What would make early years better in 2020?

Entering a new decade and with a new Government in place, early years campaigners, professionals and training organisations share their wishes for the year ahead.

  • Wishes include support for Children’s Centres
  • Climate awareness and qualifications also cited

Helen Clark
, lead author for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on A Fit and Healthy Childhood and spokesperson for the Child Mental Health Charter campaign ‘Despite manifesto “children-friendly” policies, “the Brexit Election” drowned out just about everything else. So, for a brighter 2020, I’d like to see:

“preparation for parenthood” becoming part of the National Curriculum

‘no more Children’s Centre closures and a national network of new ones set up

‘every woman being enabled to breastfeed at work, plus all women who choose to bottle-feed receiving help from midwives and ongoing support from health visitors

‘an expansion of community play opportunities, with play being embedded in the school curriculum

‘a new Mental Health Act with children’s needs at its heart

‘the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child being incorporated into English law.’


Paula Lochrie, early years lead officer for vulnerable learners and school readiness at Oxfordshire County Council

‘My hopes for 2020 are that all children and young people have the opportunity to be well educated and grow up to lead successful, happy, healthy and safe lives.

‘I would like to see more practitioners understanding that “school readiness” is an overarching term and that every child deserves an equal opportunity to lead a healthy and fulfilling life with the right kind of early intervention.

‘I hope it continues to be recognised that school readiness begins at birth and that the first 1,001 days are critical. Partnership working is, therefore, crucial if we are to have a meaningful impact on our children’s school readiness.

‘I hope that play continues to be on the agenda to help children develop language skills, their emotions and creativity, social and intellectual skills.

‘Finally, I hope early years funding improves, as the role that adults have is crucial to provide time and space and appropriate resources, and so create safe but challenging environments that support and extend learning and development.’


Louise Lucas, environmentalist and director of Scrap Creative Reuse in Leeds

‘My hope for 2020 is that the British Government adopts more responsible and accountable approaches to climate change.

‘Closer to home, I hope all education settings take the lead in adopting eco-friendly policies, empowering students to become champions of our sustainable future through conversation and engagement in socially responsible learning.

‘Schools and nurseries must examine their own carbon footprint, using only sustainable resources and ensuring their suppliers can demonstrate a positive environmental impact. Such actions will filter through to our children and help them to understand the importance of these issues.

‘As part of Reuseful UK, scrapstores just like us up and down the country are here to help education settings take those first steps towards taking responsibility for their own environmental sustainability.’


Alka Dass, co-founder of National Save Our Children’s Centres campaign

‘My hope in 2020 is for change. It’s been a very difficult few years for Children’s Centres; we have lost over 1,000 nationally and had significant cuts to funding.

‘My hope is that the Government recognises the importance of Children’s Centres and the early intervention and preventative support they provide. Family centres or hubs have replaced many Children’s Centres and, unfortunately, they provide access and support for only those considered as vulnerable. By changing the original universal model, we exclude some people, which can isolate families and lead to further issues requiring crisis management. Children’s Centres provide an equal and inclusive platform for all that attend and a safe space for many families.

‘Change is needed. I hope we can gain more funding from central Government and that money is then ringfenced, so that local authorities cannot use budgets for other services. We need our children’s futures invested in and I hope we see that.’


eremy Davies, head of communications at the Fatherhood Institute, which is leading the Men In The Early Years campaign

‘My hope is that in 2020, more early years providers will make the connection between building a confidently gender-diverse workforce and giving children the best possible gender-sensitive early care and education. For me, it’s obvious that the two go hand in hand, and I’m heartened by growing numbers of people seeming to feel the same.

‘My dream is that we will find the funding we need to continue and expand the MITEY network and campaign from April onwards. We’ve achieved a lot this year, but there’s so much further to travel.’


Sophie Haylock, HR director of the Toddletown nursery group and owner of Early Years HR

‘As an HR professional in the early years, a common and infuriating problem is that of qualifications. Most weeks I speak to candidates who would make wonderful early years practitioners, who have completed a training course, even a degree, in good faith, and committed time and financial resources only to find out that their qualification is not “full and relevant”, meaning they can only apply for unqualified roles, limiting their earnings and future career prospects. We are failing these individuals. My hope is that we see two changes:

‘All early childhood studies or related degrees to include a mandatory element of assessed performance in an early years setting, so that they can be classed as “full and relevant” qualifications, and so increase the number of qualified staff and alleviate some of the pressure of the recruitment crisis.

‘Every course related to early years to have a certification that clearly and explicitly says whether the course is “full and relevant” or not.’


Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP)

‘My wish is that the new Government provides the necessary support for the childcare sector and training providers to work together to enable settings to have more qualified staff.

‘As well as encouraging the development of Early Years Practitioner (EYP) diplomas up to and including Level 6, we want to see the Government approval process move quickly on the new Level 2 standard for an EYP apprenticeship, which will allow options for different career paths.

‘The dream is that once the new apprenticeships for Levels 2 and 5 are added to the Level 3 programme, with all funded at a viable rate, ministers will have rectified the major shortfall in available apprenticeship funding for the vast majority of settings which don’t pay the apprenticeship levy.’

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