Millennium year 2000 must surely go down as one of the busiest yet in the early years field. From the enthusiastically received, hard-fought for Foundation Stage introduced in September, to the highly controversial consultation on the National Standards for the Regulation of Day Care, Government initiatives have animated, energised and galvanised childcare professionals.
There has been the DfEE's recruitment campaign to woo 83,000 childcarers into the profession by 2003; disquiet about the number of fraudulent claims for the Childcare Tax Credit; and more money and responsibility for the Early Years Development and Childcare Partnerships to deliver assessable childcare.
Not all the action has come from Government. Private nursery chains and stand-alone nurseries continue to grow apace, with chains taking the first steps towards an international market. The National Childminding Association developed the CACHE Level 3 Certificate in Childminding Practice as well as continuing its work setting up networks. And many playgroups are doing innovative work to extend their provision with the help of the Pre-School Learning Alliance.
Here early years professionals give their wish lists for the New Year.
Vice-chair of the National Association of Head Teachers early years committee
The great thing is the fact that the Government has recognised the importance of the Foundation Stage. I wish they would also realise how important this age group really is and put the money into it that they put into secondary. For example, I am getting 9,000 to do work on my school, and the secondary up the road is getting 30,000, yet my school is bigger.
Reception class teacher The thing
I would wish for most is to have the time to talk and listen to children more often, and give them greater opportunities to experiment with language and develop the confidence to converse with adults and children alike. Improving the adult:child ratio in all early years groups would allow this to happen more easily.
Dr Tony Munton
Research officer, Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London
We need to think seriously how we can pay early years people more, and provide them with more and better training, without pricing childcare beyond the reach of most parents.
Nursery owner, Possums, Bracknell, Berkshire
I am resolving to have more time with my family because I'm a workaholic! I am appointing a new staff member in January to help with administration so I can take less paper work home.
Play specialist, Booth Hall Children's Hospital, Manchester
I want to infect people with joy. I think we're often too busy looking to the future and can easily forget what's happening now. I want to help children enjoy the present so they have happy memories of today.
Nursery nurse, spokesperson for support network Men Working in Childcare in Scotland
A survey this year showed that out of 3,250 students of childcare in Scotland's 30-odd colleges, 25 were men. The positive thing from that is that 11 of these men were in the 17-to-19 age group, which means they're going from school into college choosing childcare as their career. Hopefully, in the first official year of the 21st century when we do the survey again, we will find more men choosing it as a career.
Early years consultant, involved in working with schools on the implementation of the Foundation Stage
I hope this is the year people working in early years will get their confidence back. I would like to see them start to assert themselves and feel empowered. I find a lot of people, even though they have this Foundation Stage document, still feel rather powerless.
Nursery manager, Teddies on a Rainbow, New Haw, Surrey
We often talk to the children about sharing and giving and this year we have collected 300 shoeboxes filled with presents and toys for children in Bosnia. Next year we are going to sponsor a child in Bosnia. The children will get directly involved by writing letters and sending drawings and photographs of themselves.
Reception class teacher
We have had training for the Foundation Stage but a lot of the teachers who went on it found it was a case of getting the training books and a lot of information, and then having to pass that on to other staff! What we would really like is more training in planning for early learning goals.
Principal of the Kids' Cookery School in Acton, London
There has been a lot of publicity about diet and obesity this year. What I would like is for the Government to wake up and realise that cooking should be taught at primary level, because catching children at age 11 or 12 is too late - habits are already formed. The Government should realise that cooking is a social skill and a fine motor skill, and to take it away from our children is as outrageous as taking away, say, sport. Children at our after-school club might arrive not even knowing how to set a table, but it is amazing how much they learn without knowing they are learning - they are just having fun.
Teacher manager, Swans and Cygnets Nurseries, Reading, Berkshire
I hope that we can maintain or improve the nursery standards that we have, and not drop standards as the Government appears to want.
Registered nursery inspector and early years consultant
My wish is that, through the increasing support of the early years partnerships, greater links will be forged among childminders, playgroups, private nurseries and nursery classes and schools. I hope the newfound confidence as well as the boundless energy of the staff and children I have encountered within these groups in the past year can be developed to generate a valuable support network, so that all practitioners will be able to work closely together throughout the Foundation Stage.
Chair, Sheffield Children's Centre
Our resolution would have to be to make sure that by the end of 2001 our new children's centre building is nearly completed, if not finished.
Childminder, Bodmin, Cornwall
I am disappointed that the Government hasn't listened to our campaign against smoking and smacking and that they haven't recognised childminders as a professional body. I love my job and find it rewarding and satisfying but I want to be recognised as being part of a professional body, even though I work from my own home.
Professional officer, Professional Association of Nursery Nurses
Our New Year's resolution must be to continue to strive for a childcare profession that is sound, safe, experienced, highly professional and well regulated. It's only by achieving these goals that we can start to build a service where children will be cared for at a high standard and free from abuse.
Deputy minister for education, Europe and external affairs, Scotland
We want to continue the big expansion of nursery and pre-school provision in Scotland. Expansion alone, though, is not enough. We have to make certain that standards remain high, and improve. That means investing in better buildings and better equipment. But most of all it means investing in better training and support for teachers, nursery nurses and everyone else involved.
Owner, Little Green Man Nursery, Leytonstone, east London
I have resolved to look after the nursery staff by introducing a bonus pay scheme in January, which will greatly reward those who are loyal, dependable and reliable. NW