In a time of national uncertainty, the General Election delivered a decisive Conservative majority.
What do we know about the Government’s plans for the Early Years sector?
The answer is not very much. Their election manifesto had little detail on what might be in store for our youngest children and their educators. Here’s a quick round up of what we do know:
· The current ‘30 hours policy’ looks here to stay
· There is a commitment to expand ‘wrap-around’ child-care
· This is associated with a £1bn childcare fund to expand both early years provision and school-aged childcare.
· There is a commitment to deliver a National Living Wage of £10.50 per hour by 2024
That last one is relevant because of the effect it is likely to have on the financial situation for many settings.
Not much to inspire an area of education that is the most crucial for children’s learning and development as they grow up, and that is equally central for closing a sadly ever-widening attainment gap. To analyse what is, and more importantly what isn’t, in the manifesto would take all the Coffee Breaks to next Christmas. Instead, here are just a couple of thoughts.
Dr Mary Bousted, joint General Secretary of the National Education Union made a ‘to do’ list for the Prime Minister, one of which was to 'end child poverty' and its overwhelming influence on a child’s experiences and development:
Disgracefully, a third of children live in poverty, and this has a devastating impact on their life chances and their access to education… Ignoring the scale of child poverty and the damage it inflicts isn't an option.
We know that Early Years staff are in the unique position of being able to reach out to and have contact with families. We also know that the greatest factor determining a child’s development is their home environment (EPI, December 2019). So many settings are running workshops for parents, helping families to access support, opening their doors, providing places and people to talk to - and all on a shoestring. Imagine how much more could be done with the right funding and resources.
And what of the feet on the ground – the staff who work tirelessly to deliver high quality early years education? There was nothing in the Conservative Party manifesto to indicate that practitioners will see their roles receive recognition with improved access to associated qualifications, opportunities to develop skills, or better pay. The EPI report states:
We know that a qualified and skilled workforce is a key component of high-quality provision.
At the same time, Purnima Tanuka, Chief Executive of NDNA, says:
We will continue to fight for the investment and policies the sector needs to deliver this.
The key word here is investment. The message to any political party is that this is not just about winning an election. It is not about staying in power for another term. It is about lives – the lives of children, families and educators. And investment is not just about money. It is about sustainability, quality, longevity, expert knowledge, collaboration and understanding.
So, for this final Coffee Break of the year, we hope for the right kind of investment in the sector, it’s staff and children.
With peaceful wishes for Christmas and the New Year from all of us at the FSF.
Edited by Jules