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Creative Projects: Early Years Experience

Volume 659: debated on Monday 29 April 2019

3. What steps he is taking to help ensure that creative and practical projects are part of the early years experience in schools. (910557)

Creative and practical subjects form a key part of the early years foundation stage statutory framework, which is mandatory for all early years providers, including of course schools.

I have some experience in this area, as the former Chair of the Select Committee on Education. Is the Minister not aware that, over several years, we have seen how the push to study for early years testing has really pushed the practical and the creative out of the classroom, and could we bring it back? Will the Minister talk to Tristram Hunt, who is the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, which has learning hubs, practical hubs and making hubs, and learn from his experience?

I would certainly talk to Tristram Hunt. Expressive arts and design is one of the seven areas of learning set out in the early years foundation stage statutory framework, and it involves exploring and using media and materials, and being imaginative, including through design and technology, art, music, dance, role play and stories.

23. Does my hon. Friend agree with me that art, drama and music are crucial to a balanced and broad education and should therefore be encouraged in all our schools? (910578)

I do, indeed, agree with my right hon. Friend. Between 2016 and 2020, we are spending almost £500 million on a range of music and creative arts programmes.

Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), does the Minister not accept that the emphasis on testing only English and maths—not just in primary school, but throughout—is having a detrimental effect on experiential learning, project learning and creating people with a lust for learning, not those who can just regurgitate facts?

No teacher or school leader would disagree about the lust for learning and making learning fun, but testing is the building block that allows us to make the investment and have the focus necessary to produce the extraordinary results that we are producing for children and families up and down the country.

Does the Minister agree that the early years stage should include a broad range of learning goals, including communication, physical development and self-confidence, as well as of course a thirst for knowledge?

I certainly do. Our proposals retain 17 early learning goals to reflect the breadth of the current early years foundation stage approach as well.

Good-quality music tuition builds our young people’s creativity, skills and mental wellbeing. Accessing it is a challenge in poorer communities such as my own. What assessment have Ministers made of an art pupil premium to level this imbalance?

Art, music and design are compulsory in all maintained schools from age five to age 14. All schools, including academies, are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that digital and IT skills play a role in the early years curriculum to ensure that our young people encounter early on the technologies that they will need to become familiar with as they progress through school?

I am grateful to the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, the hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), for visiting Space Studio West London in my constituency to see young people making robots and getting involved in other engineering projects such as sustainable energy. My mobile phone was charged wirelessly this morning by an invention of theirs.

Does the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), agree that employability comes from having practical learning? Will he join me in trying to make sure that creativity is encouraged in all our schools? Will he support my arts and makers fair, which will showcase work by young people across Hounslow?

I certainly agree with all that. I will certainly support the fair that the hon. Lady plans in her area, and I am sure that my colleagues would join me in visiting it.

That sounds very exciting, I must say. I have been to the hon. Lady’s constituency a number of times, but I have merely spoken. The notion that I might create a robot has never been put to me—thankfully.

The Minister may be aware of the recent “Sounds of Intent” report, which showed that targeted music lessons for under-fives helps close the gap, particularly in deprived areas and for children with complex needs. Can the Minister tell us whether he believes that every child should have access to music while at nursery? If so, what audit is he doing on quality? He may agree that putting a CD on at Christmas is very different from having a professional come in on a weekly basis. If he believes that quality is important, what is he doing to ensure that music has a greater role in the early years foundation stage?

We plan to spend around £3.5 billion on early education entitlements this year alone, and that targets the most disadvantaged in society. The hon. Lady rightly mentions music, which is very much part of the creative portfolio that children under five should be enjoying. Part of our funding, of course, is for making sure that we deliver all that and more in our fantastic early years provision.