Early Education and Childcare
The NASUWT remains clear that that young children learn best when qualified teachers take the lead role in teaching and leading teaching and learning in early years settings. Research has established that children make the best progress in early years settings that have highly qualified and trained staff, particularly settings that have an appropriate proportion of qualified teachers.
For this reason, the NASUWT contends that dedicated nursery schools, nursery classes attached to primary schools or other specialist provision, such as Children’s Centres, where qualified teachers lead teaching and learning, provide the most effective models for the delivery of high-quality early years education. In these settings, young children are able to benefit from a broad and balanced range of engaging and development-focused learning opportunities that are planned and assessed by highly qualified teachers working in partnership with other members of the school and wider children’s workforce.
All the NASUWT’s work on early years issues has been guided by these core principles. In particular, the Union has drawn attention to the reductions in funding experienced by the sector, alongside changes in funding formulas, that have impacted disproportionately on the highest quality early years provision.
Early years curriculum and assessment
The NASUWT believes that all young children are entitled to a broad and balanced curricular offer that focuses on all areas of their development. While the Union recognises that a key function of the early education system is to ensure that children can transition effectively to the primary education curriculum, it is important that the innate value of a holistic range of learning experiences is recognised fully in the development of policy.
The NASUWT has emphasised that assessment frameworks in the early years sector should provide meaningful information on children’s progress and achievements without the creation of unnecessary and excessive workload burdens for teachers and leaders. However, the Union remains concerned that many such systems, such as the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage Profile in England, are unwieldy, time-consuming and often fail to provide effective support for teaching and learning.
The Union, therefore, welcomes plans set out by the Department for Education (DfE), to explore ways in which early years assessment frameworks can be streamlined and made more fit for purpose. The NASUWT continues to engage directly with the DfE on options for improving early years assessment systems.
The DfE has also announced that it intends to introduce a Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) in England. The stated purpose of RBA is to support the development of more effective progress measures in the primary sector.
In its engagement with the DfE on RBA, the NASUWT has remained clear that the sole purpose of the assessment should be to facilitate the generation of progress measures. The Union has emphasised the data generated by the RBA should not be used to judge individual schools on pupils’ attainment prior to entry into Key Stage 1 and must not be reported in performance tables.
The Union has also stressed that while it is important that baseline assessments are valid and reliable, it is also essential that the administration associated with them is manageable for schools and does not create additional workload burdens.