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High quality pre-school education for all four year olds by the start of the next academic year and an imaginative ...
High quality pre-school education for all four year olds by the start of the next academic year and an imaginative programme of early excellence centres are at the heart of the government's radical vision for early years learning announced today by education minister Estelle Morris.

Speaking at a Daycare Trust Seminar Ms Morris said:

'The government is responding positively and imaginatively to children's and families' needs with a clear and comprehensive policy for provision of early years services. Our radical vision include the creation of early excellence centres, an idea put forward in our White Paper, Excellence in schools.

The government is firmly committed to: good quality pre-school education for all four year olds by the start of the next academic year; promoting good quality childcare and family services for all children and parents who need these - fully integrated with education; achieving these improvements by focused, imaginative planning; and, ensuring that there is collaboration, co-operation and partnership between the public, private and voluntary providers, employers and other interests.

'Our new programme for early excellence centres will lead the way in the development of integrated early years services, bringing together

high quality early learning, childcare and family support services for those children and parents who need them. These will include those, who have to balance home with work, education or training responsibilities.

'I shall be announcing the first early excellence centres at the beginning of next month. More than 40 proposals have been submitted for inclusion in this year's phase - an excellent start - and we expect many more proposals by 21 November for those starting next year and the year after.

'All early excellence centres will be 'beacons of excellence'. They will be a catalyst for the development of good practice in the areas and regions they serve, and for spreading new ideas and providing

innovative services. I particularly want to see a good mix of centres between urban and rural areas, so that models for a wide range of local conditions can emerge.

'The early excellence centres will: draw together education, care, health, adult education, private and voluntary providers and employers in multi-agency and multi-sector collaboration so that one-stop services become the norm; have a strong emphasis on staff training and development, and outreach support for parents and other providers; include support for parents who need help with their parenting skills and literacy, for example, enabling parents to attend classes in the same centre as their children; allow parents who work or are training for work to have access to integrated education and childcare for their children; and, ensure parents of children with special needs can look forward to early assessment of their child's needs and a planned programme of linked provision, including support for the parents themselves where appropriate.

'We have just completed a major consultation on draft guidance on Early Year Development Plans (EYDPs). We will be publishing final guidance very soon. The overall response to the draft guidance has

been very positive and it was generally agreed that high quality education and care can only be delivered in a planned way. In addition most of those responding want the EYDPs to provide for children from birth to eight, on the reasonable grounds that childcare needs do not stop at five.

'The government is serious in its commitment to early years services of the highest quality. We want to work with all those who have the interests of children and parents at heart to provide the services they need. We cannot expect to see dramatic improvements overnight, but we are putting in place policies and systems that will be effective and make a difference over the longer term.'

-- Early Years Development Plans - announced the White Paper - Excellence in schools - will set out how to achieve the commitment to

nursery education places for all four year olds. The plans will demonstrate how co-operation between all those involved in nursery education can best serve the needs of children and there parents in their local area.

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