We at the London Early Years Foundation hope the early years will remain a central tenet of Government policy and, crucially, that the new ministerial team will work with the sector to provide the best services for all children across the UK.
Early in the election campaign, the Conservatives said they wanted to build on effective systems and dismantle the ineffective; they recognised that we have experienced too many changes and need time to make things work. The Liberal Democrats were in favour of universal services, but also recognised that costs were high and promised to focus on a workable solution.
We hope to see these campaigning promises underpin new policies, offering a stepped and thoughtful response to the key issues facing the sector: the free entitlement, the future of Children's Centres and a clear strategy for workforce development.
In particular, we would like to see key projects remain, such as the two-year-old pilot - both successful and much valued by parents otherwise unable to access childcare. Clearer commissioning for the management of Children's Centres should be an equal priority. Early intervention programmes should target needy families more effectively but continue to include other families who add real value to the clear benefits of a universal approach.
To give children a more holistic and secure experience, we would like the opportunity to create nursery schools for children up to the end of Key Stage 1. We also hope to see the Conservative paper Action for Youth come into effect, so we can link employment and training for young people into a meaningful and useful programme.
We believe the Single Funding Formula still needs close attention, but would oppose any plans to tinker significantly with the EYFS. Although at times burdensome, this generally useful framework needs to be left as it is until everyone really understands it.
The voluntary and social enterprise sectors work hard to keep waste to a minimum and welcome the Government's plans to reduce the administrative burden placed on the sector and to redirect the savings into family services.
If the Government is genuinely addressing the real issues at the heart of a 'Broken Britain', then investing in the early years must surely be the best place to start. Only then will it be able to secure the social, emotional and economic fabric of this much-lauded 'Big Society'.
June O'Sullivan, CEO, London Early Years Foundation
Letter of the Week wins £30 worth of books
I was shocked at the photograph of the children seated around the camp fire ('All about ... forest schools', 6 May). The fire had been sectioned off with large logs - great. The children were seated a good distance away - great. But within the fire enclosure were plastic bottles, which expand when hot and can explode.
I know this from painful experience. Once during my Scout work, a Scout threw an empty bottle on to a fire. Bottle and lid shot out of the fire with force and hit me in the chest.
I realise that the bottles in your photograph are not in the fire, but they could cause serious injury.
I must add that I am not a Health and Safety fanatic. I think a lot of the guidelines stop children from learning about safety because we wrap them up too much.
Janet Turner, librarian assistant, South Cheshire
Annette Cummings of Pen Green Centre replies:
The photograph is quite deceptive, because the plastic bottles were actually full of water and were there to put out the fire out. It's a Health and Safety requirement that water is kept near the fire in case of emergencies.
I must also emphasise that I would never place empty plastic bottles around the fire pit, for the very reason that Janet gives.
At the end of the forest school session the children are encouraged to sit on the log and watch the fire as it is extinguished by the water. This is part of the forest school ritual and gives a message to the children about looking after the forest and keeping it safe.
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