The New ChildCare Bill

We have seen a new document relating to the care and education of children from birth to the age of three (which we discuss in detail later in this chapter) as well as the publication of the significant document Every Child Matters and a revised Children Act 2004. Arising out of all this will be the Childcare Bill, which is due to be published before the end of 2006, resulting in what will be called the Early Years Foundation Stage— due to be introduced in 2008 and effectively merging Birth to Three, the Foundation Stage and elements of the National Standards for under-eights day care and childminding. This will be compulsory for all those currently registered with OFSTED as well as for independent, maintained and non-maintained settings catering for children under the age of three. The new regulations will apply to all children from birth until 31 August following any child’s fifth birthday. It will have the same legal status as the Foundation Stage currently has under the National Curriculum and will remove the Foundation Stage from the National Curriculum.

The Early Years Foundation Stage will start with six areas of learning and development. These are:

• personal, social and emotional development;

• communication, language and literacy;

• problem-solving, reasoning and numeracy;

• knowledge and understanding of the world;

• physical development; and

• creative development. You will see that there are few changes in the six learning areas, but those there are, are significant. Mathematics, for example, currently in the Foundation Stage, is to be replaced with the more relevant and meaningful problemsolving, reasoning and numeracy. The new documents will specify early learning goals, educational programmes and assessment arrangements, and it is encouraging to read that these are going to be largely based on the observations adults make of children at play. Another change is the introduction of aspects of welfare— things like the qualifications and training of the adults, the suitability of the premises and resources, how complaints are dealt with and how records are kept. In a press release called ‘Direction of Travel’ (December 2005) we are reminded that the current Foundation Stage was built on research into early childhood provision— specifically the Effective Provision of Pre-school Education (EPPE)—a longitudinal study— and Researching Pedagogy in the Early Years (REPEY). Birth to Three was based on a reading of relevant literature and publications, including a project carried out by Professor Edward Melhuish in June 2004 for the Daycare Trust. This

showed that three aspects of interaction between children and carers were key: affection, responsiveness and communication.
The new document will highlight the importance of children learning through selfchosen activities— that is, through play— and will advocate that there is a sensible balance between childand adult-initiated activities. The starting point for all provision will be the five outcomes detailed in Every Child Matters and the Children Act (2004):

• Be healthy.

• Stay safe.

• Enjoy and achieve.

• Make a positive contribution.

• Achieve economic well-being. Settings will use the four aspects of Birth to Three Matters, work towards the early learning goals and look ahead to the five aspects outlined above. The fourteen national standards may also apply. It is a far-reaching proposal, making some needed changes and bringing together currently separate strands into one document and one legal framework.