Rumbold (1990)

1990 Rumbold Report (text)

The Rumbold Report (1990)
Starting with Quality

The Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Quality of the Educational Experience offered to 3 and 4 year olds, chaired by Mrs Angela Rumbold CBE MP

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1990
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Background notes

Historical context

In the spring of 1989 education secretary Kenneth Baker asked Angela Rumbold (pictured), then a minister in the DES, to chair a Committee of Inquiry on 'the quality of the educational experience offered to 3 and 4 year olds'.

Rumbold (1932-2010) began her political career in 1974 as a local councillor in Kingston. She became an MP in 1982 and was a minister from 1985 to 1992. She held senior posts in Conservative Central Office and on a wide range of public bodies, but was never invited to join the cabinet, perhaps because she was too outspoken: she once described herself as 'rather rightwing and truculent' (The Guardian 21 June 2010).

John MacGregor became education secretary in July 1989, so it was to him that the ten members of the committee submitted their report on 27 September 1990.

In the British education system, the term 'early years' is generally taken to mean the age range 3 to 7 or 8, embracing both nursery and early primary education. This report deals with the nursery element of early years provision.

Other documents dealing with early years education include:

1908 Acland Report School Attendance of Children Below the Age of Five
1933 Hadow Report Infant and Nursery Schools
1967 Plowden Report Children and their Primary Schools (chapters 9 and 10)
1982 HMI Survey Education 5 to 9
2011 Tickell Report The Early Years: Foundations for life, health and learning
2017 Ofsted Bold beginnings: report on the Reception curriculum in a sample of good and outstanding schools.

Summary of the report's main recommendations

Recommendations are printed in italics throughout the report. They include:

  • nursery provision needs to be expanded to meet the demand;
  • all who work with young children should recognise the importance of their educational role;
  • the quality of a good deal of existing provision needs to be raised;
  • the collection of national statistics should be improved;
  • curriculum planners must ensure that no children are denied opportunities on account of their race, sex, social background or special needs;
  • educators should guard against over-concentration on formal teaching and the attainment of a specific set of targets;
  • curriculum planning for the under fives should be based on the principle that the process of education is as important as its content;
  • buildings and equipment must be accessible, comprehensible, stimulating, and in satisfactory condition;
  • adult/child ratios should be more consistent;
  • children must be given opportunities for playing and talking, and adults with responsibilities for young children must recognise that play is a good deal more than recreation;
  • educators must build into the planning cycle a broad review of the effectiveness and value of the provision they make;
  • self-appraisal by the individual educator, with the aim of enhancing confidence and professionalism, lies at the heart of efforts to improve quality;
  • the vital role of parents in their children's learning needs to be fully recognised and acknowledged by parents and teachers;
  • there should be closer links between day nurseries and schools;
  • where possible workplace nurseries should be located within the community and operated in conjunction with the local authority;
  • teachers must not lose sight of the child's all-round development in pursuit of detailed information about what children know and can do in the subjects of the curriculum;
  • further research should be undertaken on the recording and reporting of children's progress;
  • regular monitoring and evaluation of the curriculum is essential to the achievement of high standards;
  • greater clarity and coherence is needed across the field of courses and qualifications for workers with under fives;
  • all students training to teach in primary schools should spend some time with children under five;
  • while diversity of provision can be healthy, there must be better local co-ordination of services, with central government setting a national framework within which local development could take place.

The report online

The full text of the report (including the Annexes) is presented in a single web page.

The report was divided into two parts. The text of Part One was printed in two columns to a page; in Part Two, three columns. I have not reproduced this arrangement here.

Two methods of highlighting were used in the printed text: a medium bold type and a heavy bold type. I have reproduced the former as italics and the latter as bold type.

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 10 February 2008; they were revised on 19 November 2012.