Future Shape Of Early Years Education Services Set Out In New Framework

Education Minister John O’Dowd today (7 October ) published ‘Learning to Learn – A Framework for Early Years Education and Learning’. The framework sets out the way forward for early years education and learning services in line with education priorities. Unveiling ‘Learning to Learn’, Mr O’Dowd said: “Improving children’s experiences and achievements in the early years is crucial. Evidence tells us that what children experience in the early years impacts on their future life chances, therefore it is imperative that we give every child the best possible start in life and build strong foundations for future learning.dn_screen “Since the return of devolved government, we have made huge strides in improving early years provision. In the 2013/14 school year over 99% of parents who engaged with the pre-school admissions process were offered a funded pre-school place. The overall budget for non-compulsory pre-school education and early years learning services is over £87million, representing an increase of approximately £30million since devolution. Furthermore, the total investment in early years education in 2013/14, including Foundation Stage, is £213million. “The publication of ‘Learning to Learn’ builds on this work and provides us with a clear basis for future planning and development of early years education and learning services.” The ‘Learning to Learn’ framework details a number of key actions to ensure consistently high quality services are delivered to young children and their families. The Minister added: “Among the actions that can be taken forward immediately will be a review of Sure Start and the establishment of early years education support clusters. There will also be a renewed emphasis on the use of extended schools funding across nursery schools and units so that schools offer specialist support services during the pre-school day to those most in need.

“There will be additional funding available to non-statutory pre-school providers who meet similar extended schools criteria, whilst work will also begin on the design and implementation of a programme of continuous professional development for leaders and managers across early years education settings, and the development of potential options for a programme for two-year-olds. “I will also be bringing forward a Bill, subject to the necessary approvals, to legislate to ensure only children in their immediate pre-school year can be admitted as pupils for the purposes of pre-school education; to remove the ability of primary schools to admit underage children to reception classes; and to extend the Foundation Stage to incorporate the non-compulsory pre-school year.” Mr O’Dowd went on to thank those who had engaged with the Department in the development of the framework and signalled his intention to begin implementing the actions immediately. The Minister said: “I want to see ‘Learning to Learn’ deliver real improvements in the lives of children and their families now. I have allocated the additional funding required to implement the actions, and will continue to work with Executive colleagues to improve services for children and families through a more collaborative approach to early intervention and early years.” “These actions build on existing good practice and will enable significant progress to be made in addressing some key issues for early education and learning services. The early years are crucial to a child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. ‘Learning to Learn’ provides us with the means of ensuring we deliver the best early education and learning experiences for every child, giving them the best chance of fulfilling their potential.”