The Early Childhood Forum is the latest organisation to release a wish list ahead of next year’s general election.
Its 12-point charter for early childhood proposes extending the Early Years Foundation Stage from birth to seven. It says there should be a statutory framework for early years from birth extended to the age of seven, that is ‘coherent and appropriately developed and elaborated for different stages’.
The ECF, which unites membership organisations from across the early childhood sector, sees early childhood as a distinct and crucial stage in a child’s life. The charter has been put together with input from the ECF's member organisations and calls on the early years sector to work together on a concensus of aims to guide politicians’ manifestos, using the latest evidence from research and practice.
Members include the main childcare organisations, unions and children's charities.
The ECF's chair Melian Mansfield said, 'We think it's really important that politicians take this charter on board for the benefit of all young children.
'All children need an early years experience before seven. We want to see early years proposals for children up to seven and there should not be formal schooling before then. The evidence shows that children are ready for school at seven, if they have had a high-quality early years experience before.'
The charter states, 'National and international evidence shows the cost benefits to the public purse of investing in early years for longer term social and economic gains. Fair, devolved funding per child in the early years is needed to imporve the health, well-being and educational experiences for all children.
The rights-based organisation says that a focus on summative assessment, testing and league tables means that early years staff have less time to develop relationships with the children in their care.
Current policy and practice prevents practitioners from ensuring a child’s best interests are paramount, it says, in accordance with the Children Act 1989, and giving children the right to family life, privacy and dignity, as set out in the 1998 Human Rights Act, the ECF says.
The organisation champions all young children and their families, promotes inclusion and challenges discrimination and prejudice.
Parents and the home environment are seen as having the strongest influence on children’s development and the ECF wants policies that give parents a real choice about whether to stay at home when their children are young.
A summary of the ECF’s 12-point charter for early childhood:
- Set-up an all-party planning and funding group to develop long-term policy for young children’s education, health and care
- A commitment to multi-professional working across education, health and care
- Consistent well-funded policies so that parents can choose whether to stay at home or work
- Universal access to children’s centres
- Better support for family and child physical and mental health
- Formative assessment
- A statutory early years framework from birth to seven
- Guidance to acknowledge each child’s needs at every stage of development
- A presumption for fully-funded inclusion for disabled children and those with special educational needs and all early years providers to have access to qualified Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators (SENCOs), as in schools
- A commitment to work towards universal high quality integrated education, health and care, with greater rights for young children to play and outdoor experiences
- A specialist qualification route, including graduates, to work with children from birth to seven with a career and pay structure
- Integrated inspections carried out by inspectors who have had experience of working with children from birth to seven.
- Read the charter in full here