Early years sector's wishlist for the new minister

Be the first to comment

The reshuffle at the Department for Education (DfE) saw the departure of education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss, promoted to environment secretary, and education secretary Michael Gove replaced with incomer Nicky Morgan.

sam-g

Sam Gyimah has taken on responsibility for childcare and early years

It was also confirmed that Nick Gibb, previously schools minister from 2010-12, would be returning as an education minister. Late on reshuffle day - 15 July - it was revealed that Sam Gyimah, the Conservative MP for East Surrey and a Government whip since 2013, would take on the roles of parliamentary under-secretary of state for education and parliamentary secretary at the Cabinet Office.

However, no news was forthcoming as to who would hold the childcare and early years brief, now that Ms Truss had departed for greener fields.

In the end, it was left to the new junior education minister himself, on 21 July, nearly a week later, to out himself on Twitter as taking on responsibility for childcare and early years.

Some commentators wondered aloud whether the information vacuum meant a downgrading of the importance of early years and childcare.

This was perhaps best summed up by Denise Burke, on Nursery World's LinkedIn group, who wrote, 'The point is it took five days for the clarification and then the announcement came from Gyimah himself. Clearly this Coalition Government thinks EY (early years) and childcare is a high profile area (not).'

Whether it was actually more like six days is perhaps a moot point, for as Nursery World went to press on Thursday, ten days after David Cameron's reshuffle, we were still no further on than Mr Gyimah's tweet.

What will be the actual job title and remit for the new minister in charge of early years and childcare? Will it be 'education and childcare minister', directly replacing his predecessor? How will he split his time between the DfE and the Cabinet Office?

It appears that the early years sector was not the only one in the dark. During education questions on childcare in the House of Commons last Monday, shadow children's minister Lucy Powell asked Ms Morgan, 'May I take it from the fact that she is answering the questions that she is now the childcare minister as well as secretary of state and that despite her expanding ministerial team she has taken on those responsibilities? I am all for flexi-working, but given the challenge our country faces with its childcare system I hope that she can focus full time on this issue.'

Ms Morgan replied that 'as a fellow working mum' Ms Powell would be aware that 'women are excellent at multitasking. Of course, as secretary of state for education, I am interested in childcare and the whole range of issues that my department will be dealing with as well as my brief as minister for women and equalities. I look forward to continuing these debates with the Hon. Lady, as does the minister who will be taking on the specific responsibility for childcare.'

Three wishes for the new minister

We asked you on LinkedIn what your three wishes for the new minister might be. Not surprisingly, most of you found it hard to stick to three, but here are a few of your thoughts:

'To work towards a greater level playing field between State and PVI providers of early years, to bring funding levels up to cover the cost to providers, to take account of what the industry is saying and not just to one or two advisors that are pushing a political agenda, to conduct research into both State and PVI provision to know what actually goes on in both and not "assume" based on regulation and salary levels, and finally to not make any more changes to regulation that the industry rejects.'

Ken McArthur, owner at Polly Anna's Nursery

'To separate regulation from inspection as it is in schools. To bring inspections for early years back in house. To champion early years experts for EYFS, particularly understanding how far ahead early years is in terms of care and our very youngest children.'

Debbie Alcock, managing director and lead trainer at Influential Child Care Training

'To fund the free entitlement at a sustainable level to cover high-quality provision (including grants to enable us to continue to develop our provision). To understand the pedagogical and neuroscience evidence supporting child-centred learning to ensure that we are allowed to "teach" the way young children naturally learn. To show respect to the early years profession and to the state of childhood by depoliticising education.'

Maureen Burgoyne, owner/principal, Montessori school

'Investment in ongoing quality personal and professional development, for educators and providers.'

Laura Henry, managing director, Laura Henry Consultancy

'First, I would like Sam Gyimah to take the time to listen to all of those who have expressed concerns about recent policy and direction - to listen to practitioners who do the hands-on job; to listen to the membership organisations; to listen to experts in the early years field. Then to take time to think about the key messages that all those above are saying -surely it is better to work in partnership than against those who truly have the children's best interests at the heart of everything that they do. And then to take the lead in revoking all that needs revoking and move forward with the early years sector to ensure every child is supported to reach his or her individual potential rather that being forced into a one-size-fits-all box that no one actually fits and the only purpose of which is to try to produce data that can be used to show Government success.'

Penny Webb, owner, Penny's Place

MINISTERIAL RESPONSIBILITIES POST RESHUFFLE, FROM 15 JULY 2014

Enlarge Image nicky-morganNicky Morgan, secretary of state for education and minister for women and equalities (from July 2014).

Overall responsibility for the work of the DfE, including: early years, adoption and child protection, teachers' pay, the school curriculum, school improvement, the establishment of free schools and academies.

As minister for women and equalities, has overall responsibility for policy on women, sexual orientation and transgender equality, cross-government equality strategy and legislation.

Enlarge Image david-lawsDavid Laws, minister of state for schools in the DfE and minister of state in the cabinet office (from September 2012).

Nick Boles, minister of state for skills and equalities jointly for the DfE and BIS (from July 2014). Responsibilities include further education, apprenticeships and equal marriage implementation.

Enlarge Image nick-gibbNick Gibb, brought back into the DfE as minister of state.   

Responsibilities to be confirmed. Previously minister of state for schools from May 2010 to September 2012. Responsibilities to be confirmed.

Edward Timpson, parliamentary under-secretary of state for children and families (from September 2012).

Responsibilities include: adoption, fostering and residential care home reform; child protection; special educational needs and disability; family law and justice; children's and young people's services; school sport; Cafcass; Office of the Children's Commissioner.

Sam Gyimah, parliamentary under-secretary of state, responsibilities include childcare and early years (from July 2014). Full responsibilities to be confirmed. Parliamentary secretary of state for the Cabinet Office.

Previously Government Whip and Lord Commissioner of the HM Treasury from October 2013. Prior to that, he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Cameron from 2012 to 2013.

Lord Nash, parliamentary under-secretary of state for schools, from 2013 (an unpaid role). Responsibilities: academies, free schools, university technical colleges; studio, independent, faith, grammar and boarding schools; school organisation; school governance; DfE review; Education Funding Agency.

Jo Swinson, parliamentary under-secretary of state for women and equalities. In July, this role moved from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the DfE.

In BIS, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for employment relations and consumer affairs.