Clause 72 - Interpretation of Part 6

Part of Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 15th January 2002.

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Photo of Don Touhig Don Touhig Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Welsh Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 4:45 pm, 15th January 2002

This is the first opportunity I have had to welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Pike.

I understand the point of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight. I note that he said that the amendments were probing. My job is to assuage both his fears and those of the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough, which is the judgment of Solomon after what they have said.

Early years providers need some flexibility so that they can deliver their own curriculum in response to the needs of children, families and their communities. In that way, they will create an effective early learning

environment and plan an appropriate curriculum. The curriculum guidance for foundation stage, which was published in May 2000, helps practitioners to provide such a curriculum, including support for education about religion, cultural beliefs and ceremonies. The early learning goals in England and the desirable outcomes in Wales set out those elements. The Bill will require all funded early years providers to support children to achieve early learning goals or desirable outcomes. That is central to our proposals for the foundation stage. I hope that that assuages the concerns of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight.

However, an essential part of our approach to the foundation stage is that it includes a strong element of flexibility. It is right that all early years settings should have the flexibility to respond to the needs of the different children in their care. To accept the amendments would put that flexibility at risk, by explicitly requiring local providers to use the locally agreed RE syllabus for schools.