Interview - Samantha Pancheri, Green Party schools spokesperson

Monday, February 23, 2015

What are the Green Party's key early years policies?

We seek to ensure that access to high-quality, child-focused learning environments are available to all children, but that this is centred around the widely varied needs of children to develop at their own pace and not simply a precursor to school or a method of compelling parents back into paid employment.

We will push back school starting-age to seven, and build up a free, universal voluntary childcare and early education service for children younger than this. We wish to create structures that support and encourage parents' involvement and nurture in these formative years, as well as providing consistency and continuity for staff and children.

Why do you support a later school starting age of seven?

The Green Party believes that the early years is a unique educational stage in its own right and not just a preparation for school. We recognise that in other European countries, formal academic learning does not begin until a year later than children in England currently start, and yet their educational outcomes are significantly improved.

Would you increase the 15-hour free entitlement for three- and four-year-olds? What about funded places for disadvantaged twos?

In the long term we will move towards a system of free, voluntary universal childcare and early years education for all children from birth until they begin school. This will ensure inclusive access to childcare and support for all families.

What are your plans for Sure Start Children's Centres?

The Green Party hugely values the role of Sure Start centres in the lives of families, and will build on this to create a universal childcare and early education service, including children’s centres. That’s why we’re extremely proud to report that in Brighton, the Green-controlled council have been able to keep all the Sure Start centres open, with no loss of services, despite government cuts to the council’s budget.

What are your thoughts on assessment? What would you do about the Reception baseline and the Year 1 phonics test?

Rigorous, formal assessment has been shown to be a poor reflection of children's ability and progression. It also creates unnecessary stress, especially for very young children. We will abolish SATs and the Year 1 phonics test, and move towards a continuous, cumulative system of assessment that is unobtrusive for children and provides a more comprehensive picture.

Why would you abolish Ofsted, and what would you replace it with?

We believe that schools should be evaluated by parents, teachers and the local community, and that the state should provide co-operative support for improvements where necessary. We would replace Ofsted with a National Council of Educational Excellence, whose role would be to work in collaboration with local authorities to provide support to schools and teachers to deliver high-quality education.

What are your views on free schools and academies?

We believe that schools should be run with the best interests of children at heart, with a fully inclusive admissions process, and democratically accountable to parents. Free Schools and Academies undermine this and have been exposed as not improving educational outcomes for children. In light of this, we will bring them under local authority control. We strongly believe that market competition has no place in our schools, and that no school should be run for profit. 

Would Early Years Teachers (EYTs) have qualified teacher status? i.e the same pay and conditions as qualified teachers.

While the Green Party's promotes a move away from formal academic learning for under 7s, we value the requirement for those working with very young children to be well trained, and to have this reflected in their professional status, pay and working conditions.

Having qualified teachers in early years, trained in child development and pedagogy, is essential to promote a suitable 'informal' start to education. Good teachers in early years are a proven necessity in supporting children's play and early learning - helping to improve the quality of experience for children, resisting the damaging impacts of "schoolification".

Currently, Early Years Teachers do not have qualified teacher status, and the use of the word "teacher" is misleading in many respects. This is essentially a downgrading of the early years as well as of teachers working in that specialism. This is an outrage - and shows a total lack of awareness and understanding about the early years.

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