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Global early years following for a small country with big ambitions

Recent initiatives in early years education could lead to the "Scottish approach" becoming an example to the rest of the world. At an early years forum in Glasgow organised by Learning and Teaching Scotland, Diane Alexander, LTS development fellow, said that while Scotland does not offer a model to be replicated, it shows what a small country can achieve when all the stakeholders pull together.

An LT Scotland early years website launched at the forum not only benefits Scottish practitioners, it permits other countries to see what is going on here. Ms Alexander said: "We are a small country with big ambitions, where ongoing professional growth and development are not new but are part of day-to-day practice and where challenging old assumptions and provoking new ideas and thinking are not only welcomed but encouraged. A small country where starting with the child and putting the child at the centre is not rhetoric but reality."

Those using support materials for the Scottish 3-5curriculum include Australia, Northern Ireland and parts of South America.

Learning and Teaching Scotland has also launched additions to its early education support publications. Supporting Development and Learning and Working with Parents bring the total to 11 in three years. Three more are due by the summer.

Welcoming the LTS initiatives, Linda Gregson, from the Executive's early education and childcare division, stressed the need for quality throughout the early years. "Resources themselves will not deliver the Executive's promises. The expansion of the early education and childcare sector must go hand in hand with quality provision - and you can be assured that we will continue to strive to provide th infrastructure which supports the improvement of quality provision on the ground."

She said that a key element was the creation of a skilled workforce. The National Grid for Learning and the LTS website would contribute to continuing professional development, but should go further. "If the NGFL is to deliver its key aims of raising standards, assisting learners to achieve more and creating a highly ICT literate workforce suitable for developing a knowledge economy and extending access and participation, it will need to reckon with a wider audience than the teachers on which it has focused so far."

John Dickie of the National Grid team said that many aspects of the 3-5 curriculum could be delivered and enhanced using computers, digital cameras, activity centres and scanners.

ICT could play a vital role in providing inclusion and access for disabled children by allowing them to "extend their reach into the world", through devices such as switches, touch screens and keyboard overlays.

Catherine Cameron, headteacher of Renton nursery in West Dunbartonshire, thought the website would help parents as well as teachers. "It would also be helpful in finding out what conferences are coming up and keeping in touch with the latest developments. The e-mail site could be useful in contacting other early years workers."

Moira Frizzell, from the department of childcare and community studies at Stevenson College in Edinburgh, saw marketing opportunities. "It will give practitioners in the field the chance to access information about courses, particularly for continuing professional development, which we are trying to promote for all people in the local education authorities."

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