Sector gives cautious welcome to Labour childcare pledges

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We round up reaction from providers, sector organisations and others to Labour's childcare plans


Jeremy Corbyn visiting the Lighthouse Project during the party's conference in Liverpool last week, where he announced plans for 'a radical transformation of childcare'

  • Labour’s promises higher funding, better pay and a move towards a graduate-led workforce
  • Plans include a rise in provider funding to £7.35 an hour and introduction of a national pay scale
  • Funding is key to success


Purnima Tanuku, chief executive, National Day Nurseries Association

‘It is really positive to see the Labour Party engaging with the challenges of delivering high-quality, affordable childcare – placing the child’s learning and well-being at the centre of its approach.

‘Jeremy Corbyn has recognised what many in the sector have been saying about the current system – that it is not free for either parents nor providers.

‘NDNA welcomes the plans to adopt our recommendation for a Childcare Passport, which would streamline all childcare support into one online account for each child.

‘The correct level of funding for all these providers must be there from day one for this ambitious scheme to work.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive, Pre-school Learning Alliance

‘The direction of these proposals is the right one – additional support for parents, a greater emphasis on supporting and valuing the workforce, and a focus on raising and maintaining quality across the sector.

‘But, as always, the devil is in the detail and we would need to see a lot more detail on how these proposals have been individually costed.’

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary, National Education Union

‘We welcome these proposals wholeheartedly. Universal free high-quality childcare is what a government which cares for children should be doing.

‘Labour’s proposals promise not only to increase the quantity of provision but also its quality. Recruiting early years workers in large numbers, and improving and extending their education, will be challenging, but they are the right moves.

‘Labour’s proposals are ambitious and necessary. Implementing them will require large-scale funding over a long period.’

Paul Whiteman, general secretary, school leaders' union NAHT

‘Early years is the most crucial phase of education. We welcome Labour’s plans to extend the 30 hours free childcare promise to all children from two years old. Our members passed a motion asking for exactly this at NAHT’s Annual Conference earlier this year, so we know it will be welcomed by school leaders.

‘The crucial thing to ensure is that sufficient funding is allocated to the scheme. At the moment the government’s funding to early years providers for the 30 free hours falls short.

‘School leaders would be very keen to make an extended childcare pledge work, but warn that it is simply unsustainable without sufficient investment from the Government.’

Josh Hardie, deputy director-general, CBI

‘Childcare costs can be a blight on prosperity and diversity, often limiting the scope of parents returning to the workplace, quashing the ambitions and talent of too many young people.

‘The challenge will be to find ways to fund affordable childcare sustainably and sensibly.

‘The prize will be significant for working families across the UK and can play a serious role in reducing the gender pay gap.’

Liz Bayram, chief executive, Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years

‘We especially welcome the commitments concerning the early years workforce. We know from research around the globe that a graduate workforce is key to ensuring high-quality outcomes for children, and for providing opportunities for all practitioners to develop their skills and progress their careers. It is also good news to see proposals to increase the number of Level 3- and Level 4-qualified staff.

‘However, in order for Labour’s proposals to be successful, low funding for the childcare entitlements and low pay will need to be addressed immediately, or the childcare infrastructure in England will struggle to cope, and the plan to recruit 150,000 more practitioners will not be realised.’

Deborah Lawson, general secretary, Voice

‘We welcome Mr Corbyn’s plans to “shift to a graduate-led workforce”, to “improve the pay and skill levels of childcare staff” and ‘“drive up standards”, and for staff to be qualified to or working towards Level 3.

‘However, urgent action is needed to prevent the loss of current early years graduates before the workforce can be graduate-led.

‘Early Years Teachers do not earn the same salary or have the same recognition as teachers with Qualified Teacher Status, even though they receive training of a comparable rigour, and are delivering the same curriculum. This situation must end. Until this inequality is resolved, most EYTs will view primary teaching as the only way they can secure a reasonable salary and future career progression.’

Jon Richards, head of education, Unison

‘Young families across the country are struggling because childcare costs are such a massive drain on their finances. Free or capped childcare costs would make a huge difference to their lives. But childcare can’t be provided on the cheap, and Labour recognises this.

‘Paying childcare staff a decent wage and improving their skills will help ensure that the profession, previously much undervalued, gets the recognition and status that it deserves.’

From Nursery World’s Facebook

Sam Margerison

Some positives and some negatives here. Agree with some of it but not all of it. For example, a Level 6 and 7 should not be paid the same. They won't entice level 7 (PGCE and masters) without increasing their salaries above the Level 6. Why would any PGCE graduates want to work in the private sector where they get less pay and less holidays? Unless they can drastically improve the working conditions? However, anything is an improvement on the current situation.

Sophie Alice

Pay raise average of £3 and funding raising by £3 actually makes us no better off. In fact worse if they extend 30 hours offer to all and we lose normal fees paid. Then this is also a few years away, we will have tax and inflation rises, more than likely pension rises too.

Hayley Keelty

This is positive news. We need a system that respects and rewards all early years practitioners and values early years education. Parents need support - so many people in working poverty due to the cost of living. High-quality early years provision is key to later learning and wellbeing. Raise the status of early years! Our current government have let so many families and children down with austerity cuts affecting services and provision for families and young children. We need to see some progression and it is always good to see early years issues being discussed and highlighted.

Ryan Shorthouse, director, Bright Blue

The primary purpose of formal childcare is to care for and educate children. A wealth of evidence suggests that formal childcare is the most important part of the education system. The priority for additional public funding on childcare, therefore, should be on improving staff quality and building a graduate-led workforce, rather than increasing the free hours available to parents through the Early Years Free Entitlement.


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