The taskforce, which will consult with early years education and childcare experts, will be chaired by Liz Snape, the Deputy General Secretary of Unison, one of the UKs largest trade unions.
In her first major speech since her appointment in the role of shadow education secretary in July, Ms Rayner clearly set out Labour’s aims to ‘provide the care and support for every child to fulfil their potential, and to help parents back to work.’
She emphasised the importance of universal access to affordable, high-quality childcare and early years learning, as a major driver of social mobility.
‘Getting it right will improve the life chances of countless children across the country. That must be our mission.’
Drawing on her own experiences as a teenage mother, Ms Rayner also criticised the closure of over 800 Sure Start centres across the country since 2010, saying the Conservatives were ‘shutting the door in the faces of our children and their parents’.
‘I left school at 16, pregnant, with no qualifications. Some may argue I was not a great role model for today’s young people. The direction of my life was set but something happened.’
‘Labour’s Sure Start centres gave me and my friends, and our children, the help and support we needed to grow and develop. They changed the lives of three million children and their parents.’
‘Labour will never turn our backs on our children and their families; never put political dogma before the ambition of every parent to do the very best for their child. Because excellent childcare changes lives for the better.’
In response to today’s announcement, Megan Jarvie, head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Family and Childcare Trust, said, ‘The Family and Childcare Trust welcomes all initiatives that promote the role that high quality childcare plays in changing the lives of children and parents.’
‘Childcare enables parents to work and evidence shows that only high quality childcare has a positive effect on children’s outcomes.’
Ms Jarvie added, ‘The current Government's record in investment recognises the importance of high quality childcare. However, too many families struggle to access childcare that boosts children's outcomes and fits with parents’ working hours and pay packets.
‘Childcare is part of our infrastructure: we need to make sure it works for children, parents, and society as a whole.’
Kate Fitch, head of public policy for national disability charity, Sense, said, 'We welcome the news that the Labour Party intends to set up a taskforce specifically looking at access to childcare and early years provision, as it signals a recognition of the important role that these factors play in ensuring that children have the best start in life.
'Access to good quality early education plays a vital role in the development of children with complex needs; however as our Play Inquiry earlier this year revealed, all too often disabled children are missing out on the opportunities they need due to insufficient funding or a lack of appropriate settings.'
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'We welcome the announcement of Labour's new childcare and early years taskforce. At a time of such significant change for the sector, a widening of the debate around early education, and the policies needed to sustain quality provision, can only be a positive thing.
'In the run-up to the last election, political parties on all sides made promises to parents on childcare that weren't necessarily feasible, sustainable or, crucially, in the best interests of children. This approach must change. We hope that the new taskforce will work with the sector to ensure that any early years policies developed by Labour are directly informed by those working on the frontline, and have the needs of the child at their core.'
The announcement of this new taskforce coincides with Labour’s strong offensive on education amid controversial plans by the Conservatives to expand grammar schools and introduce selection by ability in state schools.