Commenting on the 'covenant', Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, 'We are pleased to see that the Government has recognised that a diverse early years sector is crucial to the vision it has set out. Part of the Government's aim is to create an entrepreneurial, sustainable and diverse sector, and we hope that open channels of communication will help address some of the existing barriers to doing this.'
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, 'We endorse the increased focus on integrated working as a result of greater partnership between health and early years services.'
4Children chief executive Anne Longfield said the document heralded an important commitment of support for families, after years of lagging behind European countries.
But she warned that services were still vulnerable. 'The Early Intervention Grant must be ring-fenced. The capacity of the voluntary sector must be supported and developed and remuneration through the payment-by-results scheme must truly reward excellent practice.'
A review of the Code of Practice is to take place in the autumn alongside a consultation on introducing eligibility criteria that early education providers must meet in order to receive funding for the free entitlement.
In response to Dame Clare Tickell's recommendations, the Government will also review the ratio of staff to children in reception classes. The outcome of this work will inform consideration of additional guidance or good practice as part of the wider work to support the sector with implementing the revised EYFS.
The proposals are set out in Supporting Families in the Foundation Years, a joint policy statement between the education and health departments, aimed at local authorities and professionals, which sets out reforms for early years education and the workforce.
It is also the Government's official response to Frank Field's poverty review, the two reports by Graham Allen on early intervention, and Clare Tickell's review of the EYFS.
A second document aimed at parents, Families in the Foundation Years: From Pregnancy to Five, sets out the services that should be available for parents and families.
A website for parents, Families in the Foundation Years, has been developed by 4Children, and part-funded by the Government. A new website for professionals is to go live in the autumn.
Children's minister Sarah Teather said using the term the Foundation Years was intended 'to raise the status of this time of life', and its importance in underpinning later achievement and well-being.
POINTS TO PONDER
Supporting Families in the Foundation Years: a guide
Areas highlighted for further discussion include:
- How children's English language competence can most appropriately be assessed via the EYFS Profile
- Eligibility criteria to deliver the free entitlement - defining the criteria that should be used to fund providers delivering the free entitlement
- Expanding access to free early education and childcare: what barriers need to be overcome so all disadvantaged two-year-olds can access a good quality early education place from 2013?; what changes to the Code of Practice would help improve access for children and reduce burdens for local authorities and providers?
- Replacing the requirement for LAs to publish sufficiency assessments every three years with an annual report on how the LA is meeting its childcare sufficiency duty and helping families with disabled children to access childcare
- The next stage of the co-production process to work with LAs and early education and childcare providers to draw up a new covenant
- Parents' involvement in children's centres
- Review at age two to two-and-a-half
- Evidence-based early intervention
- Children's centres' core purpose
- Named social workers
- Family support and outreach
- Qualifications; EYPS standards
- Promoting careers in the Foundation Years
- Information sharing
- Determining suitable measures of child development and school readiness for payment by results in children's centres