parents.

53. The context in which this Committee has examined provision for the under fives is, therefore, a dynamic one. A wide range of bodies and organisations is likely to be concerned in the development of services for young children. We urge them to take into account, in developing their strategies, the important issues of quality which we address in this report.

[page 7]

Characteristics of
young children
54. The period from birth to age 5 is one of rapid growth and development, both physical and intellectual. At this stage, children's developmental needs are complex and interrelated.

55. Young children follow recognised patterns of development; but within any group of under fives there will be considerable variation between individuals. These differences are intensified because very young children do not have in common the experiences provided by formal schooling. Any attempt by educators to bring a common structure to their experience should take account of these variations, and should be designed to fulfil children's individual needs.

56. Very young children do, however, have in common certain characteristics which enable educators to plan experiences and activities that can be shared by a group. For example, children are generally active learners, operating most effectively through first-hand experience. They make sense of the world by exploring objects, materials and emotions in situations which have meaning for them. For young children, purposeful play is an essential and rich part of the learning process. Play is a powerful motivator, encouraging children to be creative and to develop their ideas, understanding and language. Through play, children explore, apply and test out what they know and can do.

57. Young children are also naturally curious: they want to know why and how things are as they are. They ask a lot of questions and need immediate and appropriate responses. This demands a willingness to talk to and answer the child thoughtfully, accurately, comprehensibly and in a way that leads to further questions. Children's imagination can be nurtured by responding to their curiosity. With encouragement and stimulation, this curiosity will develop into a thirst for, and enjoyment of, learning.

58. At this early stage, children gain a great deal from interaction with others, both adults and children. As the child moves from the close relationship of family life into new situations such as nursery school or playgroup, the close involvement of parents can supply both important continuity for the child, and information for the educator about the child's interests, experiences and needs. Establishing a partnership with the home at this stage provides a firm foundation on which subsequent educators can build.

59. Educators should also recognise and respond to the diversity of society, and the need to avoid stereotyping on the basis of race, sex or special needs. How this may best be done will vary according to local circumstances; but the aims will be to enable all children to respect and value ethnic and cultural diversity, to encourage positive self-images among ethnic minority children, and to ensure that high expectations attach to all groups alike.

60. A good relationship between pre-school setting and home also fosters the establishment of a loving atmosphere of approval and acceptance which young children need. A child's emerging self-awareness and self-confidence depend upon the quality of these early encounters with other people.

61. Finally, it is easy for adults to forget that young children growing up in the 1990s have been born into a different world from that in which their own childhood was spent. For example, many more of their early encounters with the world outside home will come at second hand, through the medium of the television, than was the case even 20 years ago; computers are commonplace; and the means by which children move and manipulate their toys is likely to owe more to the microchip than to clockwork. Such differences may be the more marked where the parents were born overseas and the children in the UK. Young children will, in consequence, have a very different view of the world from their parents' generation; and those adults who encounter the under fives must always keep this in mind. They should also be ready to make full use of the opportunities offered by technological change: new technology can, wisely and carefully used, present rich opportunities for the educator to stimulate the child's interest and imagination.

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Aims of early
62. The overall aims of education are common to all its phases and to all the institutions and organisations involved. They were encapsulated in the 1978 Report of the Warnock Committee (5):
'To enlarge a child's knowledge, experience and imaginative understanding, and thus his awareness of moral values and capacity for enjoyment; and ... to enable him to enter the world after formal education is over as an active participant in society and a responsible contributor to it.'
More recently, the 1988 Education Act (6) has expressed similar aims as the framework for the curriculum during the period of compulsory schooling. The curriculum must be a broad and balanced one which:
'promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; and

prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.'

While these requirements do not apply by law to education for the under fives, they constitute a set of commonly-agreed objectives that should help inform the work of all educators of the under fives. An important addition to these common objectives was made in the 1988 Report on Educational Provision for the Under Fives from the Education, Science and Arts Select Committee (4):
'The aims for under fives are basically the same as those for any other phase, with the exception that very young children need a considerable additional amount of care. Care and education for the under fives are complementary and inseparable.'
Thus education for the under fives takes its place as part of a continuum which links the home, non-statutory provision and compulsory schooling. In this continuum parents have a central role, particularly in helping to bring about smooth transitions from stage to stage.

63. In planning how to fulfil these objectives in the education of the under fives, the starting point must be the needs and characteristics of the child; the educator must assess these through observation and by collaborating with parents. The wide range of developmental stages and needs of very young children puts a great responsibility on educators to provide a curriculum which can take into account the similarities and differences within any group of under fives and also provide continuity with what went before and progression to what will follow. Those responsible for planning the curriculum must also take positive action to ensure that no children are being denied opportunities on account of their race, sex, social background or special needs.

64. The advent of the National Curriculum for children of compulsory school age clearly has implications for the work of those who are responsible for children up to that age. We believe that it is timely to outline a general approach to the curriculum which may help inform the thinking of all concerned with the under fives. There should be no suggestion of a 'National Curriculum' for children of that age; we consider, rather, that what is needed is a flexible framework from which a curriculum can be developed to suit the needs of individual children in a variety of settings. This should be based on principles which complement those underlying the construction of the curriculum for children of statutory school age. In the following section, we consider these principles in the context of the needs of young children.

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A curriculum for
the under fives
65. It is the educator's task to provide experiences which support, stimulate and structure a child's learning and to bring about a progression of understanding appropriate to the child's needs and abilities. Careful planning and development of the child's experiences, with sensitive and appropriate intervention by the educator, will help nurture an eagerness to learn as well as enabling the child to learn effectively.

66. We believe that, in fulfilling this task for the under fives, educators should guard against pressures which might lead them to over-concentration on formal teaching and upon the attainment of a specific set of targets. Research (2) points to the importance of a broad range of experiences in developing young children's basic abilities.

67. The educator working with under fives must pay careful attention not just to the content of the child's learning, but also to the way in which that learning is offered to and experienced by the child, and the role of all those involved in the process. Children are affected by the context in which learning takes place, the people involved in it, and the values and beliefs which are embedded in it.

68. For the early years educator, therefore, the process of education - how children are encouraged to learn - is as important as, and inseparable from, the content - what they learn. We believe that this principle must underlie all curriculum planning for the under fives.

69. Chapter 14 in Part 2 of this report considers the process of learning for under fives and sets out a series of statements which emphasise the interrelationship of the child's experiences, and which we believe should inform the planning, organisation and implementation of a curriculum for the under fives.

70. The curriculum - which we take to comprise the concepts, knowledge, understanding, attitudes and skills that a child needs to develop - can be defined and expressed in a number of different ways. These varying approaches include frameworks based on subjects, resource areas, broad themes or areas of learning. After considering alternatives, we have adopted for the purposes of this report a framework based on areas of experience and learning.

71. This framework, which follows that outlined by HMI in their 1985 discussion document, The Curriculum from 5 to 16 (7), embodies nine areas of experience and learning: linguistic; aesthetic and creative; human and social; mathematical; moral; physical; scientific; technological; and spiritual.

72. Analysing the curriculum in these terms can help to ensure appropriate breadth and balance, and to achieve continuity with the National Curriculum. It does not follow that the way in which the work is organised and experienced will adhere to this analytical framework. Thus, aspects of different areas of learning may be grouped together and integrated in a 'cross-curricular' approach. What is of prime importance is that the curriculum should be coherent in terms of the child's existing knowledge, understanding and skills, and that it should be experienced in an environment which fosters the development of social relationships and positive attitudes to learning and behaviour.

73. Chapter 15 in Part 2 of this report considers, in turn, each of the areas of learning and experience, and looks at ways in which the education offered to the under fives can contribute to the development of their understanding and skills in each area.

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Effective curriculum
planning and

74. Effective curriculum planning and implementation requires common and clearly-understood aims, objectives and values. These will form the basis on which is built the framework of attitudes, expectations, relationships and physical environment which children - and their parents - will experience.

75. We believe that the aims of the curriculum will most readily be achieved where skilled and knowledgeable staff:

a. hold high expectations of all children, not limited by stereotyped views about class, cultural background, sex or special educational needs; and
b. value parents as their children's first educators and as active partners in the continuing process of education.

76. Successful curriculum planning involves clear perceptions about the various objectives of the curriculum and how different activities can contribute to their achievement. But curriculum planning is not a once-and-for-all operation: it is a continuous cycle involving planning, observing, recording, assessing and returning to planning in the light of the intermediate stages.

77. At different times those concerned - children, staff, parents, and governors or management groups may be involved at various levels of planning. For example, staff will have a clear view of the curriculum framework of their institution and will collaborate with children - both individually and in groups - in planning their own activities; they will collaborate with parents in planning longer-term objectives for their children; and they will come together as a team in planning their own overall approach and work.

78. An important element is an understanding of the interests and abilities which each child brings from home and from other early experiences. Parents have an important role in imparting detailed information as a basis for the educator's initial planning of provision which is appropriate to the child's interests, experience and abilities. Thereafter, the planning process needs to be sufficiently flexible and responsive to build on new learning possibilities as these emerge.

79. Implementation is essentially the process of using resources of various kinds to achieve planned . educational objectives. Five specific issues can be identified as particularly important:
a. basic provision and organisation;
b. approaches to learning;
c. curriculum integration;
d. the role of adults; and
e. partnership with parents.
Basic provision and organisation

80. While we recognise that the ideal may seldom be attainable, it is important to secure the fullest and most appropriate use of those resources which are available, both physical and human.

81. Educators and their architects need to ensure that the learning environment both inside and out is well designed and organised so as to be accessible, comprehensible and stimulating for the children; that equipment is appropriate and in satisfactory condition; and that the best use is made of the particular opportunities offered by the locality.

82. A higher adult:child ratio is needed for young children than for those of compulsory school age. Favourable staffing ratios help children to make the most effective use of other resources: they allow children to work in smaller groups or individually with the support and encouragement they need; and they help foster the necessary sense of security in children whose experience of groups larger than their family may well be minimal. Easy access to an interested and responsive adult is also an essential means of reinforcing the learning process in young children.

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83. We are concerned about the wide range of existing adult:child ratios within under fives provision - from 1:30 (or more) in infant school reception classes to 1:5 in some day nurseries. We recommend that the Department of Health and the Department of Education and Science, in framing the guidance to be offered on the implementation of the Children Act, should attempt to bring some coherence to the issue, taking account of factors such as staff qualifications, children's ages, the length of the day and the nature of the accommodation.

84. We take the view that a ratio of 2:26 is adequate in nursery classes when one is an appropriately trained teacher and the other a nursery nurse; we agree with the Education, Science and Arts Committee (4) that the presence of an additional adult (perhaps a parent), giving a ratio of 3:26, is desirable. For nursery schools where the head carries both teaching and administrative responsibilities a lower ratio has usually been judged necessary. In this setting 2:20 would be an adequate ratio, rather than 2:26.

85. Experience shows that reception classes of primary schools containing children aged between 4 and 4 years 9 months cannot function effectively with the staffing ratios applied to older pupils. The HMI survey (1) identifies as a prerequisite for good practice that

'class sizes are manageable taking into account the age range of the children and the number if adults available to teach them.'
We consider that this matter requires urgent attention by local education authorities and would press them to apply to these classes the ratio recommended for nursery classes.

86. For sessional playgroups, we commend the PPA recommendation of 1:5 where two adults working with a group of 20 children are unpaid volunteers.

87. The integration into mainstream provision of children with special needs places additional demands upon staff; in some circumstances this may require more generous staffing ratios and additional support from the local authority.

88. It is more difficult to reinforce learning in settings where staff changes occur during the day or where children and their parents have contacts with several members of staff: this may be bewildering, especially for the younger child. The practice of identifying a key worker for each child has developed as a remedy for this and we recommend its application across the different settings.

Approaches to learning

89. Young children learn effectively in a number of ways, including exploring, observing and listening. Playing and talking are, for young children, two principal means of bringing together a range of these activities. We believe that effective curriculum implementation requires careful attention to be given to providing fully for these.

90. Play underlies a great deal of young children's learning. For its potential value to be realised a number of conditions need to be fulfilled:

a. sensitive, knowledgeable and informed adult involvement and intervention;
b. careful planning and organisation of play settings in order to provide for and extend learning;
c. enough time for children to develop their play;
d. careful observation of children's activities to facilitate assessment and planning for progression and continuity.
91. We believe that it is vital for all adults with responsibilities for young children to recognise that, for them, play is a good deal more than recreation. It has a fundamental role in early childhood education, supplying the foundation upon which learning is built. As HMI (8) have recently made clear:
'Play that is well planned and pleasurable helps children to think, to increase their understanding and to improve their language competence. It allows children to be creative, to explore and investigate materials, to experiment and to draw and test their conclusions ... Such experience is important in catching and sustaining children's interests and motivating their learning as individuals and in co-operation with others.'
92. Research has consistently pointed to the importance of talk in children's learning, both at home and at school; yet evidence indicates that both the quality and quantity of interaction between adult and child in many settings tends to be poor. A variety of factors can foster effective talk:
a. easy access to adults who will stimulate and encourage dialogue;
b. the opportunity for children to work together, especially in pairs or small groups, can promote conversation and raise the level of complexity of their talk;
c. small, enclosed spaces encourage conversation better than larger, more open spaces;
d. adults who offer views, ideas and observations and who 'think aloud' elicit children's thoughtful participation more effectively than those who control the conversation, or those who do not intervene;

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e. adults who encourage children to initiate questions;
f. a variety of shared experiences in different contexts can provide rich opportunities for talk;
g. children's existing language skills, both in English and in other languages, should be valued and supported.
For children whose mother tongue is not English, support through a bilingual teacher or classroom assistant may well prove helpful in facilitating the learning of English and giving access to the curriculum.

Curriculum integration

93. Our preferred approach to analysis and planning of the curriculum through a framework of 'areas of experience' (paragraph 70 above) is intended to help educators see the potential for learning in the whole range of children's activities, both planned and spontaneous, and to encourage breadth and balance in the curriculum.

94. For the child, however, the curriculum is more likely to be experienced through a variety of broadly-based experiences. Many activities, play settings and other routines provided by the educator will relate to several aspects of learning. Useful examples of how an integrated approach to provision for the under fives can fulfil National Curriculum objectives can be found in the Early Years Curriculum Group report (9). Other examples may be found in Part 2 of this report; one such is the 'shopping arcade' described at paragraph 38.

Reviewing the curriculum

95. As we have noted in paragraph 76, curriculum planning is a continuous process. The curriculum is dynamic, and needs to be adapted in the light of practical experience, changing needs and increased knowledge. Educators must therefore build into the planning cycle a broad review of the effectiveness and value of the provision they make, extending beyond the immediate setting to include parent and community links, admissions policies, continuity, staff development and other factors which impinge on provision.

96. Reviews of this sort can occur at various levels. Some may involve individual educators, alone or with a colleague, looking closely at their own practice. Others may take the form of a self-evaluation of a team or institution by a variety of means ranging from informal staff discussion of aspects of provision to the structured involvement of parents, managing groups and advisory services. On a larger scale still, a review may be an external exercise involving the local authority or HMI. We consider approaches to the review of institutions or groups, and external monitoring, in Chapter 9.

97. Self-monitoring can be difficult and demanding. The educator must decide what aspects of practice to review, what information to gather and how this is to be done. Various individuals or groups may need to be involved - children, parents, colleagues, governors. Individual educators need both time and support to develop the approaches required to observe, reflect on and improve their own practice. We believe, however, that self-appraisal by the individual educator, with the aim of enhancing confidence and professionalism, lies at the heart of efforts to improve quality.

The role of the adult

98. If they are to support learning effectively, all adults working with under fives need to:

a. build relationships of trust with children so that they develop the confidence to take risks in a secure setting and can accept, use and overcome minor failures;
b. plan, with others, children's experiences on the basis of observation and assessment of their interests, abilities and needs;
c. be aware of their influence as a role model to the children and use it to challenge stereotyped ideas;
d. hold, and make explicit, high expectations of all children on the basis of a genuine belief in their ability to achieve;
e. value children's ideas and feelings;
f. collaborate with others involved in the child's learning and development (parents, carers, those involved in previous, parallel and subsequent provision, health visitors, social workers etc);
g. recognise their own need for continuing learning and professional development, and act upon that recognition.

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Partnership with parents

99. We agree with the Education, Science and Arts Committee (4) that:

'parental involvement does not merely contribute to quality but is essential if early education is to be successful.'
Parental involvement will take many different forms, ranging from discussions at open evenings through working with a child at home, or direct participation in the teaching and learning process, to assessing and diagnosing children's needs. Parents may also be involved in the management of services for the under fives, for example through membership of governing bodies or local under fives committees. What is always necessary, however, is the establishment of a partnership between parents and other educators. For this to be effective, there must be mutual understanding and respect, a continuing dialogue and sharing of expertise and information (10). Bilingual support to a child who has difficulties initially with learning through the medium of English may be one means to build the necessary trust.

100. What is needed is for educators to be able, and willing, to explain to parents how the experiences offered to children contribute to their learning, and to describe how their children are progressing. They need to be prepared to share responsibility with parents. This places considerable demands upon the educators: they need to be ready to spend time on it, and to exercise sensitivity; they also need to have enough confidence to invite parents to share in their children's education. They must ensure that they have the necessary skills to work effectively with parents.

101. We believe that educators are likely to be seriously hampered without a clear entitlement to 'non-contact' time which they can devote to fulfilling these tasks. Parents need to develop confidence in their relationship with educators, and educators need to be able to support parents, whatever the parents' level of involvement. We recognise that this has resource implications but believe that time invested in achieving this can pay rich dividends in the attitudes of parents and children to the children's learning. It is certainly crucial that educators and parents should recognise that they are all active participants in their children's development and education, and should act on that recognition.

Continuity and
102. Continuity and progression are constant factors in the day by day and year by year progress of a child through the statutory years of education. They are no less important in the education of those below compulsory school age.

103. Continuity and progression are interlinked concepts relating to the nature and quality of children's learning experiences over time. Progression is, essentially, the sequence built into children's learning through curriculum policies and schemes of work so that later learning builds on knowledge, skills, understandings and attitudes learned previously. Continuity refers to the nature of the curriculum experienced by children as they transfer from one setting to another, be it from home to playgroup, from playgroup to school, from class to class within a school or from one school to another. Continuity occurs when there is an acceptable match of curriculum and approach, allowing appropriate progression in children's learning. Effective assessment and record keeping systems are the keys to these ends.

Environmental factors
104. Many children experience a bewildering range of transitions before they enter statutory schooling. They could, for example, move from home to a creche, a playgroup, a day nursery, a nursery class or school, or indeed between any or every one of these. Consequently children entering the reception class of a primary school are likely to have experienced very different settings, embodying different purposes, providing different opportunities presented by people with very different training.

105. Unless carefully managed the reception class could constitute yet another source of discontinuity, possibly leading to anxiety and stress. Four areas of potentially disturbing discontinuity have been described by Audrey Curtis (11):

a. changes in the physical environment and how these affect the child's movements;
b. differences in classroom organisation, routines and expectations;
c. changes in curriculum content; and
d. differing ideologies of educators in pre-statutory and statutory provision.

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Unless recognised and addressed these changes can hinder the development by children of positive attitudes, and their later learning.

The role of parents
106. The one constant element in the child's experience of these transition processes is the parent, and not surprisingly it is the quality of involvement or partnership between parents and educators which is likely to determine the effectiveness of continuity. It is only by drawing on parents' detailed knowledge of their children that educators can begin to gain an understanding of the range of their previous experiences together with an indication of their social and intellectual skills and competencies. On this basis, educators can build continuity of experience for children, and ensure that the provision made reflects and values their cultural and language background.

107. The potential of this partnership will be fully realised when educators more clearly see the home itself as normally affording a rich natural context for all aspects of young children's development. Parents can significantly influence their children's learning: but this potential contribution needs to be fully recognised and acknowledged both by parents themselves and by teachers. Partnership implies a two-way process, with knowledge, information and insights flowing freely both ways.

Co-ordination between providers
108. Enhanced continuity can also be achieved by improving co-ordination between the different types of provision. Understanding of each others' priorities, purposes and practices can be forged by increased liaison including regular visits and attempts to plan common curriculum experiences as well as record-keeping systems. Increased access to LEA advisory services would be invaluable in enabling this to happen.

109. One of the key aims of the Education Reform Act for the whole curriculum is to address the issues of continuity and progression. It proposes to achieve this by securing that the curriculum offered in all maintained schools has sufficient in common to enable children to move from one area of the country to another with rninimum disruption to their education.

110. In A Framework for the Primary Curriculum (12) the National Curriculum Council stressed the need to plan for progression and continuity in order to enable children to transfer smoothly from pre-statutory to statutory provision and from one phase of education to the next. It points out that in primary schools where there are nursery classes continuity is eased where nursery class teachers are involved as full members of the primary school team. The NCC is establishing a Task Group which will, as part of its brief, build on the work of this Committee of Inquiry and examine continuity in the education of children from 3 to 7 years.

111. On current evidence we believe that continuity is likely to be better between nursery education and primary education than between other provision for the under fives and primary school. Similarly, continuity is likely to be easier where the child moves from a nursery class to the same school's reception class than when there is a move between nursery school and primary school.

112. The PPA has published guidelines for sessional and day care, and parent and toddler groups, and recommendations for good practice, including educational criteria (13). The PPA is currently working on a guide for parents to the playgroup curriculum and is formulating a voluntary accreditation scheme for its groups. These measures should help improve continuity between playgroups and school. The success of all these will be influenced by the availability of training and fieldwork support and resources to assist groups with premises and equipment.

113. Some concern has been expressed about day nurseries in this context. In her summary of research (2), Professor Clark concluded:

'It must be apparent that children who have been in all-day care in these settings may enter school with severe problems in communication, as a result of the stresses in the homes, any limitations in the day care unit and the

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children with whom they are in contact. The importance of ensuring that these children do have access to stimulating and varied experiences both pre-school and in reception class cannot be overstated, otherwise their own characteristics and their home circumstances are likely to lead to very early failure in the educational system.'
114. We endorse the view of the Select Committee (4) that considerable value can be gained from the employment of teachers in day nurseries, We recognise that some attempts to achieve this have not succeeded, partly because teachers have felt isolated, and day nursery staff have felt threatened. It has also to be borne in mind that some children may need a good deal of care or nurture before they are able to benefit from such an arrangement. Provided the task of teachers is carefully planned and they receive proper support, these difficulties can be overcome. We urge those concerned to make the effort to do so, and to encourage the development of closer links between day nurseries and schools. This might be achieved through some reciprocal staff visiting. Where it is not possible to deploy teachers full time in day nurseries it would be beneficial if nursery teachers were able to visit day nurseries or playgroups to work alongside the staff on a regular basis, particularly if their counterparts could spend time working in the nursery school or class.

115. Combined nursery centres offer a setting in which day care and teaching staff can collaborate closely while contributing their own specialist skills. Besides education and day care, numbers of these institutions offer support for parents, drop-in facilities and health care. HM Inspectorate reported on a survey of centres in 1988 (14), noting how well continuity and other requirements were served where the centres as a whole were effective. There are difficulties in operating such centres where local authority services for the under fives as a whole are not co-ordinated, and the different conditions of service of the two groups of staff are a further constraint (15). We comment further on these two points at paragraphs 217 and 225-226. Nevertheless, there is evidence that the centres can offer children under five and their families an integrated, flexible and effective service. We recommend that local authorities consider the development of further centres.

116. Private day nurseries have not been the subject of any large scale research and we have little information about the experiences they offer children. They are subject to the same regulatory requirements as other types of day care including day nurseries run by voluntary organisations. We urge local authorities, in exercising their regulatory duty, to keep in mind educational considerations.

117. There is a particular problem over continuity between workplace nurseries and schools, as children are likely to disperse to a wide range of different schools. We recommend that where possible workplace nurseries are located within the community, and operated in conjunction with the local authority. The report that health visitors pass to school nurses summarising early development could help here: children with difficulties may thus be noted and the school health service alerted.

118. Currently there is no comprehensive agreement on what constitutes good practice in terms of co-ordination in day care. We welcome the work on a national code of practice (including curriculum) undertaken by the National Children's Bureau in association with local authorities (16). We hope that the guidance to be issued on the implementation of the Children Act 1989 will be fully informed by this work, the PPA guidelines, and our own recommendations.

119. Given such a varied pattern of provision, it is essential that pre-school educators are appraised of the progression required through the early levels of the National Curriculum; and equally that reception class teachers recognise that children may well already be performing at or beyond level 1 attainment targets on entry.

120. Educators also need to bear in mind that children progress at different rates from each other, and that a child will progress at a different rate in different curriculum areas. Progression should not be seen purely in terms of intellectual competence but in wider respects, including health, social and emotional development. We believe it to be of critical importance for healthy and productive living and learning that teachers do not lose sight of the child's all-round development in pursuit of detailed information exclusively about what children know and can do in the subjects of the curriculum.

121. One recurring source of concern, especially to parents, is the differences between institutions in their practice regarding admission; these differences are not solely between alternative forms of provision or between local authorities. So, for example, schools within the same authority may have different practices regarding the admission of 4-year-old children to reception classes. The aims of continuity and progression will be more fully served the more institutions collaborate to minimise such discrepancies and we recommend that they should carefully consider the possibilities with the responsible local authorities.

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Observing, assessing,
reporting and recording
122. Careful assessment and record-keeping underpin all good educational practice. They are essential elements in securing effective continuity and progression; as the ESAC report on Achievement in Primary Schools (17) made clear, the skills of diagnosing successes and difficulties are fundamental to educators' work and vital to children's progress. The report of the Task Group on Assessment and Testing (TGAT) (18) was also unambiguous in stressing the importance of assessment both in promoting children's learning and in assisting educators' planning. These considerations are no less applicable to the education of the under fives than to the statutory period of education.

Collecting information
123. Those who provide services for the under fives need to know how well what is offered meets the needs of the children and the families for whom it is intended. To assess this, they will gather and record useful information on children's development. Information gained in one setting may be valuable to those who work in another; but it is important that information about an individual child should be collected, recorded and passed to others only if it is essential to the welfare and development of that child. In compiling any such records there must be a clear understanding on the part of all concerned about the purposes for which the information is collated, who will have access to it and how it will be used.

124. Within this framework, there is scope for developing co-operative approaches to the collection of information, and there has been some encouraging progress in this direction in recent years. Health authorities increasingly involve parents in compiling and holding children's health records, and many nursery classes and schools compile their records of children's progress collaboratively with parents.

125. Those responsible for under fives in educational settings may need to take account of children's medical and health records. In addition, they are able in the course of their work to identify obstacles to children's progress which have their origins in physical conditions, such as hearing loss or speech difficulties, calling for early help from appropriate specialists; and may thus contribute to such records.

Observation and assessment
126. A good educational programme for under fives will offer ample opportunities to observe closely and to assess children's learning. The information gained from observing children's day to day activities may need to be supplemented by more focused observations of activities planned to show how well an individual or group of children is progressing.

127. For the educator of young children the observation and the assessment of children's learning have several important purposes; for example:

a. to inform the planning of work so that full account is taken of the child's existing knowledge, skills, understandings and behavioural characteristics;
b. to ensure that obstacles to learning, such as those stemming from physical conditions and social difficulties which may require medical or other specialist help are identified and responded to from an early stage;
c. to provide a rounded picture of the child's development for parents and those who will be responsible for the children at the next point in their education;
d. to contribute to the overall evaluation of the quality of the programme provided by the particular setting in which the child is being educated.
128. These purposes are not exhaustive. They are in many ways similar to what TGAT has proposed for assessing children's performance in statutory schooling. Those working with the under fives have been concerned that there might be pressures upon them to respond inappropriately to the curricular requirements of the Education Reform Act. In particular, some have feared that there would be inescapable pressure from parents and others to teach and test the formal skills of literacy and numeracy prematurely. Some pressures, as the Select Committee observed (4), may have arisen out of a misunderstanding of the purposes of assessment at the age of 7, which are to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of the child rather than to serve as a competitive measure. Educators may themselves do much to avert such pressures by suitably involving and informing parents.

Recording and reporting
children's performance
129. The primary purpose of assessment is to ensure that educational provision can be planned and evaluated appropriately to serve children's needs; the fact that it is undertaken in this setting should contribute to the accurate recording of their achievements. However, it is important that the recording and particularly the reporting of children's performance should be thorough and intelligible to all concerned. Parents will need to be assured that the information they receive about their child's progress is reliable. This is more likely if they are involved in the

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compilation of children's records and have clear information about what is expected of their children in terms of progression within the areas of learning and experience that constitute a broad and balanced curriculum appropriate for under fives.

130. What is done to record and report children's progress will, nevertheless, be subject to a large extent to the constraints of time and the circumstances under which education for the under fives is provided. Educators in different settings must resist the temptation to collect too much, or to set too many targets for reporting,

131. With this qualification we suggest the aim might be to record:

a. information and insights shared and produced by staff and parents and by children themselves;
b. progress in a child's development as an effective learner in a group setting, including social and emotional development;
c. progress in attainment in the skills and concepts for which the curriculum provides;
d. group curriculum provision: its planning, implementation and evaluation.
These four types of record are commonly kept in nursery and infant classes.

132. The current interest in developing effective ways to record and report upon children's progress may produce material which can be adapted or used to supplement existing good practice for aspects of the work with under fives. However, we believe there is a need for guidance for educators on the achievement of more consistent and coherent approaches to observing, assessing, recording and reporting children's progress in pre-school provision. We recommend that research be commissioned in order to develop such guidance to help both to inform and to improve what is offered to the under fives and the early stages of post-five provision.

evaluation and
review of provision
133. Whatever form it may take, those responsible for education for the under fives will wish to be assured that what is planned and practised is as good as the circumstances allow and results in teaching and learning of high quality.

134. We consider that regular monitoring and evaluation of the curriculum offered to young children is essential to the achievement of high standards.. It should take place at three levels:

a. within the individual class or group;
b. within the institution (school, unit, day nursery, playgroup etc); and
c. across all the services for under fives within a local authority.
135. Provision for the under fives is so diverse that hard and fast rules for evaluation, applicable to all circumstances, cannot be devised. Educators can, however, usefully draw on common principles and upon much recent experience in different institutions in devising arrangements for evaluating and reviewing their work.

136. Chapter 6 has outlined the need for continuous review not only of individual children's progress, but also of all aspects of effective implementation of the curriculum. We see this process of self-appraisal as the responsibility of every adult working with young children. The present chapter is concerned with broader, more formal reviews focusing on institutions.

The institutional review
137. Where under fives are in primary schools, either in reception or nursery classes, the provision made for them is likely to be monitored as part of a regular process of whole school evaluation and review. As long as the distinct needs of the under fives are fully taken into account, this can be a valuable arrangement. For example, issues of continuity and progression can be addressed more effectively where the nursery staff are able to contribute to the formulation of policy and practice for the school as a whole; and those who teach children over five are better placed to understand the purposes and practice of the earlier education the children have received.

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138. Professional isolation may thus be less acute for the staff of nursery and reception classes in primary schools than for others. Much depends, however, upon the leadership of the school: staff working with the under fives must be accorded appropriate status, and must not be marginalised in the decision-making process.

139. Nursery schools, too, work within a climate of professional cohesion. There is a well-developed network for the discussion of professional matters which has resulted in the dissemination of much valuable guidance on educational policy and practice for the under fives. Liaison with receiving primary schools has long been an important consideration for nursery schools. As is increasingly recognised, they now need to be alert to primary schools' work in building processes for evaluation and review into their school development plans, and to consider how far similar work is possible and desirable within the nursery school.

140. It is perhaps in the voluntary sector that the processes of evaluation and review are most vulnerable to the problems of professional isolation and unevenness of provision. Recent work - for example, by the PPA - has produced valuable guidance for this sector. There remains, however, a need to develop and strengthen the links between the voluntary and the maintained sectors so that good practice in one including effective evaluation and review procedures might become more widely known in the other. In addition, in-service training could give greater emphasis to evaluation, and be made more widely available to those who work in voluntary organisations.

141. Both self-appraisal by individuals or groups of educators and external evaluation contribute to the school's development of short and long-term objectives. External appraisal by LEA advisers and HMI helps the institution and the educators within it to see their work in wider local and national contexts, and to assess it against what is achieved in similar circumstances elsewhere. Social services and voluntary and private nurseries do not currently have access to HMI or local education advisers both of whom could be a useful source of advice to them. We are well aware that for HMI and local education advisers to cope with any regular inflow of new requests would have resource implications, but we recommend both HMI and the local authorities to consider what additional access might be offered. Other safeguards for standards include the powers given to the Social Services Inspectorate of the Department of Health under the Children Act 1989 to inspect day nurseries and other institutions of childcare; many playgroups are supported by PPA area organisers and fieldworkers.

Local authority monitoring
of under fives services
142. The Children Act 1989 requires social services departments to inspect private and voluntary day care annually, and every three years to undertake and publish a review of all provision, working with the local education authority and taking account of the views of health authorities and other interested bodies. Social services departments may also seek the help of the LEA in undertaking the registration and inspection responsibilities which the Act imposes. Within the scope of guidance to be issued by the Department of Health local authorities will need to establish detailed local guidelines for the standards for day care in their areas.

143 . We consider this to be an excellent opportunity for local education and social services departments to collaborate in establishing:

a. quality criteria for all services for the under fives in their area, including social service, private and voluntary nurseries as well as LEA provision, drawing on our recommendations about the curriculum for young children;
b. arrangements for regular monitoring of the quality of all under fives' services, incorporating the reviews undertaken by staff teams in nurseries and those introduced by the Children Act.
144. In doing so, local authorities should consider:
a. which advisory and support staff to involve, from education, social services, health and the voluntary sector;
b. in what ways to involve parents;
c. what aspects of provision to monitor. Possibilities include:
i. the curriculum;
ii. staffing patterns and group size;
iii. staff development;
iv. parent and community links;
v. health and safety issues;
vi. the effectiveness of administration arrangements;
vii. availability and use of equipment and materials;
viii. the physical environment; and
ix. equal opportunities policies, including special educational needs.
145. We see monitoring, evaluation and review as important components of the framework for maintaining and improving the quality of all services for the under fives and, in particular, as a means of increasing the educational input to non-school provision.

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We recognise, however, that such developments cannot be achieved without cost, and - while acknowledging current constraints upon public expenditure - recommend that those responsible should make every effort to ensure that the necessary resources can be made available for these purposes.

Education, training
and support for
adults working
with under fives

146. Working with young children is a demanding and complex task. Those engaged upon it need a range of attributes to assure a high quality of experience. We set these out in detail in Chapter 16.

147. The context in which young children are educated is marked by diversity and change. As was illustrated in Chapter 2, there are three broad spheres of activity: care (sessional and day); health; and education. There are three separate sectors of provision: public; private; and voluntary. A great variety of staffing groups - including teachers, nursery nurses, playgroup workers and childminders - are responsible for the delivery of the services. Each service has its distinct ethos and aims which are necessarily reflected in patterns of training. Yet a good measure of interaction between them is essential both for quality and for the effective use of the available resources.

148. Recent developments should do much to bring the separate strands closer together. The Children Act 1989 makes new provisions for the registration and review of private and voluntary day care and for consultation between different local authority departments. The requirements of the National Curriculum have prompted increased attention to the contents of the under fives curriculum and to the implications for training for a variety of staff working in pre-school settings. The introduction of a system of National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in 1991 will bring nationally agreed standards across professions including childcare. We believe this is a pressing need: at present there are some 40 different qualifications of widely differing levels of rigour, gained by modes of study ranging from courses of short duration requiring two evenings' attendance a week to 4-year degree courses.

149. There are thus powerful influences for change; but continuity in the content and patterns of training of workers with young children is no less important and the work of the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (CATE) is an important influence for this. The criteria established by the Secretary of State and promulgated by CATE will continue to determine the setting and scope of initial teacher training courses, including those with an early years specialism. Similarly the training of other adults

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working with young children will need to build on its traditional strengths.

150. We also wish to draw attention to a further specific feature. The status afforded to any group or profession has an important influence on the recognition and support it secures for itself. Yet adults working with the under fives have traditionally enjoyed less esteem than those working with children of statutory school age, outside and even within the ranks of the professions themselves. This is reflected, in substantial measure, in levels of pay.

151. Moreover, differences of relative status between groups concerned with the under fives go beyond those inherent in, or flowing of necessity from, their different levels of training. Besides coming within different sets of arrangements for pay and conditions of service, the groups differ markedly in their opportunities for in-service training - though all alike suffer limitations in their career prospects.

The recruitment and
retention of staff
152. There is a clear and growing need to increase recruitment to the various services for under fives; there are indications of serious shortages of appropriately trained staff. For example, a number of new nursery units and classes planned by local education authorities have had to be abandoned; other nursery classes have been reconstituted as 'pre-school groups' run by nursery nurses, a change often intended to be temporary but constituting a change in the character of the school within the terms of section 12(d) of the Education Act 1980. Many teachers currently working with this age group are trained for an older one. The high turnover of staff in playgroups gives cause for concern, as does the problem of retaining nursery teachers and nursery nurses in various settings given the lack of a clear promotion ladder.

153. Recent increases in the numbers recruited to initial teacher training courses with an early years specialism and the grants now available for in-service training, to which we make further reference at paragraph 189, should go some way towards improving the supply and retention of teachers. The scale and timing of the effect of these developments upon teacher supply cannot however be predicted with certainty. Moreover, demographic changes will bring a need for more working adults: this will result in a simultaneous increase in demand for provision for the under fives, and diminution in the availability of staff to run such services.

154. We believe that what is now needed is a determined effort to bring greater clarity and coherence across the field of courses and qualifications for workers with under fives. In short, we think it is time to end what has been termed 'the continuing under fives muddle' (19), taking the opportunity presented by NVQs to develop a new structure that will offer those working with under fives a training more suited to the needs of children today, and reasonable opportunities for career advancement.

155. The Commission for Racial Equality have pointed out the need - which we would underline - to ensure that arrangements for training, recruitment and selection of those working with the under fives are free of discrimination and positively encourage applicants from ethnic minorities.

156. We also see a need to address the question of status. We have already drawn attention to limited career prospects as an aspect of this. As a specific instance, nursery teachers rarely achieve headships of infant or primary schools; and as they often teach in a unit separate from the main school they have particular difficulty in securing enhanced responsibility. We support the suggestion of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities in response to ESAC (20) that nursery teachers might be enabled to earn promotion by taking responsibilities for areas across a wider age range in the same way as infant and junior teachers are able to do. Such a possibility is implicit in the requirement that the training of prospective teachers of under fives should have as its specialism the early years as a whole. While this could add slightly to pressures on teacher supply in the short term, it should enhance the career opportunities - and thus aid the recruitment - of nursery teachers in the longer term.

157. Some measures are also possible on pay. Nursery teachers, like their colleagues, may be considered for incentive allowances on the grounds of possessing skills in short supply and of their performance in the classroom. We commend the initiative of those local education authorities and governing bodies which have afforded such recognition to nursery staff.

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Types of training provision
15 8. The types of training offered to different groups of staff who work with the under fives fall, as noted above, into several distinct types. These are outlined below. At the time of writing, changes in training for people working with young children are in the offing as a result of the work of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications.

The training of nursery nurses

159. The main qualifications for nursery nursing are the certificate of the National Nursery Examination Board (NNEB), the BTEC National Diploma in Caring Services (nursery nursing), and the Certificate in Post-Qualifying Studies (CPQS). These are compared in Table A below. The NNEB is perhaps the best-known as well as the longest-established child care qualification, and is still a requirement for numbers of posts. It aims to equip the student with knowledge, skills and competence to work in a variety of settings.

Table A Main training routes for nursery nursing

Entry requirementsBTEC (National Diploma in Caring Services (nursery nursing))

16 minimum age

Qualifications are: 4 GCSE passes at Grade C or above, or BTEC First Certificate or Diploma, or CPVE certification equal to either of the 2 previous qualifications; or a 14 -16 preparatory course with a profile of attainment.

16 minimum age

Officially no entry requirements but colleges generally seek students with 2 passes at GCSE Grade A, B or C.

Minimum age 21

Open to professionally qualified nursery nurses; holders of a BEd or Teaching Certificate with specialism relating to primary or nursery education; State Registered or Enrolled Nurses; and certain additional categories.

Minimum of 2 years practice in professional care of young children following qualification.

Length2 years full-time2 years full-time or 3 part-time, 350 days of full-time study or its equivalent in part-time study.6 modular units, which can involve distance learning, amounting to at least 720 hours in all.
Academic equivalent2 A Level GCE passes. Whether, on its own, it will provide for direct entry to initial teacher training will depend on additional factors, eg a sufficient and suitable subject specialism.No equivalent academic recognition.Variable, dependent upon the relevance of the CPQS modules to the course applied for.
AvailabilityApproximately 80 colleges of further education.Approximately 180 colleges of further education.Approximately 50 colleges.
ContentCourses follow a unit structure over two years of full-time study. Units include child development and behaviour; child health services; First Aid and the sick child; educational and cognitive development; special needs; home environment studies; personal and social development; creative activities; nursery nursing; caring services and children in society.The college course is devoted to vocational studies, social studies and complementary studies covering children's growth and development; physical development and keeping children healthy; cognitive development and learning through play; emotional development; social relationships; the rights and responsibilities of children and the family; the nursery nurse in employment. Complementary studies can cover communication and the creative arts, environmental studies and living in society.Knowledge, skills, competencies required of senior level in childcare setting. Personal and social development.

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160. While the NNEB specifies the course content it does not prescribe the teaching approach. Such flexibility ensures that local resources, both within the college and in the practical placements, are used as effectively as possible. On the other hand, it could also lead to insufficient attention to consistency and standardisation.

161. The chief concern regarding the certificate is that it has had no accepted academic currency and little professional standing outside under fives circles. It is not accepted as a valid entry requirement for higher education or for higher professional training in teaching, nursing or social work. Yet there are few opportunities for career progression for the holder of the NNEB without further education or training.

162. The BTEC diploma offers a route to a range of nursery nursing posts while enabling a student to progress directly to more advanced education or training if she wishes to do so. Increasingly, the BTEC National Diplomas are accepted as a valid alternative to GCE A Level entry requirements for vocationally-oriented degree courses.

163. As a qualification available to qualified care workers aged over 21 with two or more years professional experience the CPQS offers an opportunity for worthwhile further study for holders of the NNEB, and it can be an effective means of improving quality in the service provided for young children. However, access is affected by variations in financial support for students according to their geographical area and occupational sector.

164. Oversight of the education and training requirements for social work, in which there are some opportunities to specialise in matters relating to children, rests with the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW). At present there are two entry qualifications below graduate level: the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) and the Certificate in Social Service (CSS). The minimum educational standards for students under the age of 21 are five GCSEs, including at least two at A Level or an equivalent National Vocational Qualification. The courses require two years' full-time study and the minimum age at which a student can receive an award is 22. However, a new qualification, the Diploma in Social Work, will replace both over the next few years.

The training of playgroup workers and parents

165. The great majority of registered playgroups are members of the Pre-school Playgroups Association, whose functions include developing and providing courses for play leaders and parents. Table B (below) provides a summary of the courses that are available.

166. Many playgroup workers have a background in childcare or teaching; all are encouraged to undertake PPA training courses and in some places this is a requirement for registration of the group. The Foundation Course, which is supported and monitored by the PPA through its regional training network, enjoys national recognition beyond the playgroup movement.

167. We would draw attention to two aspects of training within the playgroup movement. First, there is a problem of academic currency. Certification is by attendance rather than by assessment. Consequently, the standing of these courses is relatively low, and progression to higher education or to training or job opportunities at a professional level is severely restricted. The PPA is currently seeking to be recognised as an accrediting body under the NCVQ. Work is in hand to develop units of competence and create the necessary structures for assessment and moderation. The purpose of this process is to strengthen training standards and provide a transferable qualification for students.

168. Secondly, there is a problem of course availability. Local variation in the levels of provision is inevitable given the wide range of organisations funding courses - LEA provision for further or adult education, Social Services, the Workers Educational Association, and PPA fund-raising at branch and county level. There is also a shortage of staff. Some strengthening of the PPA's regional structure would help here. At present there are a little over 20 nationally employed fieldworkers and a very small number of paid local fieldworkers.

169. The mixture of financial and administrative arrangements for courses has led to a third problem. In some areas access to the courses that are available may be limited by relatively high fees.

The training of childminders

170. The National Childminding Association (NCMA) does not itself run courses for childminders, but offers guidance to local groups on the planning of courses. The recent decision of the Department of Health to provide funding for a Training Officer post with the Association will enable this role to be extended. A collaborative project between the NCMA

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and the Open University, funded by the Department of Health, has resulted in the publication of a pack of resource materials for training called Childminding: Materials for Learning and Discussion. These may be used by individual childminders working alone; ideally, however, individual study should be combined with group discussion. The pack includes materials to help interested individuals organise self-help groups or courses.

171. These are clearly helpful steps forward but a substantial problem remains to be addressed. Overall there is a shortage of training for childminders and marked variations in what is available locally.

Home visiting and parent support schemes

172. Informal basic training and continuing support are offered by the best volunteer home visiting and parent support schemes such as Homestart and SCOPE. Learning is mainly through the sharing of personal experiences of living with children, supplemented by discussion with professional staff. The volunteers benefit by gaining access to expert knowledge and acquiring the confidence to be effective intermediaries between families and the services available to them.

Table B PPA training

1204108200Child Development,
Educational Play,
Parental Responsibility,
Group Participation,
Community Involvement
Attendance Record
Fieldwork and Tutor TrainingFieldworkers
Prospective Tutors
40-240701164Personal skills,
Communication skills,
PPA & PPA Groups,
Practical information skills
ACSET I & II in some cases. City & Guilds 730
DoorstepParents in the PG or P&T Group10-202703240Play and needs of under fivesAttendance and topics recorded in student's own record book for social services recognition and this will be used as accreditation of prior experiential learning
Basic/IntroUsually from one Group Staff,
Parents PG or P&T
12-244506300Provision and management of play related to developmental needs
Post-BasicLeaders and helpers in under fives groups - usually with previous training12-2070840Similar to Basic but might include teenagers in PG Involving parents.
Extending PG Activities
SpecialisedLeaders and Helpers in Under Fives Groups12-201602299eg Business side, Special needs, First Aid, Music, Observing children, Making equipment
Post-FoundationLeaders, helpers and parents who have already completed a Foundation Course2025346Other organisations working in the same field, child development in greater depth, extending the foundation course

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173. These courses require no written work and are not assessed in any formal sense, though they do allow the co-ordinators of the support scheme to learn something of the sensitivity and potential of individual volunteers and hence to make informed decisions about suitable placements.

Summing up

174. From this brief survey we can point up certain common problems over the field of training for the care of the under fives. Chief among them are variations in the availability and affordability of courses, which combine to limit access; the considerable variation in patterns of course provision, and the absence of a basis for relating a variety of the awards offered in these fields to the recognised hierarchies of academic and professional qualifications.

Accreditation of training in
175. At present many courses in aspects of care for the under fives are not accredited, an example - as noted at paragraph 167 - being those organised by the PPA. However, a new system of National Accreditation is to be introduced in 1991, in an attempt to link various elements of the existing system.

176. We welcome the work of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications (NCVQ) towards establishing agreed standards for childcare workers, including those in educational settings. We believe that, given adequate resourcing, it could bring about a significant rationalisation in the patterns of training. It should also improve the status of early years workers through recognition of the complex range and high levels of the skills involved, and by opening up prospects for further training and career progression.

177. 'Units of competence' for these workers, against which existing and new courses can be accredited, are being developed by the 'Working with Under Sevens' project under the aegis of the Care Sector Consortium. All those courses outlined in the foregoing paragraphs will - if the responsible parties so wish - be accredited as part of the same framework. This covers Levels I to IV in the NCVQ framework, the latter being broadly equivalent to HNC/HND.

178. A set of questions will need to be addressed. We would instance specifically:

a. assessment methodology: a range of different methods are in prospect, some of them not widely in use. Much assessment is likely to be based in the workplace, posing particular problems for the many under fives workers who work on their own;

b. selection and qualification of assessors: who would act as assessors, and how, and by whom, they would become qualified. They will need to be qualified both in childcare and in new assessment methods; yet at present the majority of childcare workers have no formal qualifications;

c. counselling and guidance: who is to offer guidance on the building of portfolios of evidence for the accreditation of previous learning; or to undertake development work to establish what constitutes evidence of experiential learning in childcare and education;

d. training: how existing courses may be given modular structures and be flexible enough to suit requirements for individual competence;

e. training body: the lack of a statutory body to co-ordinate training of those who work with the under sevens as, for example, CCETSW will for social work qualifications in the care sector.

179. However, one of the most important questions relates to the qualification levels and the way students will pass through them. Links between Level IV and the graduate level of training are yet to be established. The particular difficulty is that assessment for NVQs is to be competency-based; for qualified teacher status, on the other hand, it is primarily knowledge-based.

Teacher education
Initial training

180. Of the 89 universities, polytechnics and colleges providing initial teacher training (ITT) in England and Wales, 65 provide training for primary teachers; 44 of these train teachers of the under fives. Table C (below) shows the types of course on offer, including articled teacher courses starting in September 1990. The Secretary of State approves all courses of ITT. To advise him in carrying out this responsibility, the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (CATE) was established in 1984 (21). Their task was to scrutinise all courses of initial teacher training against criteria specified by the Secretary of State. Recently, CATE was reconstituted and changes were made in the way it operates, giving more responsibility to local committees. We believe strongly that the requirements of the under fives should be reflected in all committee appointments.

181. We recognise that courses for early years teachers should be no less rigorous or demanding than those designed for teachers of other phases. We acknowledge too the legitimate concern of early years trainers that there would be increasing demands on them to meet the criteria, which stressed the time to be spent on subject studies, and to ensure adequate coverage of a range of

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issues which were largely specific to their particular phase. DES Circular 24/89 (22) recognises that time has to be found for both these elements within the training course. Some training institutions offer a broad area of curriculum study as a main or special subject for early years students, as permitted by paragraph 4.4 of the criteria set out in the Circular; more might be encouraged to do so. Arrangements between LEAs and training institutions to offer mutual support might be encouraged. The involvement of teachers in selecting students, planning and contributing to courses, and supporting students in schools and other early years settings should continue to be an important criterion against which courses are judged.

182. Circular 24/89 requires primary courses normally to cover the age ranges 3 or 5 - 12 with an emphasis either on the age range 3 or 5 - 8 or 7 - 11 or 12. Because of the shortage of under fives specialists too few 3 - 8 courses have adequately covered the 3 - 5 age group. There is encouraging evidence that, because of the recent focus on this age group, more early years lecturers with under fives experience are being appointed. Many more still need to be appointed. It is, nevertheless, important that in filling posts, institutions observe the Secretary of State's criterion that staff concerned with pedagogy have recent experience of teaching the age range to which their courses are directed.

183. Reflecting the increasing amount of group day care and the work of nursery schools and combined centres, numbers of teachers are now working with children under the age of 3. We recommend that consideration be given to extending the options within initial training so as to provide for a theoretical foundation allied to practical experience of this work.

184. As others note (23) it is important that training should cover the early years as a whole while affording specific focus upon the 2 or 3 - 5 range. The latter should not become detached. Provision for the under fives is integrally related to that for 5 - 7s: although statutory programmes of study are introduced at 5, many of the experiences offered the younger children

Table C Early years primary ITT courses

Entry requirementsDegree of UK university, or CNAA, or equivalent qualificationDegree of UK university, or CNAA, or equivalent qualificationDegree of UK university, or CNAA, or equivalent qualificationNormal academic requirements for admission to first degree course (minimum 2 A Levels) or exceptional entry eg via access coursesMinimum of 1 year HE in appropriate subject(s)
GCSE passes in English and Mathematics at grade C or equivalentGCSE passes in English and Mathematics at grade C or equivalentGCSE passes in English and Mathematics at grade C or equivalentGCSE passes in English and Mathematics at grade C or equivalentGCSE passes in English and Mathematics at grade C or equivalent
Length of course1 year2 years2 years4 years2 years
Availability44 ITT institutions2 ITT institutions4 AT schemes32 ITT institutions1 ITT institution
ContentSchools experience and teaching practice; special subject applications; other curriculum studies; educational and professional studiesSchools experience and teaching practice; special subject applications; other curriculum studies; educational and professional studiesSchools experience and teaching practice; special subject applications; other curriculum studies; educational and professional studiesSchools experience and teaching practice; special subject applications; other curriculum studies; educational and professional studiesSchools experience and teaching practice; special subject applications; other curriculum studies; educational and professional studies

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meet - or go beyond - some of the requirements of Key Stage One. To ensure that work is suitably planned and focused we recommend that all institutions offering training for early years teachers have an early years specialist in a key position with a team of tutors experienced in teaching this age range.

185. An important feature of the current scene is that about 250,000 4 year olds are receiving education in reception classes of primary schools, a number likely to continue to rise. It is important that all future teachers of these children should, as far as possible, receive appropriate specialised provision within their initial training. To provide also for the needs of nursery classes and combined centres and allow for an increased deployment of teachers over time in day nurseries, initial training should include experience of work with under fives in a variety of settings.

186. We believe it would be helpful for all students training to teach in primary schools to spend some time with children under 5 and suggest that institutions should consider experiences for them reflecting their understanding of the needs of young children.

187. We see a need for those making use of new arrangements to overcome the problem of teacher shortage to exercise care where teachers of the under fives are concerned. The 'articled teacher' scheme is a new form of initial teacher training leading to a PGCE, and is therefore subject to CATE accreditation in the same way as any other such course. The scheme offers opportunities for specialisation in the early years: we believe that all those who become under fives' teachers in this way should have undertaken such a specialisation. The arrangements for 'licensed teachers', which are outside the remit of CATE, are more flexible: the intending teacher is attached to a school, not necessarily a training institution; and the type and length of training are determined by the school and the local education authority. We attach great importance to improving recruitment of early years teachers. We recognise that the arrangements for operating the licensed teacher scheme are sufficiently flexible to allow the quality of teachers working with the under fives to be maintained; and we call upon those implementing the scheme to make full use of this flexibility.

In-service training

188. Sound standards of teaching for the under fives will not be developed or sustained without extensive and varied provision for in-service training. This will need co-ordination and support at the level of the local authority - the education authority collaborating with health and social services - and is a task properly falling to early childhood education advisers. It appears that the numbers of these advisers have declined recently. In our view their contribution, both as sources of expertise and in reminding Education and Social Services Committees of their responsibilities in this area, is of growing importance. We recommend that every local education authority should have an adviser with specific responsibility for the early years.

189. An important spur to further training in the last two years was the designation as a National Priority Area within the Local Education Authority Training Grants Scheme of training for teachers with responsibility for younger 4 year olds in primary classes. We recommend that this should remain an important claim on training grants for some years.

190. We recommend that provision should be made for retraining teachers transferring to early years work with an under fives component, and for refresher courses for all teachers of the under fives. We would also encourage head teachers of primary schools which cater for the under fives to review their own training needs, and to undertake in-service training relating to the under fives where possible.

191. There are signs of a reduction in support for the longer courses which lead to awards such as Master's Degrees. We recognise the difficulties which local education authorities may experience in finding or funding appropriate supply cover - difficulties which may be more apparent under schemes of local management. Nonetheless, opportunities for staff to enhance their qualifications are essential to the status and quality of under fives provision. We have observed the shift to a modular approach for some of this training and welcome the possibilities this presents.

192. Great benefit may be derived from multidisciplinary courses, such as those offered by the Roehampton Institute of Higher Education and the Derbyshire College of Higher Education, which bring together staff from the education, health and social services and from the voluntary sector, to learn together and share different ways of working. However, there are constraints to the development of this provision. It is all the more difficult for staff to get release for, and be supported on, courses run by an agency other than their own. Providers also have to judge topical needs and concerns which link widely differing groups of workers in this field. We believe there are a number, and would particularly instance

a. working with parents;
b. working with other professionals;
c. working in a multicultural society; and
d. the needs of today's children.
193. We are concerned that at present childcare workers have markedly less opportunity than teachers to attend courses during working hours. We recognise that

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there are severe pressures on the Local Education Authority Training Grants Scheme; but we are convinced that opportunities for childcare staff including nursery nurses and classroom assistants have to be increased. We recommend a change to the rules governing the scheme to allow for this.

Drawing the elements together
194. In this report we seek to identify practices beneficial to 3 and 4 year olds across a variety of institutional settings. The content and form of what is offered will differ in detailed ways between those settings, as will the roles and skills required of the workers. It is important that roles should be clearly differentiated and specialised knowledge and expertise fostered. Indeed it will be vital to the enhancement of educational value across the different forms of provision.

195. However, an equally pressing concern must be to reinforce the complementary aspect of those roles. Teamwork is at the root of good practice in this field. Skills in leadership and management are needed by those in charge of different settings, including nursery teachers; time must be made available for this in training courses.

196. Although adults working with the under fives fulfil a variety of roles, we believe there are elements which - in greater or lesser degree - should be common to all training. An outline, distilling our thinking and distinguishing knowledge, attitudes and skills, is given in Chapter 16. We recommend that all providers of courses for those working with under fives should consider its implications for their own practices.

197. We see as essential needs: a closer linkage between the three strands of health, care and education in initial and in-service training; a pattern of vocational training and qualifications for childcare workers which will bridge the gap between vocational and academic qualifications; safeguarding both the rigour and relevance of initial training for teachers of the under fives; and affording improved opportunities of in-service training for child care workers in educational settings.

Organisation and
co-ordination of
198. A child's experience of curriculum in the early years will vary depending upon the facilities he or she has had access to before starting full-time school. Section 2 described the different types of provision which currently exist, and outlined their various aims and purposes. By the age of five, children may have experienced one or more different types of group, or they may have been cared for by a childminder or at home.

199. In this section we consider briefly some of the advantages of a co-ordinated approach to the provision of services for young children, and the difficulties posed by attempts to achieve this. We consider issues of access, as well as possible developments in the organisation and delivery of services.

200. Because services for children under 5 are largely discretionary, there are wide differences in what is available between one part of the country and another. Much provision is available on a part-time, rather than a full-time, basis but perhaps one child in nine is reaching statutory school age with no experience of institutional provision at all; within this group are likely to be some of the most needy children.

201. Local education authorities are increasing by a few thousand a year the numbers of children admitted full-time to reception classes of primary schools when they are 4. This meets one particular concern of parents by assuring children of three years of infant schooling. But it is important to acknowledge that unless the particular needs of the youngest children are met, their experience in this setting may often differ substantially from that offered by a nursery school or class. As we have noted elsewhere, to provide properly for these children, such classes should enjoy a more generous ratio of staff, who should have received early years training, and should offer an appropriate range of activities and a curriculum which is capable of being adapted to meet the needs of all children in the class. Unless these conditions are fulfilled, we believe that there is a risk that young children in reception classes will receive limited benefit from their early educational experiences.

202. Access to services still owes much to factors such as where a child lives, when his or her birthday is, whether the parents have access to information about

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services and whether they can afford fees where there is no public provision. The government's policy is 'to encourage local flexibility and diversity and maximum consumer choice' (24); but available statistics indicate that while diversity does exist, parents in many areas may have little choice.

203. Different services appear to be used by different client groups. Local authority day nurseries and nursery schools and classes are attended by relatively high percentages of socially disadvantaged children and those living in poor neighbourhoods. Independent and voluntary provision is more likely to be used by socially advantaged children and those living in rural areas (25), though these forms of provision are not absent from cities and rural provision is quite often patchy.

204. The services provided for young children do not necessarily meet their needs. Children in local authority day nurseries and family centres may be among the most disadvantaged but nevertheless not have access to a quality curriculum. Four year olds in reception classes may not be provided with educational experiences which are sufficiently differentiated from what is provided for children of compulsory school age. That problem does not arise with provision in nursery classes, but nursery classes - and playgroups - are commonly part-time. They cannot cater for all the requirements of children whose parents work full-time.

205. The requirements of children with special educational needs demand particular attention. The Committee welcomes the gradual move towards integration of such children into mainstream nursery education following the 1981 Act; but recognises the problems this can create for educators. In areas where only private or voluntary provision is available, staff have difficulty integrating children with special needs into their groups without additional resources or support. Unless these are provided - both in statutory and non-statutory nursery provision - the implementation of the Education Act 1981 in respect of such children may be prejudiced.

Co-ordination of services
206. Facilities for the under fives in an area may be provided by a range of local authority departments education, health, social services, recreational services and by voluntary and private groups and individuals. Effective co-ordination is often lacking; and a joint approach to planning, management or delivery is rare. As well as varying purposes, aims and approaches, different facilities have different admission criteria, hours of opening and charges; they employ different kinds of staff with different training and qualifications and different conditions of service.

207. Lack of co-ordination can mean a wasteful use of resources, through gaps or overlaps between services and lack of continuity between them. It can create confusion for families who want to make use of the system. The need of parents for facilities for childcare can come into conflict with the need of children for continuity. If, as often happens, children switch from one type of provision to another, or have to use two or more different facilities each day because their parents work, the achievement of desirable educational continuity and progression may be threatened.

208. Many 3 and 4 year olds in this country experience a greater range of provision than their European counterparts: some will spend only one or two terms in one setting before moving on to another. While we believe that diversity of provision can be healthy, the corollary is that if services for the under fives are to be as effective as they are in other European countries, collaboration at various levels is essential.

Structures for co-ordination
209. In recognition of these difficulties, several local authorities have moved during the last few years towards a more co-ordinated approach to the planning and delivery of services.

210. Local authorities cannot legally establish a free-standing department for the under fives; but the responsibilities of different departments can be delegated to a single specified unit within one of them. Strathclyde has established a single pre-fives section within the education department, responsible for all services including the registration of playgroups, childminders and private nurseries. Some other authorities have transferred responsibility for the majority of their under fives services to their education department.

211. Elsewhere, a less radical approach has been to retain responsibility for services within the separate departments but to establish an under fives committee, either as a joint subcommittee of education and social services, or reporting direct to the authority's main policy committee.

212. In addition, many authorities have established under fives advisory committees (with members from education, the health authority, the social services and the voluntary and private sectors); jointly-funded education/social services posts to support collaboration; and area or local co-ordinating groups. Such groups are able to feed back to the central policy committee, and may also co-ordinate local admissions policies; some also involve parents.

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213. Whether or not changes in committee structures have been instigated, many authorities have reviewed their services in recent months. The Children Act 1989 recognised the importance of regular joint reviews by education and social services authorities in association with health authorities and the voluntary sector by making them mandatory at three year intervals. These reviews afford valuable opportunities to monitor the quality as well as the scope of services, and to devise joint plans.

A common approach?
214. Evidence from local authorities around the country suggests that various solutions are possible, each responding to local needs. Despite some progress over the last decade, movement is slow, due in part to continuing constraints upon public expenditure. Nonetheless, certain common themes can be distinguished (26):
a. the value of a clear policy agreed by all the main providers of services within a local authority;
b. the importance of a committee/departmental structure which can support an integrated approach to the planning of services;
c. where there is an under fives committee, it functions best where it has delegated authority for policy development and resource deployment and is not merely a forum for discussion;
d. the need for clear support from elected members and chief officers;
e clarity about roles and management responsibility, and clear lines of communication both vertically and horizon tally;
f. clarity about the need for, and means of, involving health authorities and voluntary and private sector services.
215. We believe that the achievement of better local co-ordination would be greatly helped if central government gave a clear lead, setting a national framework within which local development could take place.

Integrated and co-ordinated
216. The organisational changes outlined above have been reflected in attempts to provide a more integrated and flexible neighbourhood service to families. One approach has been the development of combined nursery centres or children's centres. So far some 50 centres exist; no two are alike, but most are jointly funded by education and social services departments, sometimes in collaboration with a voluntary agency or the local health authority; most offer both day care and nursery education, and often other support and drop-in facilities for parents as well.

217. The survey by HMI (14) suggested that the effectiveness of these centres is enhanced where:

a. the centre is part of the authority's general policy for the under fives;
b. the lines of accountability are clear;
c. careful recruitment policies take full account of the dissimilar conditions of service and pay levels of teachers and other staff;
d. the centre adopts a single system for recording children's progress.
Nonetheless, integrated centres inevitably operate with some difficulty in a system in which care and education are separate responsibilities. Besides differential pay and conditions, obstacles include separate management structures, and difficulties in developing a community-based approach to working with parents within buildings designed for small groups of small children. We urge those contemplating the development of such provision to recognise and address such potential problems at the outset.

218. There are other ways in which existing provision can be made more flexible and responsive to local need. Examples include:

a. appointing early years co-ordinators/liaison workers - perhaps with joint funding - to provide support and training across all agencies;
b. developing unified admissions policies to all facilities within a single area, perhaps through a local liaison group;
c. employing teachers in day nurseries, or linking day nurseries more closely to schools;
d. extending the hours of nursery classes beyond the school day and into the holidays (possibly with the assistance of local employers);
e. providing drop-in facilities for parents and childminders in nurseries and family centres;
f. linking childminders to day nurseries, schools and playgroups;
g. holding weekly child health clinics in the school, playgroup or parent and toddler group;
h. using schools and centres as information and resource centres for parents;
i. particularly in rural areas, using mobile facilities such as play buses and vans.


219. We believe that better co-ordination overall of services for the under fives can bring about an

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improvement in the quality of the various types of provision, make services more responsive to the needs of young children and their families, and lead to a more effective use of resources. We welcome the provisions of the Children Act 1989 for close links between local authority departments over the registration and review of day care facilities.

220. Better co-ordination does not necessarily require unified services: the purpose may be served by a network of facilities linked through common admissions policies or close working relationships. What is important - and what the provisions of the Act should help to secure - is that the pattern of co-ordination should take full account of local needs and opportunities, and should be supported by local policies and management structures.

221. In addition to the considerations outlined above, we would stress the importance in such arrangements of

a. a commitment at all levels of management to effective collaboration;
b. ensuring that where development officers and advisers are appointed, their posts are at a sufficiently senior level to ensure full involvement in decision-making;
c. devoting time to the development of trust and respect between different groups of staff;
d. providing appropriate, and satisfactorily supported, multi-disciplinary in-service training for all early years workers in the wider range of skills that these arrangements may require.

Issues to be
222. In this report, we have discussed in general terms the constituents of educational quality for the under fives. We have made recommendations where we consider that specific barriers to the achievement of quality need to be overcome. But if the standard of services for the under fives is to be raised across the board, we believe that all those concerned with their provision need to address, and keep under review, certain key aspects of their work.

223. In this chapter, we identify the most important of these for each of the three main groups involved: policy makers, providers and practitioners. They are grouped below under the headings Co-ordination; Quality control; Curriculum; Staffing; and Training.

224. The Children Act 1989 has made a start on embodying in legislation the principles of collaboration. This work needs to be built upon at all levels.

225. For policy makers at national level, the focus must be on:

a. ensuring that the development of future policy in this area takes as a starting point the need for coherence across the services provided for young children and their families;
b. securing greater interaction and co-ordination between the education and care sectors, in order to encourage and facilitate an increased educational component of childcare services which reflects and complements education provision for the under fives;
c. removing unnecessary barriers to co-ordination, such as incompatible terms and conditions of service for different groups of staff.
226. For local authority providers, there is a need to consider whether:
a. there are clear and well-understood local policies and arrangements for interaction and collaboration between education, health, care and voluntary provision;
b. there is scope for greater integration of services for the under fives;
c. the authority's management structure is such as to foster, rather than discourage, closer collaboration;

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d. there is a need for local authority guidelines to practitioners on issues such as curriculum, staffing, admissions and equal opportunities;
e. there is scope for collaboration between sectors in the provision of in-service training.
227. For practitioners, key issues are:
a. how to establish or improve links between the practitioner's own organisation and other local services for the under fives;
b. whether there is scope for co-ordinating with other services aspects such as admissions policies, liaison with families, assessment and record-keeping arrangements etc;
c. suggesting new approaches to those responsible for existing arrangements which impede collaboration.

Quality control
228. The main issue here is to ensure that all providers - whether in the public, voluntary or private sector - know what constitutes quality provision, and are accountable to those who use their service for the standards they achieve.

229. Policy makers in central government need to ensure that:

a. adequate guidance is available to providers of different types of services about acceptable levels of provision, covering matters such as accommodation, curriculum, staffing ratios, training and qualifications;
b. clear and comprehensive guidance is available to help providers achieve appropriate educational standards;
c. there are appropriate means of monitoring standards across the whole range of provision through, for example, review, inspection and research;
d. where provision falls below acceptable standards, means exist to bring about a restoration of quality.
230. Local authority providers should consider whether they have satisfactory arrangements to:
a. establish and promulgate clear quality criteria for all services in their area which take full account of the requirements of all under fives, including those with special needs, and those for whom English is a second language;
b. encourage the development by institutions of procedures for self-review, monitoring and evaluation;
c. arrange for regular review of the standards being achieved in their areas;
d. provide advice and/or support where standards are not being met.
231. Practitioners need to:
a. recognise the importance of maintaining high standards;
b. set clear quality objectives for the service they provide;
c. review regularly the standards achieved and, where necessary, formulate and implement action to raise them.

232. It is crucial to recognise that the whole range of experiences which young children encounter will contribute to that child's development; and that careful planning of those experiences can enhance the benefit to the child.

233. Policy makers in central government should:

a. ensure that clear guidance is available to providers on the organisation and planning of the curriculum for the under fives, and on means of securing progression to the curriculum for older age groups;

b. recognise that appropriately designed, high quality educational experiences require the provision of adequate resources.

234. Local authority providers should consider:
a. whether adequate professional support (from advisers and through in-service training) is available to those providing education for the under fives;

b. whether there are satisfactory arrangements for securing collaboration between the pre-school and primary stages;

c. whether the curriculum provided for the under fives is appropriate to their needs (particularly where there are younger 4 year olds in infant classes).

235. Practitioners need to:
a. agree a clear vision of their curriculum policy and objectives and institute regular processes of monitoring and review;

b. consider how best to involve parents in the development and implementation of their curricular aims;

c. spend time on their own professional development and training.

236. Services for the under fives are characterised by an often unhelpful diversity of staffing arrangements within and between different types of provision. There

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are also significant shortages of staff in certain areas. Improved co-ordination (see paragraphs 224 - 227 above) should help reduce the confusion; but other issues also need to be addressed.

237. Central government and national bodies should consider:

a. whether there are unnecessary barriers hindering local efforts to remove inconsistencies;
b. the likely impact of demographic trends upon both the demand for services for the under fives and the availability of personnel to staff them;
c. the need to increase recruitment among those outside the pool from which under fives staff have traditionally been drawn (eg men, minority ethnic groups);
d. the need to improve the status and career prospects of early years staff
238. Local authority providers should consider whether:
a. there are unnecessary inconsistencies in the staffing policies and practice within different local services;
b. there is scope for a more co-ordinated approach to job descriptions, conditions of service and salaries of those working with the under fives;
c. they need to develop or revise their recruiting policies in the light of demographic trends.

239. It is important for all staff working with the under fives to be appropriately trained, and for the training provided fully to reflect changes and developments in the nature and aspirations of provision for the under fives. The work of the NCVQ should help to remove some of the complexities of the current training system, but other anomalies need to be addressed.

240. Central government policy makers should consider:

a. how they can encourage early progress towards reducing inconsistencies and fragmentation of training;
b. how access to training might be eased, while maintaining the quality of entrants;
c. clarifying the interface between different levels of training;
d. the extension of LEATGS in-service training support to all staff working with the under fives in schools.
241. Local authority providers should consider:
a. whether they have a satisfactory and consistent inservice training policy;
b. whether the in-service training provided for their staff keeps pace with changes in the nature of their provision for the under fives;
c. whether the fullest possible use is made, in training staff across the range of under fives provision, of the professional advisers employed by the authority.
242. Practitioners providing training for any adults who work with under fives should keep under review:
a. the quality and appropriateness of the training they offer, in the light of changing needs and developments in provision for the under fives;
b. their own need for professional updating and retraining;
c. whether their entry qualifications erect unnecessary barriers to able and experienced potential trainees.

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Part 2
Material to aid practitioners

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1. In Part 1 of this report we have outlined our analysis of the present position and of the issues which contribute to quality; Part 2 amplifies this with more discursive descriptions of particular aspects of philosophy and approach which are intended to help those who care for and work with young children to examine and improve their own practice.

2. We believe that it may be of help to practitioners to preface this part of the report with a brief general statement of those elements which we believe to be crucial, within any institution, to the achievement of high quality provision for the under fives.

3. In our view, each institution should have:

a. a policy outlining aims and objectives based on a clearly articulated philosophy shared by educators and parents. This should incorporate:
i. a policy on equal opportunities for children and adults, encompassing sex, race, class and disability, which promotes an understanding of cultural and physical diversity and challenges stereotypes, and which is responsive to local needs;

ii. a policy of partnership with parents which acknowledges their role as children's prime educators and which develops a shared understanding, mutual respect and dialogue;

iii. a policy of liaison with other institutions involved in children's early education within the local community;

iv. a policy on quality control, setting out arrangements for monitoring, evaluating and, as necessary, revising policies, procedures and practice;

b. a clear management structure responsible for devising and implementing policy;

c. an atmosphere in which every child and adult feels secure, valued and confident;

d. a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum which is appropriate to the social, emotional, spiritual and intellectual development of individual children, including those with special educational needs; which has the qualities of differentiation, continuity and progression; and which incorporates means of linking one form of provision to another;

e. an approach to learning, geared to the needs of young children, which emphasises first-hand experiences and which views play and talk as powerful mediums for learning; and which incorporates periods of time for sustained activity;

f. collaborative planning which is based upon systematic and regular observation-based assessment of children in all areas of development;

g. record-keeping which is built upon contributions from the educator, parent and child, and which feeds and supports children's learning;

h. appropriately trained and experienced educators with a knowledge of child development and curriculum, and the ability to structure and support young children's learning;

i. a staff development plan which assures educators of access to regular supervision, support and training, and enables the knowledge base of the team to be kept up to date;

j. a high ratio of educators to children;

k. a physical environment organised, with due regard to health and safety, to meet the needs of young children, with appropriate space, facilities and equipment.

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The process of
learning for the
under fives

4. Early years educators play a critical role in young children's learning. It is within their power to encourage feelings of fun and discovery in learning on the one hand, or of dull drudgery on the other. Attitudes and behaviour patterns established during the first years of life are central to future educational and social development. Particular attention has thus to be given in these early years to the process by which a child acquires the disposition to learn and necessary competencies for learning.

5. Those responsible for developing a curriculum for under fives therefore need to consider the skills, concepts and attitudes which will enable a child to make sense of what he or she knows about the world. It is evident that these are best nurtured through experience and practice. There is broad agreement among educators on what these elements comprise:

Skills may be described as the capacity or competency to perform a task or activity. The education of young children involves developing a wide range of skills. Many may be applied in a variety of contexts, and in learning to apply them children gain satisfaction and grow in confidence. Examples include social skills, practical and physical skills, communication skills, study skills and investigative skills.

Concepts are generalisations which help a child to classify, to organise knowledge and experiences, and to predict. Understanding and applying relevant concepts is an important part of the learning process. Examples of these include inside/outside, above/below, similar/different.

Attitudes are expressions of values and personal qualities which determine behaviour in a variety of situations. These include respect, tolerance, independence, perseverance and curiosity. Such may be fostered in the curriculum and in the general life of the school.

6. A sound curricular framework will allow for the interrelatedness of a child's varying experiences. Specifically it will emphasise what the child learns, how the child learns and with whose help, the progression of development, the context in which the learning takes place and the values and beliefs which are embedded within it.

7. In this light a series of propositions about the curriculum grouped into three areas are set out below.

a. Young children as learners:

  • although all children follow sequential patterns of development, every child is unique;
  • all children have competencies which need to be brought out and built upon;
  • young children's learning should be embedded in what is familiar;
  • play is an essential and rich part of the learning process;
  • learning should be a pleasurable and rewarding experience;
  • learning should be primarily first-hand, experiential and active. Young children need opportunities and space to explore and discover;
  • young children are social beings and learning should take place in a social context;
  • talk is central to the learning process. It should be reciprocal and often initiated and led by the child;
  • children's independence and autonomy needs to be promoted. Children should be encouraged to take responsibility for their learning;
  • self discipline should be encouraged;
  • young children need the security of a daily routine which works for them;
  • there should be opportunities to explore the unexpected;
  • there should be opportunities for sustained engagement in an activity.
b. The content of learning:
  • young children need a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum;
  • young children's development should be viewed as a whole and the curriculum should reflect an understanding of this;
  • observation-based assessment is a key element in planning an appropriate curriculum for every child;
  • the process of learning is as important as the content and needs careful consideration in curriculum planning;
  • children need certain skills and concepts in order to make sense of, and apply, their knowledge and understanding;
  • the development of positive attitudes to learning should be a specific aim;

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  • much knowledge can and should be presented in an integrated, cross-curricular way, depending on the children's experience;
  • there should be continuity and progression; a coordinated approach to planning should be encouraged.
c. The context of learning:
  • for young children, every setting is a source of learning; the home is a particularly powerful learning environment;
  • the content and setting of learning should as far as possible reflect the child's social and cultural background;
  • the child should feel valued and a positive self-concept should be promoted which acknowledges the value of each child's cultural and religious life;
  • the teaching environment should be open and accessible to the children;
  • space for young children to move about and explore is essential;
  • a variety of learning situations is important;
  • certain facilities are essential for the education and care of young children, eg access to an outdoor play area, adjacent toilets, space;
  • young children need equipment that is appropriate and promotes their learning;
  • the learning environment should be 'user-friendly', secure, comfortable and stimulating;
  • a child's growing social competence needs support;
  • collaboration with parents in a child's learning is essential;
  • all those involved in the learning process should be viewed as partners, and should collaborate in planning the curriculum;
  • the role of the adult is highly significant in the learning process. A favourable ratio of adults to children is critical;
  • all educators operate within the context of their own values, beliefs and attitudes. They should recognise that these may differ from those of the children they are educating;
  • educators of young children need to be open-minded, evaluative, reflective and responsive.
8. These statements should help the educator to respond to the differing needs of children in a variety of contexts. They are capable of being applied in many different ways to suit the particular needs of the children and the setting in which they are being educated. They also offer a common and agreed base which all those working with under fives can use to build coherence and continuity between the different forms of provision. The flexibility of this structure is its strength. It supports and enhances the role of the educator, reinforcing a sense of direction, satisfaction and significance. It draws out the complexity of the task of educating under fives and emphasises the role of highly skilled and appropriately trained educators.

Areas of
learning and
Constructing a curriculum for the under fives

9. In its report Educational Provision for the Under Fives ESAC reiterated the view of the White Paper Better Schools (1985) that the education of young children is founded in play. It also stated that 'although this principle for three and four year olds does not differ according to the form of provision that is being made, nor by the age of the children in the group, the perceptions of parents change'.

10. The introduction of the National Curriculum for children of statutory school age may affect considerably the perceptions of parents about the purposes of pre-school provision and the education of under fives in primary classes. Children from different settings embark on their compulsory schooling well prepared for the various requirements of the National Curriculum and may indeed have covered some of the early work. For example, most can listen attentively and respond to stories, and some can already read or write their names. It is clearly important to define, for parents and others, a curriculum for the under fives which enables children to develop their abilities, and also to set reasonable expectations of the different circumstances under which it is provided.

11. As ESAC also pointed out, 'it is not the form of provision alone which is likely to indicate its effectiveness but the degree to

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which it is set up and run in line with certain quality criteria'. Our purpose has been to focus upon such criteria for the curriculum for under fives. We consider that while some providers may be more able to offer better conditions for some things than others, all should be capable of offering a broad balanced curriculum which provides children with a successful bridge from home to school, promotes their all-round development and prepares them for later learning.

12. In Chapters 6 and 8 we draw attention to the importance of planning the curriculum for under fives and to the assessment and recording of children's achievements. All of this should be helpful to parents, serve the purposes of making activities responsive to the children's changing educational needs, and secure continuity and progression in the curriculum.

13. It is widely acknowledged that young children benefit from activities which bring together several areas of learning at the same time. This is apparent when they are learning from such activities as cooking, shopping and making things and in their indoor and outdoor play.

14. These integrated activities have a high value for promoting children's knowledge, skills and understanding in all aspects of the curriculum. Furthermore they engage children in co-operative and independent ways of working which help them to develop sound interpersonal skills and social relationships. Clearly, some activities have a higher value for integrated learning than others and some things may need to be taught more or less discretely for part of the time to help children acquire the particular skills and competence they need to accomplish a task. For example, adults often teach children how to use tools such as handsaw or scissors, or to mix colours to best effect, after an appropriate time has been given for them to write numbers or form letters and write their names.

15. Good practice owes much to the interplay between the effective planning of the educational activities and the informed judgements of the adults who function as teachers in responding to the children's learning. With young children, effective planning and teaching is also receptive to new interests and sufficiently flexible to cope with changes in both the pace and the direction of learning as they show what they can do and understand.

16. It is important, too, for the adults to ensure that girls and boys have a fair share of opportunities and access to all aspects of learning and experience throughout the curriculum irrespective of the type of provision through which it is made available.

17. What follows are some broad guidelines for informing planning for those involved in constructing a programme for the under fives. These cover the areas of learning and experience referred to in Chapter 5. In each case there are brief examples of work which illustrate some of the important skills, understanding and knowledge within an area; for example mathematics, and describe some cross-curricular elements within the activity.

Aesthetic and creative

18. Art, craft, design, music, dance and drama promote the development of young children's imagination and their ability to use media and materials creatively and to begin to appreciate beauty and fitness for purpose.

19. From an early age children enjoy and respond to sensory experience. They explore and experiment with materials, making patterns, pictures and models; they make sounds and music; they engage in role-play and drama; and make up mimes and movement sequences. They also listen to music, sometimes responding rhythmically, sometimes quietly entranced; they listen to poems, songs and rhymes learning to appreciate the sounds and rhythms of the words; they look at pictures and other works of art, at buildings and bridges and begin to develop their aesthetic awareness and understanding.

20. Children under 5 should have access to a wide variety of materials and activities and be encouraged to develop skills and to express their ideas and understanding in many ways. Adults play an important part in helping children to refine and extend their skills by:

  • talking with them about their work;
  • encouraging them to look and listen carefully and to observe detail;
  • teaching them how to use tools skilfully and safely;
  • encouraging them to experiment and, ultimately, to select appropriate media and materials for the work in hand;
  • helping them combine materials to achieve a satisfactory outcome.

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21. Young children frequently make sound-making instruments and use these and other tuned and untuned percussion to reproduce sounds and rhythms, sometimes linked to a story or a poem. Movement and drama are closely linked to sound-making and music and, given the appropriate resources, children incorporate these activities in their dramatic and imaginative play.

22. Young children's musical abilities will also develop when they have regular opportunities to learn a repertoire of rhymes and songs and listen to a range of music.

23. Some experiences offer rich opportunities for children to use and extend their aesthetic and creative abilities. The following example is from a nursery:

Three 'clowns' from the local drama centre visited the school. They gave a short performance, talked to the children and, using face paints and mirrors, created clown faces for some of them. Subsequently some of the children painted clowns, they mixed their own paints and the teacher encouraged them to remember the exact colouring, make-up and clothes. Another group chose from a selection of drawing materials, scraps of fabric and paper to create clown faces on stick puppets. With the teacher's help, other children made a simple puppet theatre from a cardboard box. They made curtains that closed and simple 'props', composed a background of sounds and gave a performance incorporating impromptu dialogue. The children recalled the original performance, using elements of it in their own, but also invented other dramatic incidents.

24. Experiences of this kind contribute to other areas of learning and experience, not least those of language and technology. They also help children to make judgements about the work of others and to learn more about the characteristics of various media such as paint and sound.

Human and social

25. For young children human and social learning and experience is concerned with people, both now and in the past, and how and where they live. It is the earliest stage in the development of skills and ideas necessary to the understanding of history and geography.

26. Young children are naturally interested in people, in their families and homes and the community in which they live. From an early age they are aware of the work that members of their families do and often reflect this in their role-play. Adults can help children to gain greater understanding of the lives of others by providing appropriate resources for such play. Learning through play, and through other experiences such as visits to various workplaces, about the lives of shopkeepers, nurses, doctors, police officers and others provides an important foundation for the later understanding of the interdependence of communities.

27. Many young children are curious about the past. They are interested in old objects; in what things were like when their parents, teachers and helpers were children; and in what they were like as babies.

28. Adults can help satisfy this curiosity, and in so doing help children to develop a sense of time and change, by providing collections of artefacts from bygone days; inviting older people to tell the children about their early lives; and by talking about events in their own lives and those of the children and their families. Experiences such as that described later in the section on spiritual and moral learning do much to help such understanding.

29. Carefully chosen poems and stories can also help children to develop an understanding of people and events in different times and places. Well-illustrated picture story books with text that is free from gender and racial stereotyping help children to appreciate and respect ethnic and cultural differences.

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30. The following example is typical of the work that takes place on the theme of 'myself and my family' in many pre-school settings:

The health visitor had called in to see some of the newly-admitted children and had remarked how much some of the children had grown since last she saw them. This event stimulated well-focused discussion about how old individual children were, how tall and strong, and how small they had once been. Parents were asked if they could supply photographs of the children as babies and any other memorabilia they might have relating to the children's early years. A comprehensive display was assembled including birth certificates, baby clothes, toys, rattles and photographs, sometimes of the children alone and occasionally of family groupings showing several generations. The children were keen to identify themselves and their family belongings: the adults encouraged them to tell each other about them. Captions added to the display recorded the children's speech: 'That's me and that's my teddy'; 'When I was little that blue dress was mine - a long time ago'; 'That's my great-grandma, she's very old, when she was little they didn't have televisions'. Because the adult had recorded the speech accurately, the children were able to recall what they had said and 'read' the captions. In this way the children extended their knowledge of print and understood both that speech can be written down and print can be read.

31. Children are deeply interested and gain great pleasure as well as increased understanding from such experiences that have their roots in the lives of their families, in their homes, in the community and in their own early life.

Language and literacy

32. For the purposes of planning language activities, this fundamentally important area of the curriculum for the under fives may be usefully sub-divided into four modes: speaking, listening, reading and writing.

33. Most children will be adept speakers and listeners by the time they enter pre-school provision. Many will be familiar with favourite stories read to them at home. They will have learned nursery rhymes and TV jingles. Some may be able to recognise their own name in print and be capable of writing it or making marks on paper which closely resemble words. A few children may be capable of reading and writing simple sentences.

34. By contrast some children may be less advanced in these respects on entry to pre-school provision. They may be reluctant to communicate with adults and, as yet, unable to listen attentively even for short periods of time. Their speech may be limited to far fewer words than many others of the same age. Some children will be competent speakers of a language other than English and they will need skilful help to master English while retaining their mother tongue language.

35. Given the wide range of differences in their performance on entry to pre-school provision those who teach them will need to assess the children's existing competence for the purpose of planning a language programme with continuity and progression in mind.

36. Adults working with under fives are well placed to observe and record their responses on a day to day basis and to judge their language needs accordingly. For children of this age the balance of language activities across the four modes is likely to be weighted in favour of speaking and listening. This is achieved on a one-to-one basis between a child and an adult, through language activities in small groups and sometimes between an adult and all, or nearly all, the children in a whole class or playgroup. For example, a good story read by an adult from a well illustrated book may engage the attention of a whole group or class. In these circumstances, although the children may be at very different levels of language competence, well chosen literature enables the adult to link the spoken and the written word in a context of high interest and to fire the children's imagination. In this way experience is shared and listening and speaking are intensified. Similar outcomes stem from common experiences provided, for example, in singing, moving to music or from visits to places of interest.

37. Effective groupwork is a powerful means of developing children's language. Children need to talk with adults and each other about their experiences. They need opportunities to plan, to question and to answer; to recall and to report, to reason and to reflect. They benefit greatly from experiencing how adults use language well as a stimulus and model for their own spoken language. They also need to extend their early knowledge of print in the home and elsewhere through seeing their speech recorded, through using writing materials and sharing books with adults and each other. In these ways they begin to understand that print has meaning and that reading is an important and pleasurable activity, and some will develop early writing skills.

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38. The following example of effective language work with under fives is from a nursery class:

The adults set up a simple shopping arcade with a cafe, a supermarket and a clothes shop. They were careful to include a balanced selection of items which reflected the ethnic backgrounds of the children such as fruit and vegetables from the Caribbean and clothes from India. The children shopped with their friends and called in at the cafe. Writing materials were provided and they discussed what they needed to buy. Before setting off, some went on to write out shopping lists using their own invented symbols. The goods in the shops were clearly labelled, purchases were made and the shop assistants wrote out 'bills' for the customers. At the cafe menus were available, orders were taken and noted on pads and again 'bills' presented. Thus the children began to understand the conventions of print. The adults participated in the play, encouraging children to take on the various roles, to use the writing materials provided and to talk intensively about the things they bought and the meals they ordered. The children became adept at persuading each other and the adults to agree with their choices. In the course of the play the adults introduced number rhymes such as 'Five currant buns in the baker's shop'. Later the children enjoyed listening to the story of 'The tiger who came to tea' recalling what they had ordered in the cafe and suggesting what they might give a tiger for tea.

39. In work with under fives nearly all activities offer opportunities for developing children's language. Indeed, the development of children's language abilities at this age relies on making the most of opportunities and well-timed interventions in their play as well as planning activities which have more predictable language outcomes.


40. Young children's experiences provide a ready basis for learning mathematical ideas. Regular events such as climbing stairs, preparing meals, singing nursery rhymes, shopping, and travelling by bus or car, provide early opportunities for children to learn to count and use mathematical symbols. For example, some children aged two can answer 'How many fish fingers do you want?' with an appropriate response - 'Lots', 'None', 'Two'. Using words and other symbols to convey ideas of quantity is important to children's early mathematical experience. The gradual transition from the use of words such as 'lots', 'big', 'heavy' to more precise mathematical vocabulary in correct contexts 'we need 100 grams of flour' - is an important competence that young children begin to acquire in pre-school provision.

41. For the purposes of extending their mathematical experiences learning can be planned within five broad areas: shape; space and position; patterns and relationships; comparison (measures); and numeracy. The relationship between practical activity and the development of an appropriate language to support the understanding of mathematical ideas is central to this area of the curriculum.

42. All children need to learn a variety of mathematical concepts and processes if they are to understand and appreciate relationships and patterns in both shape and number; and to describe them clearly and precisely. An important element of young children's mathematical development is the exploration of everyday materials and equipment. Through using materials such as bricks, boxes and construction kits, children develop

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basic ideas of shape, space and position. When adults share and discuss these experiences using appropriate mathematical terminology, young children readily learn to refer confidently, for example, to edges, corners, surfaces and elevation.

43. In their play with toys such as cars, farm animals or pegboards, children often show a detailed awareness of order and pattern. They sort by colour, shape, size or other features, and often impose pattern and symmetry on their completed arrangements. By talking about the patterns the children make, the adults can help them to understand relationships such as longer and shorter, top and bottom, or right and left. The ability to seek and recognise patterns and relationships is important to mathematical competence.

44. As children refine their ideas of shape and size they inevitably learn to make comparisons, to appreciate simple measures and recognise the need for quantification. Common activities such as baking provide numerous opportunities for children to develop and use ideas of measurement. Similarly, sand and water play give children experiences of weight, length, capacity and area.

45. Many young children are very familiar with numbers and their symbols, often through learning nursery and number rhymes such as '1, 2, 3, 4, 5, once I caught a fish alive' or 'Five little speckled frogs'. They see numbers on buses, cars, doors, clocks and timers, in shops and supermarkets. They like to count stairs and steps. Adults help them to establish one to one correspondence by providing other opportunities for counting and matching such as setting the table or playing simple games such as dominoes and lotto.

46. The following is an example of effective mathematical activity with a group of under fives:

Six children were to make iced cakes for a birthday party. The children chose a recipe from the simple picture cards made by the teacher. They 'read' the ingredients and matched their requirements to the stock in the food cupboard. They decided they needed sugar and margarine but estimated, with adult help, that they had sufficient of everything else. They looked at the price labels and suggested how much money was needed. They took out the 'cooking money' purse and selected appropriate coins to use in the shop, 50p and 1, and expected to come back with some change. They were then taken to the corner shop to purchase the necessary goods. When the children returned, with the help of an adult, they followed the sequence illustrated on the recipe card, counted, weighed and mixed the ingredients and produced a cake mix. The group decided that it was important to make enough cakes for all who would attend the party and counted out the appropriate number of cake cases. They filled extra cases with the surplus mixture and ended up with more cakes than there were people. Later they were helped to ice the cakes, to count them out on to plates, in sixes, to cut in half the extra cakes and finally to lay the tables for the other children. These children used mathematics extensively throughout the activity; they counted, measured, shared, estimated. matched one to one, used real money, allocated space and worked collaboratively in solving mathematical problems at an appropriate level of difficulty.

47. Thus a great deal of valuable experience and learning can be given to children before the age of five which establishes early confidence and competence in mathematics and provides a sound basis for progress.


48. The area of physical learning and experience for young children is concerned with developing manipulative and motor skills, physical control, coordination and mobility. It involves knowledge of how the body works and establishes positive attitudes towards a healthy and active way of life.

49. Young children usually show great interest in increasing their own physical skills and often exploit opportunities adventurously. Effective pre-school provision builds on these trends through indoor and outdoor activities that are safe while encouraging the children to respond confidently to physical challenges.

50. A successful programme for under fives provides opportunities for the development of:

  • increasingly fine control through the use of large and small equipment; learning to use paint brushes, pens, pencils and other tools safely and with increasing precision, and modelling and construction materials with increasing dexterity and skill;
  • control, coordination and mobility through opportunities to climb, run, jump, hop, skip, swing and balance; to manipulate large toys, building blocks, planks, steps, plastic crates and the like; and to respond physically to stimuli such as sounds, songs, music and stories;
  • an understanding of how to keep healthy through, for example, eating sensibly,

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caring for teeth and hair and engaging in physical activity.
51. Much of the programme can be achieved through well planned indoor and outdoor play activities. These should offer children opportunities to design and make large and small structures, to explore and experiment with basic materials such as paint, clay, wood, sand and water and to increase their physical skills through large scale movement in space and upon appropriate apparatus.

52. The following example of well planned and resourced play promoted physical learning and experience for under fives in a nursery class:

In addition to the fixed climbing equipment. a wide variety of materials and equipment was provided in the outdoor play area. These included planks, steps, boxes, plastic crates, waste materials and dressing up clothes. The children decided to make a boat using the scramble net as rigging. They worked co-operatively deciding how to organise areas of the boat for sleeping, eating and working. They lifted wooden blocks and planks setting them out to form a space for each activity. Using waste materials they made telescopes and flags. Equipment was carried from the domestic play area to furnish the eating and sleeping areas. The children took turns to carry out various tasks, cooking the meals discussing what they would need to eat to be strong climbing the rigging to be the lookout and raising and lowering the flag. Subsequently they were taken to see some boats in the local harbour and recorded what they had seen using a variety of drawing, painting and modelling materials. They listened and responded in movement and dance to sea songs and music.

53. Opportunities to develop physical skills and understanding are inherent in most of the activities of young children. Adults need to see that the provision offers a good range and balance of physical demands. They also need to guard against certain resources for physical education, such as large scale climbing frames and craft tools, becoming the exclusive domain of boys. On the other hand they may need to ensure that activities such as home play are not dominated by girls.


54. Well before the age of five, most children show interest in a wide range of biological and physical phenomena. For example, they are easily engaged in play with sand and water. They mix colours and investigate the properties of materials. They quickly learn that some materials are hard and others are soft, some are flexible and others are rigid. They notice that heat changes things, that ice melts and that light comes from different sources such as wax candles and electric bulbs. They take delight in caring for living things and watching how animals and plants behave. They watch the action of automatic washing machines and microwave cooking. Many will see their parents and older brothers and sisters using pocket calculators and home computers, and possibly be encouraged to do so themselves.

55. In short, for young children, as for others, the world of science and technology is inescapable.

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Successful pre-school provision builds upon children's early scientific interests and experiences by introducing practical activities which enable them to use all their senses to observe carefully, notice patterns, predict outcomes and test their ideas. Throughout these activities opportunities for discussion, questioning and recording by drawing, painting and modelling are crucially important for helping young children towards early understanding of science and to begin to work scientifically.

In a nursery class a group of 4 year old children investigated aspects of flotation. They compared materials that floated with those that sank. From a collection of everyday materials they selected a house brick and put it into a large bath of water. They felt the vibration on the sides of the bath as the brick quickly sank and hit the bottom. They said that the brick sank because it was heavy. The nursery nurse gave them a hollow but equally heavy glass brick and asked whether it would float or sink. After feeling the weight of the glass brick, all the children predicted that it would sink and were very surprised to find that it floated. They decided that some heavy things would float. The children were then each given large balls of plasticine which they put into the water and watched sink. The nursery nurse made a boat shape from one of the balls of plasticine. The children were asked to guess whether it would float or sink. They were divided in their opinions but all of them were delighted when the 'boat' floated. They each made boats from plasticine and after playing with them for some time they rolled them into balls and sank them.

56. Much of the learning and experience in science in these early stages stems from helping children to observe and describe everyday events, to notice the sequences in which things occur and the effects that take place when one or more element in a situation is changed. Much valuable learning of this kind can be developed through the resources commonly found in good pre-school provision such as the materials available to the children in the example above. An effective programme will include a balance of physical and biological science activities.

In a play group one of the helpers brought a collection of fruit from the local market which included a pineapple, a starfruit, a large plantain (banana), a coconut an apple and an orange. The children, some from Afro-Caribbean families, were asked if they knew the names of the fruits and were invited to handle them. They were intrigued by the shape of the starfruit. They compared the surfaces and the textures and described how they ate the fruit at home. They drew pictures of the fruit before cutting some and peeling others to see what was inside. They counted the segments of the orange and looked at the 'star' shape produced by cutting the starfruit in half. They tasted pieces of each fruit and decided which was their favourite flavour. Throughout these exchanges the children were encouraged to focus their attention on the characteristics of each of the fruits, to observe and carefully describe the similarities and differences that they noticed. When necessary they were given new words to help them and encouraged to refine their comments to make their descriptions more accurate, for example, in describing the shades of colour on the apple.

Spiritual and moral

57. Most children have the support of caring families through which they are helped to develop self confidence and an understanding of right and wrong. Some, however, are less fortunate and will have undergone abnormally stressful, emotional and social experiences in their family lives that hinder their development.

58. Effective provision for the spiritual and moral areas of learning and experience is concerned with developing understanding about the significance and quality of human life and the formation of social and personal values. It secures an ethos in which under fives can reconcile social and emotional conflicts and build good interpersonal relationships.

59. By the age of three or four, most children will have taken part in celebrations and ceremonies such as birthdays and marriages. Some will have joined in religious celebrations such as Christmas, Divali, Eid-ul-Fitr or Hanukkah and be aware of the rituals or special foods associated with them. Some may come from homes where prayers and readings from religious literature are everyday

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events. Festivals often provide valuable opportunities for under fives to share celebrations with parents and other members of the community. Through these events children hear religious language, take part in role play and drama, and begin to gain some understanding of the importance of religion in people's lives.

60. Children's experiences in their immediate and extended families provide a basis from which the adults working with under fives can help them to explore ideas, for example of fairness, forgiveness, sharing, dependence and independence. Everyday educational activities, including the use of stories, rhymes and songs, enable children to work co-operatively and to take responsibility for their own actions.

61. Developing respect for others, for themselves, for other living things and for their surroundings are important basic elements in this area of the curriculum which good social relationships in pre-school provision can do much to establish.

62. Children's self esteem is profoundly influenced by the regard in which they are held by others and the way they are treated in day to day activities. A sense of personal worth can be encouraged through conversation or practical activities related for example to the use of the senses, or the expression of likes and dislikes which explore similarities and differences between the children themselves and others. Children are helped to understand how people and things change and influence their own and the lives of others. The way in which adults respond to the events in children's lives and help other children to benefit from them is illustrated in the following:

David, a 4 year old, had been eagerly awaiting the birth of his baby sister. He was very excited on the day she was born and was eager to tell the other children all about her. The baby's early days were discussed in detail and on the day after she was christened, David's mother brought Sarah in to meet the children. The baby was dressed in her christening robe, a family heirloom with exquisite embroidery. All the children sat very quietly as David and his mother told them about the Christening, about the robe which had been worn by babies in the family for nearly 150 years and about the Christening cake decorated with roses and ribbons. Sarah's visit was the starting point for much discussion of Christening and about babies in general. The children brought in photographs of themselves as babies and one brought in her own Christening robe. A local clergyman came to explain his role in the church service including a demonstration of the use of water to make the sign of the cross on the baby's head.

For several weeks afterwards the children's play focused on this event. Dolls and dressing-up clothes, including Christening robes, were used for role play and the water tray became a focal point for the bathing of dolls. The display of photographs and garments stimulated much interest and conversation.

The children began to learn something about an important religious event at an appropriate level. They experienced something of the joy and meaning of Christening and understood that it was a very special day for the family. They learned more about their place within their own family and something of the significance and continuity of family life.


63. As with science, young children will meet technology in many forms before they enter pre-school provision. In their homes they are likely to have used the remote control to switch on the television or video; they may have seen microwave ovens, digital clocks and push-button telephones; and they may have played with calculators or used computers for games or even simple educational programs. Effective pre-school provision takes account of the children's interest in such equipment and develops it through the provision made for imaginative and investigative play including telephones, programmable toys and remote control cars. In some instances the children's experience of music is extended through the use of simple electronic keyboards. With careful guidance some children are able to use computers in their pre-school group. Some see their cakes baked in a microwave oven and help to set the controls. All of these experiences develop their physical dexterity and further their interest in, and understanding of, technology.

64. The closeness of science and many aspects of technology is only too obvious. However, the two essential elements of technology that ought to feature in the curriculum in the early years are designing and making activities. Wherever possible children should be encouraged to respond creatively to design problems and develop an interest in improving what they have made.

65. The aesthetic elements of designing need to be considered so that children are encouraged to make things which are not only functional but also artistically appealing and elegant within the scope of their capabilities.

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66. Young children's play often involves them in designing and making things, some of which like sandcastles are short lived while others may be more permanent structures such as houses made from blocks or cars made from boxes. Much designing at this stage involves trial and error. For example, young children often construct things crudely from basic materials such as two sticks taped together to make an aeroplane that owes far more to imagination than precision engineering.

67. Development in this area of the curriculum relies heavily upon a wide range of appropriate resources being available so that the children can select materials according to purpose and experiment with different ways of solving design problems. Much can be achieved through the use of low-cost scrap materials. However, these alone are usually too limited and should be supplemented by more sophisticated materials which offer children the opportunities to fix together wheels and axles, join structures with large and small scale nuts and bolts and use simple gear arrangements and tools, as the following example illustrates.

68. In addition to refining their skills in designing and making the crane the children learned how to negotiate with each other, to reason and to think logically. Such activities will offer rich opportunities for children to develop skills, knowledge and understanding across many areas of learning and experience. It is important for adults to ensure through their planning and resourcing of a programme of integrated work, and through their involvement in it that children learn from these experiences.

The children in a nursery class had been watching the demolition of a building across the road from their inner city school. In their play with the bricks they imitated this, building up the bricks and knocking them down. Through discussion with their teacher they gradually refined their play, building more complex structures, and eventually decided they ought to have a 'crane with a heavy ball' to knock down their building, The teacher gave them a large construction kit with wooden pieces of various lengths and plastic nuts and bolts. They first joined several long pieces together in a single strip and found that it would not stand up. After some discussion they realised it needed to have two sides and be fixed to a base. With some help they built a new structure and attached it to a base. They then fixed a simple pulley at the top and a reel and handle at the bottom. After some experimenting the children decided that a small solid rubber ball would demolish the wall best and were faced with the problem of fixing it to the string on the pulley. They tried tying the string round the ball and sticking it on to the ball, but without success. Seeing their difficulty the teacher offered them a small net bag, The children quickly realised they could put the ball in the bag, tie it up and fasten the string to the bag. The crane was completed and the children tested it out, adjusting the height of the ball until it hit the building at the right place to demolish it. The play became more complex, the children added wheels to the base so that the crane could be moved about the 'building site', and replaced the ball with a hook so that they could lift 'building materials'.

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Adults working
with the under
fives and their
69. The extent to which adults working with the under fives and their families possess different areas of knowledge and understanding, skills and attitudes will vary according to the role of the worker and the training they have received. Given the differences in type, quality, level and aims of training courses, those working with under fives may be well-qualified in certain aspects but less familiar with others. The following set of summary statements outlines attributes which a group of adults working in an educational setting should possess in order to provide a high-quality educational experience:

Knowledge and understanding

  • understanding of the way young children learn;
  • understanding the range and importance of play in the education of the young child;
  • understanding of the way children acquire language;
  • understanding of what is necessary to ensure the provision of quality experiences;
  • understanding of the varying roles of adults working with young children and the crucial nature of the role of parents as first educators;
  • understanding of factors affecting ease of transition and continuity of experience and ability to employ strategies to avoid discontinuity;
  • knowledge of the range of provision, services and contexts in which under fives may be educated;
  • knowledge and understanding of the needs and characteristics of young children;
  • knowledge of the earlier experiences of children, their home circumstances and any special educational needs;
  • curriculum knowledge and understanding of appropriate experience for under fives and ability to relate this to National Curriculum requirements;
  • knowledge of recent research and understanding of its implications in relation to the provision of quality experiences for young children.
  • the development of particular skills, interest and expertise in a subject or curriculum area and awareness of appropriate strategies for work with young children;
  • skill in planning and implementing the curriculum in order to ensure breadth, balance and continuity with the National Curriculum;
  • organisational skills and strategies for effective learning;
  • observational skills and effective recording, monitoring and assessment of the curriculum;
  • interactive and communication skills - child/child, child/adult;
  • management and leadership skills;
  • skills in collaborative working, including working with parents and with other professionals;
  • skill and ability to provide, or facilitate the provision of, equal opportunities for all under fives notwithstanding differences of race, gender and educational need.
  • high expectations of children and self;
  • genuine liking for, and sensitivity towards, children and readiness to value them as people in their own right;
  • respect for, and appreciation of, the contribution of other adults - parents, colleagues and other professionals;
  • a commitment to develop a partnership with parents - with a shared sense of purpose, mutual respect and a willingness to negotiate.
70. The complementary nature of the roles of those involved requires appropriately differentiated training which will not seek to impart the skiffs outlined above to all in the same measure. The fact that many teachers of the under fives will have undertaken a course of training lasting for four years and leading to honours graduate status should mean that they are able to take a lead in determining the quality, range and appropriateness of curriculum experiences for 3 to 8 year olds, particularly but not solely within the school setting. Other roles will require other skiffs, and workers at all levels have their own important parts to play.

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1. Department of Education and Science:
A Survey of the Quality of Education for Four Year Olds in Primary Classes
Report by HM Inspectors, 1989

2. Margaret M Clark:
Children under Five: Educational Research and Evidence
Gordon & Breach, London, 1988

3. Examples include:

The Education of Children Under Five
HMI Aspects of Primary Education series.
HMSO, London, 1989

Curriculum Matters 2: The Curriculum from 5 to 16
HMSO, London, 1985

The Teaching and Learning of History and Geography
HMI Aspects of Primary Education series. HMSO, London, 1989

The Teaching and Learning of Mathematics
HMI Aspects of Primary Education series. HMSO, London, 1989

The Teaching and Learning of Science
HMI Aspects of Primary Education series. HMSO, London, 1989

4. House of Commons Education, Science and Arts Committee:
Educational Provision for the Under Fives
HMSO, London, 1989

5. Report of the Committee of Enquiry into Special Educational Needs (Warnock Committee)
HMSO, London, 1978

6. Section 1(2), Education Reform Act 1988
HMSO, London

7. Curriculum Matters 2: The Curriculum from 5 to 16
HMSO, London, 1985

8. The Education of Children Under Five
HMI Aspects of Primary Education series. HMSO, London, 1989

9. The Early Years Curriculum Group:
Early Childhood Education
Trentham Books, Stoke-on- Trent, 1989

10. G Pugh and E De'Ath:
Working Towards Partnership in the Early Years
National Children's Bureau, 1989

11. Audrey Curtis:
Curriculum for the Pre-School Child
NFER, 1986

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12. National Curriculum Council:
A Framework for the Primary Curriculum

13. PPA Guidelines:
Good Practice for Full Daycare Playgroups and Good Practice for Sessional Playgroups
Pre-School Playgroups Association, 1989

14. Department of Education and Science:
Combined Provision for the Under Fives: The Contribution of Education
Report by HM Inspectors, 1989

15. E Ferri et al:
Combined Nursery Centres
Macmillan, 1981

16. National Children's Bureau: Under Fives Unit:
Young Children in Group Day Care; Draft Guidelines of Good Practice 1990

17. House of Commons Education, Science and Arts Committee:
Achievement in Primary Schools

18. National Curriculum Task Group on Assessment and Testing: A Report
HMSO, London, 1988

19. Denise Hevey:
The Continuing Under Fives Muddle! - survey for the Voluntary Organisations Liaison Council for Under Fives

20. House of Commons Education, Science and Arts Committee:
First Special Report - Educational Provision for the Under Fives
Observations by the government and Local Authority Associations

21. DES Circular 3/84:
Initial Teacher Training: Approval of Courses
DES, London, 1984

22. DES Circular 24/89:
Initial Teacher Training: Approval of Courses
DES, London, 1989

23. House of Commons Education, Science and Arts Committee:
Final Report - Educational Provision for the Under Fives
Vol II, Minutes of Evidence and Appendices

24. Bob Dunn MP to the House of Commons during a debate on the Education Reform Act:
House of Commons Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 22 March 1988, Column 281

25. The Effects of Early Education
A report from the Child Health and Education Study.
Osborn and Milbank, 1987

26. G Pugh:
Services for Under fives: Developing a coordinated Approach
National Children's Bureau, 1989

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[page 53]

Annex 1

Evidence received from organisations

Association of Educational Psychologists
Association of Metropolitan Authorities
Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus
British Association for Early Childhood Education
British Psychological Society
Centre for Studies on Integration in Education
Children's Theatre Association
Commission for Racial Equality
Community Education Development Centre
Early Years Curriculum Lobby and National Campaign for Nursery Education Joint Submission)
Equal Opportunities Commission
Geographical Association
National Association of Advisory Officers for Special Education
National Association for Gifted Children Ltd
National Association of Nursery Centres
National Childminding Association
National Curriculum Council
National Association of Head Teachers
Network 81
Northamptonshire Early Childhood Centre
Nursery Nurse Trainers Anti-Racist Network
Play Matters - National Toy Libraries Association
Pre-School Playgroups Association
Save the Children
SENSE - National Deaf-Blind and Rubella Association
Sheffield Metropolitan Division of the National Union of Teachers
Society of Education Officers
Special Educational Needs - National Advisory Council
Trades Union Congress
Universities Council for the Education of Teachers
Voluntary Council for Handicapped Children
Voluntary Organisations Liaison Council for Under Fives
Warwick University Department of Education

Evidence received from individuals

Mr C Blyth and Mr F Wallace
Mrs JM Burns
Mr M Hiscox
Ms Beryl Johnson
Mrs Carolyn A Jones
Ms Jane Kirby
Ms M Lally
Mrs M Lewis
Ms Caroline Matusiak
Mrs Janet Morris
Marjorie Ouvry
Mrs Mary Richardson
Ms Christine Stevenson
Mr J Thackray and Ms F Sturt
Jay Trevis
Ms H Waddup and Ms M Randell
Ms Sylvia Walker
Ms Dorothy Wedge

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Annex 2


Table 1: Numbers of Places in Day Nurseries* - England

Local authority provided28,31328,63028,90428,88028,789

Table 2: Numbers of Places with Childminders - England

Local authority providedN/A2,1831,1971,7981,947
Other registered personsN/A104,246125,650148,845184,275

Table 3: Numbers of Places in Playgroups - England

Local authority run3,3252,9022,8112,7772,051

Table 4: Numbers of Providers of Sessional and Day Care - England

Day nurseries*N/A1,4421,5981,8502,441

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Table 5: Numbers of Under Fives in School - England

Nursery schools48,47749,55149,61349,50250,170
Nursery classes of primary schools161,771198,274217,323226,672245,414
Reception classes of primary schools218,392210,372245,631240,590251,980
Independent schools28,06428,82632,08134,49241,175

Table 6: Ages of Pupils in Maintained Schools - England (thousands)

2 years2526252525
3 years144173187199214
4 years260259301293308

Table 7: Maintained Nursery Education: Institutions and Staffing - England

Numbers of nursery schools593575561558559
Numbers of primary schools with designated nursery classes3,2003,7644,0744,2954,542
Pupil:Teacher ratio for nursery schools and classes22.423.023.723.423.7
Ratio of pupils to all adult staff9.910.410.510.310.5


*Figures for private nursery schools - which provide entirely or almost entirely for the under fives - are incorporated in those for day nurseries.

†Figures are not available on a compatible basis for 1979 and earlier years.

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Annex 3

Childcare services in member states of the European Community

0-2 years 3% of children in publicly-funded services divided between 'Nurseries' (1.5%); and 2 year olds in 'Kindergartens', 4 hours a day. Also 5000 children in parent-run nurseries (Krabbelstuben), some of which receive some public funds; and some 4000 children in 'other family care' have fees subsidised from public funds. 'Other family caregivers' and 'nurseries' not publicly funded should be registered and supervised by public authorities.
3-5 years 60%+ of children in 'Kindergarten' (1.33 million children attend, which is equal to 74% of 3-5 year olds, but actual proportion of 3-5s attending is lower because some 2 and 6 year olds included in 1.33 million). 12% of children attend full-time 'kindergartens' open 8 hours a day. Rest attend 4-6 hours a day. In addition, 6% of 5-6 year olds in 'Pre-Primary Schooling'.
6-10 years Children attend primary school for 4-5 hours a day, up to 12.00 or 13.00. Starting and finishing hours irregular. 'Centre-based outside school hours care' for 3% of 6-10 year olds.
0-2 years 20-25% of children in publicly-funded services. Divided between 'Nurseries' (4%); 'Organised other family care' (2%); and places for 17% (half of 2 year olds) in 'Pre-Primary Schooling'. In addition, places for 2% in haltes-garderies, but these places are used on a part-time basis, so provide for far more children.

'Other family caregivers' and 'nurseries' not publicly funded should be registered and supervised by public authorities.

3-5 years 95%+ in 'Pre-Primary Schooling'; available 8 hours a day. 'School-Based Outside School' care available. Also small number (less than 1%) in 'Kindergartens'.
6-10 years Attend primary school for same hours as 'pre-primary schooling', that is 08.30 to 16.30. 'School-Based Outside School Hours Care' available.
Limited tax relief on childcare costs for children up to 7, plus grant for parents using 'own home' or registered 'other family care' to cover social security contributions for caregiver.

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0-2 years 5% of children in publicly-funded services. All in 'Nurseries'. 'Nurseries' that are not publicly-funded should be registered, but not 'other family caregivers'.
3-5 years 88% of children in 'Pre-Primary Schooling'. Most (66%) in schools available over 7 hours a day, and 55% attend over 7 hours a day. Nearly all other children in schools available 4-7 hours a day. Some schools provide 'Outside School Hours' care.
6-10 years Most attend primary school for 4 hours a day, up to 12.00 or 12.30, though some schools have longer day. Some 'School-Based Outside School Hours' care, but not common.
0-2 years 1-2% of children in publicly-funded services. Nearly all in 'Nurseries' or 'Pre-School and School Age Centres'. Although open all day, many children attend part-time. Also a few children in 'Other Family Care' have fees subsidised from public funds.

In addition, 8% (a quarter of 2 year olds) attend 'Playcentres', see below. 'Nurseries', 'playcentres' and 'other family caregivers' that are not publicly funded do not have to be registered.

Recent rapid increase in childcare services funded by employers. Nearly all for children under 4 and cover less than 1% of this age group.

3-4 years 50% of children in publicly-funded services. Most (49%) in 'Early Primary Schooling', which nearly all 4 year olds attend; available 5-7 hours a day depending on whether school (or centre) provides lunchtime supervision. A few (1%) in 'Nurseries' which take children up to 4. 'Centre-Based Outside School Hours Care' for less than 1% of 4 year olds.

In addition, 25% (a half of 3 year olds) attend 'Playcentres', 5-6 hours a week on average. Over 90% of 'playcentres' are publicly-funded and grants on average cover 45% of costs.

5-10 years Compulsory school starts at 5 and children must attend for at least 12 hours a week in their first year. Full school day is generally 09.00 - 16.00 with two hour lunch break. Supervision during lunchtime break organised by parents in schools where parents ask for this provision; also provided in centres for a small proportion of children. Increasing number of schools operate 'continuous timetable', with a shorter lunch break and an earlier finish.
About 1% of age group receive publicly-funded 'Outside School Hours Care' in centres.

Limited tax relief for childcare costs.

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0-2 years 20-25% of children in publicly-funded services. Full-time places for 5% of children in 'Nurseries' but many of these places used on a part-time basis so serve more children; and for 3% in 'Organised Other Family Care'. 9% (a quarter of 2 year olds) attend 'Pre-Primary Schooling'.

'Other family caregivers' and 'nurseries' that are not publicly funded should be registered and supervised by public authorities.

3-5 years 95%+ of children in 'Pre-Primary Schooling' which is available 5-6 hours a day, depending on whether school provides lunchtime supervision. 'Outside School Hours Care' provided in substantial proportion of schools and 'Organised Other Family Care' in Flemish area.
6-10 years Children attend primary school from 08.30 - 15.30. Lunchtime supervision and 'Outside School Hours Care' provided in substantial proportion of schools.
0-2 years Less than 1% of children in publicly-funded services, in 'Pre-School and School Age Centres'.

'Other family caregivers' and 'nurseries' that are not publicly-funded are not registered.

3-4 years 48% of children in publicly-funded services. Nearly all 4 year olds in 'Pre-Primary Schooling', which is available 3½-6 hours a day (hours vary on different days). Some schools are beginning to provide lunch, which extends school day by 2 hours.

Less than 1% of 3 year olds in 'Pre-School and School Age Centres', which also provide lunch and 'Outside School Hours Care' for less than 1% of 4 year olds.

5-10 years The second year of 'Pre-Primary Schooling' for 5 year olds, is compulsory. Hours are the same as for 'primary school' - 08.00-16.30 three days a week. Some schools are beginning to provide lunch.

A small proportion, probably under 2%, receive 'Outside School Hours Care', in 'Pre-School and School Age Centres'.

Limited tax relief to parents for childcare costs.

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0-2 years 2% of children in publicly-funded services. Divided between 'Nurseries' and 2½ year olds in 'Pre-Primary Schooling'. Also some children (5600 aged 0-4) in 'other family care' or 'nurseries' have fees subsidised from public funds.

In addition, an estimated 5-10% (all 2 year olds) attend 'Playcentres'. See below. 'Other family caregivers' and 'nurseries' that are not publicly-funded should be registered and supervised by public authorities: in practice, most are registered.

3-4 years 44% of children in publicly-funded services. Divided between 'Pre-Primary Schooling' which most (19%) attend part-time for 2½ hours a day; 'Early Primary Schooling' (20%) for 4 year olds which most (19%) attend full-time for 6-6½ hours a day; 'Nurseries' (1%) which take children up to compulsory school age.

In addition, an estimated 40-45% attend 'Playcentres', 5-6 hours a week on average. Only 1 in 4 'playcentres' are publicly-funded and grants on average cover less than half of costs.

5-10 years Children attend primary school from 09.00 - 15.30, with a supervised lunchtime break of 1½ hours. Publicly-funded 'Outside School Hours Care' for less than 1%.
7-10 years Children attend primary school for 3-5 hours a day, mostly during the morning. Starting and finishing hours are irregular. Publicly-funded 'Outside School Hours Care' provided for a fifth of children, mostly in centres but some school-based.
0-2 years 2-3% of children in publicly-funded services. Divided between 'Nurseries' (1%); and 2½ year olds in 'Kindergartens'.

'Nurseries' and 'kindergartens' that are not publicly-funded should be registered.

3-5½ years 62% of children in publicly-funded services. Divided between 'Kindergartens' (17%) which are available 8 hours a day, mostly for children up to 4, though some take children up to compulsory school age; and 'Pre-Primary Schooling' (45%) which is available 3½ hours a day for children aged 4 and 5. Very little 'Outside School Hours Care'.
5½-10 years Children attend primary school for 20 hours a week for first 3 years, then for 24-26 hours. Many attend on a shift basis. Virtually no publicly-funded 'Outside School Hours Care'.

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0-2 years 4% of children in publicly-funded services. Mainly in 'Nurseries', but some in 'Organised Other Family Care' which has been recently introduced. 'Nurseries' that are not publicly-funded should be registered; 'other family caregivers' are not registered.
3-5 years 25% of children in publicly-funded services. Divided between 'Kindergartens' (13%) which are available 8 hours or more a day; and 'Pre-Primary Schooling' (12%) which is available 5-7 hours a day depending on whether school provides lunchtime supervision.
6-10 years Children attend primary school for 5 hours a day. Most attend on a shift basis. Publicly-funded 'Centre-Based Outside School Hours Care' for 3% of children aged 6-11.
0-2 years No information on % of children in publicly-funded 'Nurseries'. 5% of 2 year olds in 'Pre-Primary Schooling'.

'Nurseries' and 'other family caregivers' not publicly-funded are not registered.

3-5 years 66% of children in 'Pre-Primary Schooling', most of which is for 4 and 5 year olds in which age group 90% attend. Schooling available 3-8 hours a day, depending on whether school provides lunchtime supervision. Also an unknown % attend publicly-funded 'Nurseries', some of which take children up to 4, some up to 6.
6-10 years Children attend primary school for same hours as 'Pre-Primary Schooling', that is from 09.00 to 17.00 with a 3 hour lunch break, though schools increasingly provide lunch and supervision during this break. No publicly-funded 'Outside School Hours Care' except for some schemes in summer holidays.

NB Information for 1985 or 1986

(Moss, P. 1988, Childcare and Equality of Opportunity)