[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 November 2005, 07:33 GMT
Mixed response to toddler plans
Children at a nursery school
Toddlers are encouraged to be healthy, competent learners
A proposed "national curriculum" for babies and toddlers in England has received a mixed response.

Under the Childcare Bill, childminders would teach the curriculum to children "from birth" - with some worrying that it might be too prescriptive.

The National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations called the proposals "bizarre".

But the children's charity I Can said there was clear evidence youngsters' communication needs were not being met.

Parents' associations spokeswoman Margaret Morrissey said: "We are now in danger of taking away children's childhood when they leave the maternity ward.

"From the minute you are born and your parents go back to work, as the government has encouraged them to do, you are going to be ruled by the Department for Education.

"It is absolute madness."

The proposals for the first three years of children's development give statutory force to existing guidelines, Birth to Three Matters, published two years ago.

Those would in future cover all providers of early years care, including childminders.

They highlight four "aspects" of early learning: that children should be strong, in the sense of self-assured; healthy; skilful communicators who listen and respond; and "competent learners" - imaginative and creative.

'Different abilities'

Tricia Pritchard, from the Professional Association of Nursery Nurses (PANN), said: "We hope that this will be age-appropriate and flexible as young children develop at different rates.

"Children of the same age have different abilities."

We are not talking about sitting very young children in chairs and making them learn numbers and letters
Beverley Hughes
Children's Minister

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said the curriculum would indeed be flexible and "age specific".

The Bill tells childcare providers to give a mixture of "integrated care and education from birth".

Introducing it, Ms Hughes said: "We want to establish a coherent framework that defines progression for young children from nought to five.

"We are not talking about sitting very young children in chairs and making them learn numbers and letters where that is inappropriate."

The government says research shows good quality childcare helps children develop faster socially and intellectually and do better once in school.

The existing Foundation Stage of the national curriculum, for children aged three and upwards, came into force two years ago following three years of guidance.

The proposed new Early Years Foundation Stage would have the same compulsory legal force as the national curriculum for schools, Ms Hughes said.

She said young children's learning deserved "parity" with that at primary and secondary level, but denied that this would be at the expense of play.

Need for training

I Can's chief executive Virginia Beardshaw, said: "Communication is a foundation life skill for all children and developing communication skills in the early years leads to better outcomes in education and social skills later in life.

"There is clear evidence that children's communication needs are not being met."

She called for better training for the adults involved.

"Pre-school children need opportunities to develop key communication skills through play and non-formalised learning.

"However, for every child to benefit from the government's proposals, it is crucial that there are standards, training and support in place for practitioners and parents."

I Can says research indicates that one in 10 children has a communication disability.

See how parents' groups have reacted

Councils 'must ensure childcare'
08 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
'Universal childcare' is promised
02 Dec 04 |  Business
Underfunding 'hitting childcare'
02 Jun 04 |  Education
Childcare strategy 'is on target'
27 Feb 04 |  Education
Childcare allowance for nurses
11 May 04 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific