General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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The Importance Of Early Years Educational Provision


eGov Monitor

Mr Goudie was speaking as the Education and Training Inspectorate published its latest report – ‘An Evaluation of the Quality of Educational Provision in Nursery Units in Primary Schools 2007–2009’.

He said: “There is a growing body of research, at international level, which emphasises the importance of early years. The right interventions early in life can help to reduce barriers to learning that may, otherwise, reduce children’s longer term chances of success.

“Prior to the launch of the Pre-School Expansion Programme by the Department of Education in 1998, there were just over 11,000 children in funded pre-school education in Northern Ireland. As a result of the Programme that number has now risen to over 21,000 children.”

This report focuses on the quality of pre-school provision in one particular aspect of the overall pre-school sector, that of the nursery units within primary schools. There are currently 209 nursery units within primary schools or preparatory departments in NI. Over the past five years the number of children enrolled in nursery units has remained relatively steady at around 38% of all enrolments in the pre-school sector.

Speaking about the published report, Mr Goudie said: “During the two years covered by this report we carried out just over 70 inspection visits to nursery schools. During the inspections, the inspectors observed the organised sessions, held discussions with the school principal and the teacher in charge of the nursery unit and inspected the arrangements for pastoral care and child protection. The inspectors also scrutinised the teachers’ planning, assessment and observation records, the school development plan (SDP) and any other relevant documentation, provided by the units.

“Our findings show that most of the children in nursery units experienced a good, positive pre-school education. Around 74% of the nursery units provided good or better experiences that are crucial to their future learning and wellbeing. In nearly all of the nursery units (93%) the staff implemented appropriate procedures for child protection that reflected Department of Education policy. The achievements and standards of the children were consistently good or better in 78% of units, while the overall provision for learning was found to be good or better in 75% of the units.

“As with all learning environments, leadership is a key element and in 94% of nursery units the quality of the leadership provided by the principal of the primary school was satisfactory or better.”

Mr Goudie concluded: “Overall, this report shows not only the valuable contribution made to early years provision by nursery units but the value they add to the lives of young children. The report gives the opportunity for the sector to monitor, evaluate and improve practice to ensure that the quality of the pre-school education provided for our youngest children is of the highest possible standard.”


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