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Education and employment secretary Gillian Shephard today announced measures to ensure that four year olds receive ...
Education and employment secretary Gillian Shephard today announced measures to ensure that four year olds receive high quality education under the nursery vouchers scheme.

Mrs Shephard also announced what children will be expected to learn by the time they finish nursery school. These 'learning outcomes' will be looked at as the basis for testing five year olds as they start primary school.

They will emphasise early literacy, numeracy and the development of personal social skills and contribute to children's knowledge, understanding and skills in other areas.

She said: 'Nursery education must be of high quality and offer good value for money. Today's announcements set out how we will achieve this aim.'

The measures include:

-- Checks and assessments to ensure providers meet the requirements of the scheme

-- validation of providers

-- An inspection framework including the training and registering of nursery education inspectors

-- Proposals from SCAA requiring achievements in literacy, numeracy and personal and social skills for nursery pupils

Mrs Shephard has today asked the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority to undertake a survey of current practice and views on assessing five year olds and to draw up proposals for formal consultation in the autumn.

Mrs Shephard said:

'I greatly welcome SCAA's recommendations on learning outcomes. I have accepted them in full. Providers of nursery education will, as a condition of entry to the scheme, have to work towards these goals.

'DfEE's document sets out the government's proposals for a new inspection framework for providers in the scheme. This will reassure parents that all institutions in the scheme will be working towards the learning outcomes for four year olds. I am grateful to Ofsted for their assistance in assembling these proposals.

'I have written today to Sir Ron Dearing asking SCAA to undertake a survey of current practice and views on baseline assessment of five year olds and draw up proposals for formal consultation in the Autumn. SCAA will clarify the rationale, investigate the full range of current provision and review different methods in use to assess their effectiveness. After consultation is complete, Sir Ron's advice will enable me to decide on the most appropriate way to implement a national policy on baseline assessment for all our young children starting school.'

Information about quality assurance and learning goals will be sent to schools and other institutions providing nursery education the maintained, voluntary and private sectors.

The information pack document: `Nursery Education Scheme: The Next Steps' published by DfEE explains in detail how the voucher scheme will work and focuses in particular on the arrangements for validation of vouchers, redeeming institutions, quality assurance and inspection.

The other document in the pack, SCAA's `Desirable Outcomes for Children's Learning on entering compulsory education ' sets out goals for learning which nursery education providers will be expected to work to in the scheme.

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