Question Time — Scottish Executive — Education and Lifelong Learning – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 21st June 2007.

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Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 2:15 pm, 21st June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive how it will develop purposeful play for primary 1 pupils. (S3O-313)

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party

We have recently published guidance on active learning in the early years of primary as part of the development of the curriculum for excellence. That document aims to support authorities, schools and early years establishments to review their practice and to develop a more active approach to learning in the early years and beyond.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

Will the minister continue the good work that was begun by the previous Administration and take forward the idea of purposeful play, particularly for primary 1 pupils? Children enter our primary schools at a relatively young and tender age, and for many of them the transition can be difficult. We in the Labour Party believe that purposeful play can help children to integrate properly into primary schools. Will the minister give a commitment to develop that agenda further in the coming years as the good results that will undoubtedly come from it become clear?

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party

The early level of the curriculum for excellence will provide a smoother transition from pre-school to primary 1. As the member knows, local authorities are working hard to consider what changes they need to make to primary 1 to support the use of more active learning. That includes consideration of staffing arrangements, on which the Labour Party was particularly keen during yesterday's debate.

I am confident that the 300 additional teachers that the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning announced yesterday for pre-school and early primary education, together with the additional resources that she announced for pre-school education, will give local authorities significant scope to provide the staffing and other resources that are needed to assist with the important transition from pre-school to primary, with a particular focus on deprived areas.

Photo of Hugh O'Donnell Hugh O'Donnell Liberal Democrat

It is encouraging to hear both the minister and the Labour Party adopt Liberal Democrat policy. That is a positive step.

As Lloyd George said in 1926,

"play is the child's first claim on the community."

How will the minister work with the statutory education sector and the voluntary sector—particularly Play Scotland and Barnardo's—in taking forward this strategic development?

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party

I am aware of the role that the voluntary sector can play. Indeed, we had an interesting meeting last night with many of the stakeholders in the area. I am very much in favour of moving in that direction.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour

Given yesterday's debate and the prominence that the Administration intends to give early years education, does the minister plan to introduce qualified early years teachers to primary 1 or early years education?

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Scottish National Party

I refer the member to my answer to Ms Ferguson's question. It is up to local authorities to deploy the resources that are at their command. A number of local authorities, particularly in Ayrshire, are introducing early years workers in their primary 1 classes. I will look at those developments with interest and, if they prove as successful as I expect them to be, we can pass that good practice on throughout the system.