Mrs Hodge also announced£13 million of Standards Funds money for 1,800 extra classroom assistants for reception classes in 2000-01; following her pledge to reduce adult:child ratios to a maximum of 1:15 in reception classes in the 40 most deprived local authorities.
Mrs Hodge said:
'I am delighted at the progress achieved in developing a foundation stage for children aged three to six and early learning goals for the end of this stage. Parents, teachers and early years practitioners know that a planned approach which integrates play and learning makes sense for young children. Children do not distinguish between play and work - nor do we.
'The early years of a child's life are critical. Helping early years professionals to support children's emotional, intellectual, physical and social development is what the foundation stage is all about.
'Inspection evidence shows that clearly defined outcomes lead to higher standards of both education and care. We also know from the consultation on the early learning goals that the overwhelming majority of parents and early years professionals support this approach.
'All children, whatever their background, will have the opportunity to develop vital skills which will lay strong foundations for their future. The QCA has set out clear examples of planned activities through which children can learn and develop. It is vital that teachers and early years practitioners plan activities which are appropriate for the age of the child and its individual stage of development.
'I know practitioners and parents share our vision for the early years and will enthusiastically embrace the challenges ahead'.
Nick Tate, Chief Executive of the QCA today said:
'Working towards the Early Learning Goals will give children rich, stimulating experiences at a critical stage of their life development. The QCA is publishing guidance today, with more to follow in spring 2000, which will set the goals in context and aid the planning of appropriate learning activities.
'The role of the practitioners who will work towards these goals with the children in their care is crucial. Their expertise and career aspirations must be recognised, and the new framework for qualifications and training in the early years education, childcare and playwork sector aims to do this.'
Mrs Hodge, today also welcomed the first instalment of the Framework of Nationally Accredited Qualifications in Early Years Education, Childcare and Playwork, published by QCA. The framework represents a major step towards the rationalisation of the hundreds of qualifications currently available in this sector.
Mrs Hodge said:
'Delivering high quality early education and childcare - based on rigorous standards - depends on having a skilled workforce. For the first time, there is now a clear framework which explains to people working with children, staff, and their employers the skills and competencies they need - and the qualifications which are appropriate for doing different jobs.
'Those working with children will now have a good career structure - they can pursue a rewarding career and can build on their qualifications and training to broaden their experience.'
Patricia Lacey, the head of the Dorothy Gardner Early Excellence Centre where Mrs Hodge launched the ELGs document, said:
'Within Early Years the emphasis has always been on delivering a differentiated curriculum that meets the needs of individual children and extends their learning in a stimulating and appropriate way. The early learning goals will be used to support that planning and, using the guidelines, staff will endeavour to plan an appropriate curriculum in all early years settings. Those in the private and voluntary sector will need to be supported by qualified teachers to plan and deliver the curriculum and to use the guidelines imaginatively.
'The foundation stage has been welcomed as it will now encompass the whole of the Early Years phase and lead to clarity with the transition to the National Curriculum in year one.'
1. The accredited qualifications under the new framework for early education and childcare have been given the seal of approval by the Early Years National Training Organisation and the National Training Organisation for Sports, Recreation and Allied Occupations who represent the views of employers across the sector.
2. The next six months will see further qualifications receiving accreditation and the publication of a full Framework of qualifications in early years education, childcare and playwork in Spring 2000.
3. Copies of the ELGs document , and the Framework of Nationally Accredited Qualifications in Early Years, Childcare and Playwork are both available from the QCA .