Early years sector’s hopes, fears and dreams for the year ahead

Catherine Gaunt
Monday, January 9, 2017

Early years professionals, organisations and leading figures share their new year wishes

clare-crowtherClare Crowther, head of nursery, Atelier Nursery Bath; winner, Nursery World's Nursery of the Year 2016

‘2017 is without doubt going to bring significant changes both to the sector, as we see the 30 hours implemented and what funding supports this, and as a provider as we expand our services and open our second setting.

‘I hope for effective relationships with the local authorities I work alongside. With historical inconsistencies surrounding the administration of funded hours, I hope the new model agreement will enable providers to work transparently with their LAs and unnecessary barriers will be removed from the Local Code of Practice.

‘I dream for all children to have access to the highest quality of education and care, and for parents and carers to have reliable, flexible provision. As a provider I want to be adequately supported to deliver all of this in a way that still enables me to be sustainable, and reinvest in my business with the recognition that more funding is not the same as enough funding.

‘My fear is that the high-risk approach of doubling the entitlement for threes and fours, at the same time as introducing the funding formula, will end our ability to offer high-quality, progressive and “intelligent” childcare and education. Instead, the Government funding models will make providers move to maximum ratios, and become more reliant on agency and temporary staff. This will lead to a decline in quality, which could see vulnerable children displaced, and the closure of settings.’

eva-lloydwcropEva Lloyd, professor of early childhood, University of East London

‘In a hopeful development, many childminders have responded positively to the opportunities provided by the 30 hours extension, according to PACEY research. How wonderful if this often under-rated provision were to benefit from the Early Years National Funding Formula. Childminders offering a blended service in partnership with nursery classes or day nurseries may be the right solution for many two-, three- and four-year-olds.

‘The early years sector’s tradition of celebrating cultural, ethnic and social diversity is at risk from economic, political and ideological pressures. May practitioners continue to identify, understand and break down barriers to young children’s participation and belonging, and transmit to the children in their care the human values of equality, inclusivity, respect and mutual understanding.

‘And supporting access for children in temporary accommodation should become a sector priority, as homelessness rises dramatically.’

Carol Hull, service manager at Action for Children’s Folkestone Early Years Centre

‘We hope to offer the relevant services to all families so that parents feel able to support their children’s learning and development, which will have an effect on their own health and well-being.

‘We dream of having an everlasting “money pot” to help us maintain an appropriate staffing structure and achieve the hopes and aspirations of our families. We fear that budget cuts will continue and the Government will not value the effectiveness of children’s centres.’

patricia-mucaveleDr Patricia Mucavele, head of nutrition, Children’s Food Trust

‘I hope settings get the support they need to deliver good food, particularly as more children spend more time in childcare. We also want to see progress on the promise in the child obesity action plan to reduce sugar in toddler food ranges. My dream? That every toddler gets the chance to learn to cook – it’s invaluable for their learning about eating well.

‘My fear is that the findings of our research on the impact of 30 hours for food will be borne out: more settings relying on less healthy food sent from home when funding won’t stretch.’

Peter Wanless, CEO, NSPCC

‘The NSPCC will continue its fight for every childhood in 2017 and beyond. More and more survivors of abuse are discovering that it’s never too late to come forward.

‘We hope that those who have suffered at the hands of another find the courage to approach us so that we can help them in their recovery.

‘The overall well-being of young people is fundamental to the work we do, and the NSPCC will remain focused on its goal of making five million children safer by 2021.’

rebecca-lihouRebecca Lihou, Nursery World’s Childminder of the Year 2016

‘2017 brings new challenge for us all, and each creates opportunity. I hope for the opportunity for all to inspire or be inspired, to support or be supported through helping to strengthen collaboration and shared understanding between all early years professionals and partners.

‘This year our families will face some challenges, some great and some small, but all very important. I hope to continue to be there, listen, learn and create opportunities for families to come together and support each other. I hope to be flexible, understanding and continue to nurture partnerships to support the children we care for.

‘I will dream to remove more barriers to create opportunities for more individuals, apprentices and graduates to join or continue their rewarding career in the early years sector. I hope for 2017 to be a year of a little less fear and a little more happiness for the talented individuals who make our workforce. I will be continuing to rise to the challenge as best I can to do my part to build a happy and healthy future for every child.’

natalie-pereraNatalie Perera, executive director and head of research, Education Policy Institute

‘In 2016, we saw the Government begin to deliver on its commitments to legislate for and pilot 30 hours of free childcare for working parents and to introduce a new Early Years National Funding Formula. Both of these flagship policies will be implemented in 2017. The free 30 hours offer will be rolled out nationally in September, following pilots in eight local authorities, and the new funding formula will be introduced in April this year.

‘Both policies have the potential to destabilise the sector, if implemented hurriedly and without adequate funding. I will be particularly interested in the evaluation of the pilot areas, when it is published in July. As my organisation found last year, the policy risks subsidising wealthier families while jeopardising quality in settings serving disadvantaged children. Such consequences, if realised, must be unintended given the Government’s pledge to improve social mobility.’

purnima-headshotPurnima Tanuku, chief executive, National Day Nurseries Association

‘In 2017, NDNA will continue to tell the Government to put in more money for 30 hours or allow nurseries to treat the funding as a subsidy with compulsory additional charges to parents.

‘We made progress in 2016 with several recommendations taken up, but the sector has a long way to go to get what it wants and needs.

‘2017 will see NDNA in robust, professional dialogue with key politicians and policy-makers, battling every step to make 30 hours viable for all providers.

‘For many nurseries, a better deal is needed before they can confidently say, “Yes, I’m in!”’

liz-bayram-jce-paceyLiz Bayram, chief executive, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years

‘At PACEY we believe this year brings the promise of a childminding revival. Our focus will be helping childminders to see the opportunity the extended entitlement presents for many of them and to provide the support they need to rise to the challenge.

‘LAs also need to play their part and promote home-based childcare so parents realise they can use their funded hours with a registered childminder. There will be challenges for childminders and other providers along the way, and PACEY will be working to find solutions and calling for further change as we roll out this support for working families.’

neil-leitch-w-copyNeil Leitch, chief executive, Pre-school Learning Alliance

‘We have three big hopes for this year. First, that the Government addresses the GCSE requirements issue and publishes the long-awaited Workforce Strategy as a matter of urgency. Removing this barrier to staff recruitment is a vital step.

‘Secondly, we hope that the Government will make clear its plans for supporting disadvantaged families, especially in light of the reported scrapping of the Life Chances strategy.

‘Lastly, and most importantly, we hope the sector’s chronic funding problems will finally be addressed. At the end of last year, we launched a Fair Future Funding campaign, calling on Government to ensure early years funding matches delivery costs both now and in the future. Whether or not the Government does so could mean the difference between survival and closure for some settings, and so we will continue to campaign and lobby the Government on this issue.’

Jean Cawood-Edwards, chief executive, Early Years Scotland

‘EYS hope: we hope policy-makers and funders show a commitment to tackling the attainment gap at the very start of children’s lives, so we can prevent it from opening up in the first place and children can start school on an equal footing.

‘EYS dream: we know high-quality provision needs a high-quality workforce. Our dream is that early learning and childcare becomes a much sought-after career path, with good, comparable pay and conditions across all providers.

‘EYS fear: we fear the rich diversity of provision in Scotland could be lost due to a lack of sufficient funding for voluntary and private providers when the expansion is implemented.’

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