Nursery World asked leading figures, nurseries, early years practitioners and experts to share their new year wishes for 2019.
Sian Marsh, programme director for early years and ITT, Best Practice Network
My hope for 2019 is that we can continue to ensure that every child has access to an excellent early years education, regardless of their background, and that every practitioner is supported to be their best in a well-led early years setting.
We recognise that we need a high-quality workforce to improve outcomes for all children. We hope that by continuing to develop our early years hub model, we can work with employers as our partners to deliver a bespoke training programme that meets the needs of individual trainees.
We are delighted to be working with Early Years Teachers who have a passion and commitment to working with our youngest children. I hope that the Government maintain their pledge to recognise the importance of the early years and continue to invest in Early Years Teacher Status. Our trainees tell us that their journey to Early Years Teacher Status has been ‘life changing’, and our partner settings truly value the expertise of an Early Years Teacher.
Dr Alice Bradbury, senior lecturer (associate professor) in Sociology of Education, and Dr Guy Roberts-Holmes, senior lecturer in Early Childhood Education, UCL Institute of Education, London
Our hope is that the Government will listen to the concerns of early years professionals and academics about the suitability and accuracy of the new Reception Baseline assessment, and abandon the national pilot of this unnecessary test.
We hope that in future the production of data for the purposes of accountability is not the focus of the first weeks of Reception.
Our dream is for the Government to trust professionals to administer their own assessments, and that the Phonics Screening Check is removed, as it encourages grouping children from nursery onwards. There would be greater recognition of the sector’s role in reducing social inequalities, and additional funding for nursery schools and Children’s Centres, which are hugely important for local communities.
Philippa Stobbs, assistant director, Council for Disabled Children and National Children’s Bureau
My over-arching wish for 2019 is that the needs of young children are put at the heart of Government policy.
There is a shortfall in the number of young children with SEN and disabilities accessing the 15 hours entitlement, an even wider gap in the 30 hours take-up, and a rising number of young children, aged five, four and under, being excluded.
My dearest wish is that no child should be turned away from a setting or excluded from that setting because of their SEN or disability. To fulfil this wish, we need to ensure that practitioners in all settings have the skills and confidence to address children’s needs, and are supported by a good local infrastructure, with more specialist skills to supplement and complement what settings can do on their own.
Only then will we be able to say with confidence that the entitlement of our most vulnerable young children is being valued and realised.
Isabel Harvey, project manager and teacher, Hersden Under 5s, Kent
There have been many changes to how SEND is funded in the early years during the last year, with the overall result that it is seriously underfunded, putting providers in financially unsustainable situations. So, my first new year wish is simply for the Government to respond to our request that the funding of SEND in early years settings is investigated and reviewed as a matter of urgency.
My second wish is easy: that the investigation and review results in extra funding, which covers staff costs and the needs of all children. My third wish is then for Kent County Council to continue listening to providers, to ensure that the processes to access the send funding is as clear and concise as possible.
Helen Gration, trustee, National Day Nurseries Association, and managing director, Yorkshire Montessori Nursery
My hopes and dreams for 2019 are wrapped up in a frank acceptance by the Government that so much more is needed to protect and support the children in early years with special educational and disability needs. In case they didn’t know, it’s called ‘adequate funding’.
As 2018 closed with Ofsted’s Amanda Spielman condemning the lack of vital support for SEND in schools, we must cry out with every ounce of energy we have to remind those with the pursestrings and power that the problem starts in the absence of that support in early years!
We know early intervention can help so much – for instance, we all have seen a significant increase in speech and language problems in children under five. We also know that adequate funding means these children can be properly prepared for an environment of learning in school, and that means gaps with their peers are significantly reduced and can close.
‘Social mobility’ may have been the buzz phrase of 2018, but our special children with SEND cannot even consider it without a leadership which acknowledges these basic essentials, rather than vote-winning 30 hours devices.
Candace Reading, Save our Nurseries campaign, Tower Hamlets (photo of campaigner Niru Naidu and her son)
In a borough with 53 per cent child poverty, the loss of our remaining Sure Start day nurseries will be hard-felt.
Our hope is to find a way to protect what we can of the early intervention support left in the borough, but it seems something new is lost every day. We’ve just heard our very popular 1 O’Clock club will not reopen, and there is a further £1 million to be cut from The Support for Learning Service.
It has been made clear that the executive status the Tower Hamlets Mayor enjoys makes it difficult to follow true democratic process. The 2018 election manifesto promise to support early years so far feels like a PR campaign. We hope for more transparency and an end to executive powers.
We also hope there will be more funding from central Government for all of early years and that our nursery schools will be here for many decades to come.
Margaret Mason OBE, founder and executive chair, Children 1st Day Nurseries
My hope for the new year is that providers, both large and small, continue to be able to provide wonderful opportunities for children, despite the added difficulties that the Government is enforcing on us. 30 hours’ ‘free’ childcare is achievable, but it is the quality of the childcare that is most important, and that is impossible on the current funding levels.
I hope that the sector continues to challenge the Government over the shortfall in funding and demonstrate the negative impact of the scheme on many providers in our sector. Ultimately, I hope that the Government will provide the funding necessary to meet its promises, rather than relying on the early years sector to pick up the bill.
We are all aware of the pressure that it is placing on providers, and I will therefore be doing my part to support my industry colleagues and address this in 2019.
Dalia Ben-Galim, head of policy and advice, Gingerbread
At Gingerbread, we hope that the cost of childcare no longer locks single parents out of work.
For too long the high cost and often patchy provision of childcare has been too big a barrier for many single parents, meaning that they are not able to work. This is a loss to families and to the economy. In 2019 the Government should:
extend eligibility for the 30 hours for three- and four-year-olds to those parents working on zero-hour contracts and in education
reform the Universal Credit childcare support offer so that parents don’t need to pay their childcare costs upfront, and by removing the administrative burden on parents to provide receipts.
These steps would make a significant difference to single parents and their children in 2019.
Jess Tomlinson, spokesperson, National Save Our Children’s Centres
I hope, in 2019, we see some real positive change in attitudes towards the importance of early years services like Children’s Centres and nurseries.
2018 saw the start of that change with the Stop Startreport from The Sutton Trust really opening people’s eyes to just how important these services are.
Children’s Centres up and down the country have been closed or have seen their opening hours massively reduced. This cannot be allowed to continue. My biggest dream for 2019 is for communities to pull together and join the fight to protect these much-loved services.
I hope that the Government recognises the value in early intervention and finally starts to adequately fund frontline services.
Children’s Centres, nurseries and schools… we are shaping the minds of the next generation and there is no job more important than that. Let’s all hope that 2019 is a positive year for children’s services.
Catherine Maguire, community campaign network co-ordinator, ClientEarth
In 2018, parents and carers from across the country came together in Parliament to demand urgent action to protect children from illegal and harmful levels of air pollution on behalf of the Clean Air Parents’ Network, which is supported by ClientEarth and the British Lung Foundation.
It’s baffling that the Government can allow our children to breathe illegally high levels of air pollution where they learn and play. The scientific evidence that it harms their health, sometimes permanently, is overwhelming. We have to act.
My hope for 2019 is that we see measures to protect our children from air pollution while they are at school or nursery. Local action from councils is vital, but we can’t solve this crisis completely without national action from central Government. So, I also hope politicians listen to parents and carers and make our towns and cities better and healthier places for families to live.
They need to support the call for new clean air laws that will provide greater protection for children’s health by setting legal limits based on tougher World Health Organization guidelines.
A few years ago, this may have seemed like a dream, but it now feels eminently possible. We can all help make it happen by getting more informed and calling on our elected representatives to act.
Barbara Crowther, co-ordinator, Children’s Food Campaign
My hope is that whatever happens with our relationship with Europe in 2019, we maintain a commitment to creating a healthier, affordable food environment for children.
I want to see more Government action to reduce child obesity from the very earliest years onwards, including a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising and reducing relentless in-store promotions with chicanes of junk food in the entrances and aisles of our shops.
Wouldn’t it be great to see companies like Disney, Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network pledge to only associate their characters, such as Minions, Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol and from Frozen, with healthy fresh food instead of sugary snacks?
Finally, following the 2018 introduction of the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, we’re demanding money raised by the tax is invested once again in healthy schools initiatives, including tackling holiday hunger, not just in the summer but all year round.
Helen Prud’homme, nursery and Reception class teacher, Dr South’s School, Oxfordshire
In 2019, I’d like children to be valued for what they are, not what they’ll become. I hope that all those working within schools see the value of allowing children access to a broad range of opportunities and keeping children’s interests at the heart of educational policy and practice.
I hope that those working in early years keep the EYFS focused on the needs and interests of children, and protect their right to develop through play. I’d like to see school leaders and other stakeholders open to learning about this unique stage and embracing it.
My dream is that the early years philosophy is extended. I’d like to see a move away from teachers ‘delivering’ prescribed skills, thus reducing time spent interacting with children and exploring their interests and motivations and increasingly focusing on externally applied targets.
Luke Page, head of Triangle Nursery School, Clapham
Our wish is that all children are encouraged to embrace their creativity and that their natural curiosities and passions are celebrated and cherished; that all children are encouraged to play, to take risks and attempt challenge, and to gain a balanced and open view of the world they are a part of. Let’s let children be children!
My dream is that funding for maintained nursery schools is made secure and enables hard-working practitioners increased job security and peace of mind to allow them to continue to be the exciting, motivated and talented role models they are. At a time when funding is not certain, we must continue to fight for the rights of every child.
Helen Moylett, early years consultant, trainer and writer
A full consultation has been promised after the current new Early Learning Goals pilot. I have high hopes that it will involve the whole sector debating some really important issues, for example:
- What do we understand by ‘an early years curriculum’?
- We cannot measure everything, and what is easily measured is not necessarily important. Measurement and assessment are not the same.
- The meaning and importance of emotional and cognitive self-regulation and how they are part of the characteristics of effective early learning.
- The importance of the prime areas.
I dream of Government policy based on a recognition that the early years of life are important in their own right and that early years settings are not just a minding service for working parents or a practice for Year 1.