Policy-UK’s recent forum on ‘Early Years and the Foundation Stage – Education, intervention and the impact on life chances’ followed the publication of the joint inquiry into Foundation years and the Government’s life chances strategy.

Politically neutral, Policy-UK provided a wide range of speakers for open dialogue at this event.

With the Government set to double provision of free childcare places for working parents from 15 hours to 30 hours per week, this forum looked at what this will mean in reality for the teams working with families and young children.

Some of the concerns were that this would mean that the more deprived families would be pushed out as the nursery settings filled the places with the funded children of working parents.

Concerns were also raised about recruitment of enough well qualified people to support these places. Would the settings be able to support and train existing staff?

There was a sense of frustration that decisions were often made by politicians with short term vision, despite the Nutbrown review, Tickell and CREC report clearly showing that access to high quality childcare provision significantly improved life chances.

It was pointed out that while our early relationships shape our brains and our ability to thrive, there are still glaring gaps in the strategy.

It was also argued that having a graduate leader in place with good leadership skills made a difference and yet the salary levels of such workers did not match those of teachers with a similar qualification.

In addition to this, although many workers who go into childcare might not be high academic achievers, they may still have relevant and valuable skills to offer, but may not get trained in some of the key areas of attachment, nutrition and language and communication. These areas have been highlighted as having the biggest impact on the outcomes of our children.

So with cuts in mainstream funding, how are our early years settings going to ensure that their workforce is trained to provide high quality provision?

It was argued that the answer sits with a good graduate leadership, but this needs to be bolstered by the whole team understanding the basic principles so that they can be led. In business we know that getting everyone on the same page and having good leadership delivers results. Early years is no different.

The academic theory knowledge required to make this happen can be made accessible to the wider team and parents to get a really streamlined and consistent approach.


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