The Government should also ensure that settings are given sufficient funding so that they are able to recruit and retain qualified early years teachers in the profession.
The Fair Education Alliance Report Card 2016/17 analyses progress in closing the gap in social mobility between the poorest children and their peers over the past year.
It warns that the poorest children are more than a year behind their better-off peers at GCSE, and raises concerns that underfunding risks widening this gap further.
The development of the childcare and early education workforce should remain ‘a top priority’ it says, adding that the Government should use the recently published Workforce Strategy to reverse the fall in early years teacher recruitment.
The Fair Education Alliance (FEA) is calling on the Government to commit to ensuring that every group setting serving the 30 per cent most deprived areas in England is led by an early years teacher or equivalent by 2020.
It also calls for a commitment from the Government that national spending on schools funding should not decrease in real terms on a per pupil basis.
The recommendations and priorities in the report card were developed and voted on by members of the Fair Education Alliance, a coalition of more than 80 organisations in business, education and the third sector. Members include the universities UCL Institute of Education and Oxford University, teaching unions, PACEY, the National Children’s Bureau, the National Literacy Trust, and the CBI.
On the goal to narrow the primary school literacy and attainment gap there has been some progress since the last report.
The gap at primary school is measured using key stage 2 reading and maths tests taken at age 11.
The gap in primary literacy and numeracy between those at schools serving high and low-income communities has narrowed by 0.2 months in the last year, from 8.4 months to 8.2 months. It has narrowed by 0.6 months since 2014 results in the last report card, and by 1.1 months since 2012.
On early years the report says, ‘Support for the continued development of the childcare and early education workforce should be a top priority.
‘Our long-term ambition is for all group settings to be led by an early years teacher or equivalent, supported by well-qualified staff at all levels.
‘Initially, the Government should commit to working with the sector to ensure that every group setting serving the 30 per cent most deprived areas in England is led by an
early years teacher or equivalent by 2020.
‘The Government should also use the recently published early years workforce strategy as the platform to take steps to reverse the decline in early years teacher recruitment; ensure professional development and progression opportunities are available for everyone working in childcare and early education in England; and renew its ambition to driving improvements in quality through a properly supported and trained early years workforce.
‘Ultimately Government must renew its ambition to drive improvements in quality by providing sufficient funding so settings can recruit and retain their workforce and support staff progression, so qualified staff no longer leave settings so rapidly after qualifying as teachers.’
Liz Bayram, chief executive of PACEY, which advises the FEA on early years policy, said, ‘We know there is a strong evidence that graduate-led early years settings make a huge difference to children’s early attainment. We need focussed Government investment that ensures we stem the decline in the number of early years graduate leaders and encourages more to work in our most deprived areas. This is critical to closing the educational inequalities gap so many children currently experience.’
The FEA believes that England must meet five impact goals by 2022, and the report card reports on the progress on each. The other goals are:
- close the gap in GCSE attainment;
- ensure that young people develop key strengths including character, wellbeing and mental health they need to support high aspirations;
- narrow the participation gap in post-16 education or training and;
- close the graduation gap, with a focus on the most selective universities.
Most of the analysis of progress against the FEA’s impact goals was carried out by the Education Policy Institute (EPI).
Sir Richard Lambert, chair of the FEA, said, ‘Inequality in education is still deeply entrenched in our country and our Report Card is a stark reminder of the scale of the challenge.
'The Government must address the funding crisis in schools – freezing school budgets in a time of rising inflation will only make the journey more difficult. As the UK seeks to reposition itself in the world, it becomes more crucial than ever that our young people are able to fulfil their potential irrespective of their parental background.’