It has been an excellent event with experts from all over the EU and beyond. I was pleased today to be part of a panel discussion picking up on the main themes of the last day and a half. My fellow panellists were Peter Moss of the Thomas Coram Research Institute in London who did an excellent job chairing the panel, Bernard Rorke from the Open Society Institute which works with the Roma community in Europe, Benoit Parmentier of Europe de LEnfance in Belgium, Marta Korintus from the Hungarian National Institute for Family and Social Policy and Kari Jacobsen, from Norway, not an EU member, who is the former Head of the OECD Early Childhood Education and Care Network.
I talked about the need to ensure adequate funding for ECEC since all the academic theories and exchanges of good practice will not get us anywhere unless there is enough money to improve and expand ECEC services. It is my firm view that ECEC should be universal, and we have a long way to go in Britain to achieve that. I also referred the conference to my Report to the European Parliament on early years education and care which will go to the plenary in either April or May.
Yesterday I was privileged to visit a literacy project for 10 and 11 year olds with Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, pictured, after she had opened the conference in the morning. The project was not quite what we in the UK expect when we talk about literacy, being bilingual in Hungarian and English. The children all had an excellent grasp of English and were completely fluent. This only serves to demonstrate that young children can become proficient in a foreign languauge if taught well.
I think it probably helped that the project was based in largest public library in Budapest, a beautiful 19th century building housing more than 800,000 books. The old building theme continued yesterday evening when the conference was invited to the Museum of Hungarian Folk Art, another very grand building of a similar age.
My thanks to the Hungarian Presidency and everyone who organised this conference which has proved a very worthwhile event. It is very good to see the Presidency give priority to ECEC and also to see the Commission taking it up by producing a Communication which has just been published. My Report provides the third part of the initiative and it is heartening indeed to see all three European Institutions working together in such a positive way.