Assembly Questions and Answers regarding Early Years

AQW 2135/11

Mr Chris Lyttle (ALL - East Belfast) To ask the Minister of Education to detail (i) the terms of reference for the Early Years (0-6) Strategy Stakeholder Group which will consider the consultation responses; (ii) whether this group will become the strategy implementation group; (iii) whether this group will replace the Regional Reference Group and the reasons why; and (iv) which stakeholders will be represented on this group and the process for selection.

15/11/2010 - Awaiting Answer

Northern Ireland
Assembly

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Early Years Strategy

Mr O’Loan asked the Minister of Education how much funding she intends to allocate to the early years (0-6) strategy. (AQO 402/11)

The Minister of Education: Tá acmhainní substaintiúla i bhfeidhm agam cheana féin lena bheith mar bhonn agus taca ag an straitéis 0-6.

I have already put substantial resources in place to underpin the nought-to-six strategy. Since coming into office, I have prioritised funding for the early years and primary sectors. For example, we provided £21 million in funding for the Sure Start programme; £50 million for the preschool education expansion programme; £32 million for the provision of classroom assistants for all year 1 and 2 classes; specific funding for planning, preparation and assessment time for primary school teachers; funding for the primary languages programme and the primary sports programme; and funding for initiatives to assist the children of Traveller families. Additionally, the substantial funds in the aggregated schools budget for primary 1 and primary 2 include over £22 million for supporting the particular requirements at the foundation stage of the curriculum. This year, we have already allocated £1·5 million to take forward the early years strategy, and I have lodged priority bids as part of the Budget 2010 process.

Notwithstanding that, it is imperative that we make the best use of the significant resources already available. When the Department of Education budget is finalised, I will look through the review of the funding formula to secure the correct balance between investment in early years and investment in other stages of school education.

Mr O’Loan: I thank the Minister for her answer, and I welcome what is being done. Sound academic evidence shows that, for every pound that is invested in early years education, £17 is saved later in the education process. Does the Minister accept that evidence, and will she reflect it in the investment that she makes in early years education?

The Minister of Education: I agree with the Member that investing money now saves money at a future date and, more importantly, provides the best outcomes for children, whatever stage they are at.

I was recently at an early years launch at which Siobhán Fitzpatrick made the same point as the Member. We will continue to invest significantly in early years, and the Member will be able to see that there has been an increase in the resources allocated to that area since I came into office in 2007.

AQW 1097/11

Ms Anna Lo MBE (ALL - South Belfast) To ask the Minister of Education how she intends to consult children and young people on the Draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy.

06/10/2010

Tá mo Roinn ag cíoradh a pleananna faoi láthair ar dhul go díreach i gcomhairle le páistí agus le daoine óga ar dhóigh iomchuí maidir le dréachtStraitéis na Luathbhlianta (0-6).

My Department is currently considering its plans in relation to consulting directly with children and young people in an appropriate manner in respect of the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy.

The public consultation was launched on 25 June 2010 and ends on 30 November 2010. Responses can be made in writing or on line and appropriate documents for this purpose are available on the Department of Education’s website and in hard copy from the Department’s Early Years Team.

In addition, Department officials have undertaken a series of public events to gather views and comments on the draft Strategy. Nine events were organised as follows:

Date

Venue

Tuesday 21 September

Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen.

Thursday 23 September

Malone House, Harberton Room, Belfast.

Tuesday 28 September

Belmont Hotel, Banbridge.

Thursday 30 September

City of Derry Hotel, Derry.

Tuesday 5 October

Market Place Theatre, Armagh.

Thursday 7 October

Greenmount Campus, Boyd Hall Conference Hall, Antrim.

Tuesday 12 October

Grosvenor Hall, Belfast.

Thursday 14 October

The Lodge Hotel, Coleraine.

Wednesday 20 October

Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh.

AQW 7674/10

Mr Alastair Ross (DUP - East Antrim) To ask the Minister of Education, in relation to her Department's Early Years Strategy, (i) how long it has taken to formulate the strategy; (ii) how many people have been working on the development of this strategy; and (iii) when it will be issued for public consultation.

11/06/2010

Chuir an Roinn Oideachais tús leis an phróiseas chun dréachtStraitéis na Luathbhlianta (0-6) a fhorbairt go mall sa bhliain 2006.

The Department of Education commenced the process of developing the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy in late 2006.

The Department appointed an external specialist as Regional Co-ordinator, to take forward consideration and preparation of the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy, early in 2007. This was a fixed term appointment and ended in August 2009. The number of administrative staff involved has varied during the development of the draft Strategy.

I launched the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy for public consultation on 25 June 2010.

AQO 1148/10

Mr Alex Attwood (SDLP - West Belfast) To ask the Minister of Education to outline how the £1.5 million that has been set aside for an Early Years strategy will be spent.

22/04/2010

Chíor mé an dréachtStraitéis Luathbhlianta (náid go sé bhliana d’aois) agus thug mé comhairle do m’fheidhmeannaigh é seo a thabhairt ar aghaidh agus é a ullmhú do chomhairliúchán poiblí. Aithním go maith cé chomh tábhachtach is atá sé chun infheistiú a dhéanamh i soláthar do na luathbhlianta lena chinntiú go mbíonn an tús is fearr is féidir ag páistí lena saol.

I have considered the draft Early Years (0-6) Strategy and have advised my officials to take this forward, and to prepare for public consultation. I very much recognise the importance of investing in early years provision to ensure that our children have the best possible start in life.

There are a range of areas relevant to early years which would benefit from additional funding and which far exceed the level of funding that I have been able to make available this year.

I am currently considering the options for investing the £1.5 m in light of the likely timescale for the consultation and finalisation of the strategy.

AQW 8536/09

Mrs Mary Bradley (SDLP - Foyle) To ask the First Minister and deputy First Minister to provide an update on (i) the report on childcare provision which is being completed by the child poverty sub group of the Ministerial Sub-Committee on Children and Young People (ii) the time-scale for the publication of a draft childcare strategy for public consultation and how it will link with the Department of Education's 0-6 Early Years Strategy and (iii) arrangements for consultation with the children’s sector and other sectors.

19/06/2009

A report on childcare provision was presented to the Ministerial Sub-Committee on Children and Young People on 18th June. Ministers discussed the report and asked for further work to be taken forward through an economic appraisal of a range of strategic options. This will form the basis of a draft childcare strategy which will be subject to public consultation. It is expected that the economic appraisal work will be completed by the end of 2009. The publication of a draft childcare strategy is dependent on the outcome of the economic appraisal and Ministerial agreement but the strategy will of course take into consideration the Department of Education’s 0-6 Early Years Strategy. In terms of consultation arrangements with the children’s sector and other sectors it is intended to seek the views of as wide a range of people as possible. This will include parents, children, professionals and representative groups from both the public and private sectors.

AQW 7869/09

Mrs Naomi Long (ALL - East Belfast) To ask the Minister of Education whether the first review of the Programme for Government has resulted in the inclusion of targets relating to early years investment.

19/05/2009

Tá an t-athbhreithniú bliantúil ar an Chlár don Rialtas á chur i bhfeidhm faoi láthair thar gach Roinn ag OFMDFM. Ní meicníochtaí iad na socruithe monatóireachta agus an t-athbhreithniú bliantúil a éascaíonn athruithe do spriocanna agus d’aidhmeanna laistigh de PFG/PSAnna. Mar sin, níl spriocanna ar leith ann faoi láthair a bhfuil baint acu leis infheistíocht luathbhlianta.

The annual review of the Programme for Government is currently being taken forward across Departments by OFMDFM. The monitoring arrangements and annual review are not mechanisms that allow changes to be made to targets or goals within PFG/PSAs. There are therefore currently no specific targets relating to early years investment.

AQW 6249/09

Mr Mervyn Storey (DUP - North Antrim) To ask the Minister of Education for her assessment of whether the 0-6 early years strategy will ensure fair funding for the voluntary and independent early years sectors.

12/03/2009

Is ceist ar a ndéanfar measúnú mar chuid den Stratéis Luath Bhlianta 0-6 í an cheist faoi chomhionannas i measc na hearnálacha reachtúla, deonacha agus pobal maidir le cistiú do sheirbhísí luath bhlianta.

The need for equity between the statutory, voluntary, community and private sectors in respect of funding for early years services is an issue that will be examined as part of the Early Years 0 - 6 Strategy. In setting a vision for early years policy the Early Years 0 – 6 Strategy will set the scene for how high quality early years services should be delivered in the next 10 years and will recognise that meaningful and sustained change will take time. The Department will be examining the costing implications for any recommendations.

AQW 6248/09

Mr Mervyn Storey (DUP - North Antrim) To ask the Minister of Education for her assessment of the plans to end reception classes as part of the 0-6 early years strategy.

12/03/2009

Bhí sé mar chonclúid an Athbhreithnithe ar Oideachas Réamhscoile, a rinneadh mí Mheitheamh 2004, go dtabharfadh an Roinn reachtaíocht isteach le bac a chur ar scoileanna ag cur áiteanna fáiltithe ar fáil mar léirítear trí thaithí gur lú an tairbhe a bhaintear as soláthar fáiltithe ná mar a bhaintear as cineálacha sholáthar réamhscoile eile.

The Review of Pre-School Education undertaken in June 2004 concluded that the Department would bring forward legislation to prevent a school offering reception places as experience shows that reception provision is less beneficial than other forms of pre-school provision. The recommendations from the Review of Pre-school are being considered as part of the Early Years 0 – 6 Strategy.

AQW 6247/09

Mr Mervyn Storey (DUP - North Antrim) To ask the Minister of Education if she intends to implement the decision of the Assembly on 26 June 2007 to introduce a transformation fund for the early years sector as a foundation for the workforce development strategy.

12/03/2009

Tugadh tacaíocht traspháirtí don phrionsabal le cistiú trasfhoirmiúcháin a bhunadh nuair a rinneadh diospóireacht air sa Thionól ar 26ú Mheitheamh 2007, faoi réir thorthaí an Athbhreithnithe ar Chaiteachais Cuimsitheach.

The principle of establishing a transformation fund received cross-party support when it was debated in the Assembly on 26th June 2007, subject to the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review. It was not possible to introduce any fund within the current Programme for Government period. Furthermore, both the Early Years 0 – 6 Strategy and the work of Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) led by the Department for Employment and Learning are currently examining

the landscape of the early years workforce, including qualifications and training needs. Without their findings it is too early to say if and how any such fund should be established.

AQO 1696/09

Mr Dominic Bradley (SDLP - Newry and Armagh) To ask the Minister of Education if she has the resources to implement the Review of Irish Medium Education and the Early Years Strategy.

05/01/2009

Tá Straitéis na Luathbhlianta á dréachtú sa Roinn faoi láthair agus leagfar amach inti an fhís fhadtéarmach do sheirbhísí luathbhlianta go dtí 2020.

The Early Years Strategy which is currently being drafted by the Department will set out the long term vision for early years services to 2020. The Strategy will ensure that our energies and resources are wisely and coherently applied and funding is more cost effective in targeting priority front-line early years services, however it is too early to determine the resources that will be required to implement the draft proposals. This will be a matter for the action and implementation plan emanating from the Strategy to consider.

The consultation on the Review of Irish Medium Education ended on 10 January 2009. I will need to analyse the outcome of the consultation before announcing any policy decisions as a result of the Review. As with the Early Years Strategy it is therefore too early to determine the resources that will be required to implement the outworking of the Review.

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