Friday, February 19, 1999 Published at 13:59 GMT
Targets for nursery children
The goals would cover skills such as speaking and listening
Children in England could be expected to meet targets for reading, writing and arithmetic from the age of three.
Proposed "early learning goals" would cover children in nursery classes, playgroups and other forms of pre-school education until they reach compulsory school age.
Published by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the guidelines tie in with the government's strategy to improve the literacy and numeracy of primary school pupils.
She said the early learning goals would help develop key skills such as listening, speaking, confidence with numbers, concentration, persistence and co-operation.
"Good quality early education provides the foundation for future success at school," said Mrs Hodge.
"We need to bring together play, care and education in a structured and rigorous way which is appropriate to the age of the child."
The QCA consultation document also proposes that teachers of pre-school children should be provided with lesson guidelines and teaching materials. The consultation period ends on 30 April.
The authority's Chief Executive, Nick Tate, said: "High quality early years education is one of the cornerstones of the government's determination to raise standards in education.
"These proposals set out high expectations whilst reflecting the particular needs of very young children as they make their transition from home to school."