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Early-years Provision

Volume 513: debated on Monday 12 July 2010

Last week, the Government asked Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of Action for Children, to carry out an independent review of the early years foundation stage to consider how the framework could be less bureaucratic and more focused on young children’s learning and development. The review will formally start in September this year, and will report in spring 2011. It is our intention to undertake a full consultation before any changes are implemented. A statement has been placed in the House outlining further details of the scope of the review.

We all want to see the very highest standards promoted in pre-schooling, but does the Minister agree that the over-prescriptive, box-ticking approach favoured by the previous Government is likely only to stifle the sector and reduce parental choice?

Indeed. This is a question of building on some of the good things about the foundation stage, but ensuring that we can reduce the burden on the sector, and particularly on the smaller providers. In fact, I was in a nursery school in Brent on Friday, and the head teacher said to me that she was grateful that we had begun a review of the foundation stage, because although there were many good things about it, the assessment is bureaucratic and she was hoping for something rather better.

Can the Minister explain why my constituents in Bradford should trust what this coalition Government say on education? We have lost Building Schools for the Future and the free school meals pilot, and we have an education authority that needs to be developed because of the failure of the private sector. Can the Minister tell us that Sure Start in particular will remain a key part of early years provision?

The current review of the foundation stage is independent, and we have asked Dame Clare Tickell—who I am sure would command respect right across the House—to conduct it.