THE NEW national pre-school curriculum, revised to take account of the Government's emphasis on three-year-olds, has specifically avoided differentiating between their needs and those of four and five-year-olds.
The Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum has set a tight timetable for consultations on Curriculum Framework for children 3 to 5 because an estimated 40 per cent of three-year-olds will have a nursery place from August (page five). The aim is to have the final version ready by the summer and comments are needed by February 26. All parents of three-year-olds will be offered a place by 2002.
Diane Alexander, the council's development fellow, says that the needs of younger children have to be borne in mind but that it would have been a mistake to describe certain activities or learning outcomes as desirable for three-year-olds and others for four-year-olds. "We have had practitioners asking: 'When am I getting my three-year-old curriculum?' But we think that is not the way forward."
The Scottish Office's earlier paper in 1997, A Curriculum Framework for Children in their Pre-school Year, dealt with age three and a half to five and a half. Ms Alexander said that younger children often need more time. The paper states: "The development and learning needs of younger children can be different in nature from those of children nearing school age."
It adds: "While young children need an environment which balances familiar and predictable routines with challenges and surprises, their confidence in coping with new experiences needs to be supported by adults who offer emotional support, praise and encouragement."
The curriculum framework is being offered to all pre-five providers - from local authority and private nursery schools to playgroups and even childminders. It does not alter advice given two years ago but adds sections on younger children's needs.
It was compiled by the curriculum council after consulting its early education reference group of practitioners among whom Ms Alexander says there was "lively debate", for example, on whether younger and older children should be in the same group or be separated by age.