The last time we had an election, all the main political parties’ manifestos were full of childcare promises for hard-working families. Early years mattered more than it had ever done before and every politician wanted to persuade working families that they had the fix for spiralling childcare costs.
Fast forward to the general election 2017 and, so far, no mention of this key challenge. So, as the main parties finalise their election manifestos, PACEY has contacted all political parties to remind them that the challenges facing families who struggle to balance work and family life have not gone away and – more importantly – that a sustainable commitment to quality early education has to be the bedrock of any political party’s policy agenda. Without it they cannot improve social mobility; cannot support young children to get the best start in life and ultimately won’t ensure the skills we need for our future economy.
So, why so little mention of childcare to date? Some might say the support families need is all wrapped up nicely in the new offer of 30 hours of funded early education that the last Government promised and due to start from September. Some might say that this and the additional Tax-Free Childcare support many families can now access has fixed the problem. As anyone working in early years knows, you could say that, but you would be wrong.
At best some politicians think the childcare challenge is fixed for families, so PACEY will use this election to remind them it is not. At worst politicians know the challenge remains but don’t know how to fix it, so have decided to move on to a new vote winning cause.
With so much recent negative media coverage around 30 hours and growing concern many early years settings may close if 30 hours is implemented without sustainable funding, it isn’t surprising politicians don’t want to make any more promises. But, this would be a sorry place to end up after significant Government investment in 30 hours. PACEY is clear the outstanding challenges to ensuring quality, sustainable childcare can be resolved in the long term, so that we can make the most of the largest investment already being made for children and families.
As the saying goes we are so near but as yet so far. So PACEY is calling on all political parties to commit to four pledges. In doing so, they will ensure a stable, sustainable early years sector that can deliver high quality early education and support practitioners to feel valued and able to progress in a profession no longer regarded as the Cinderella of education.
PACEY’s policy calls are:
- Provide sustainable funding for funded childcare and early education places, so the extension to 30 hours can be delivered to all working families who need it;
- Put quality at the heart of all childcare and early years policy and funding decisions, so all children receive the high quality early learning that gives them a strong foundation for the future;
- Deliver a childcare and early years workforce strategy in partnership with the childcare and early years sector which removes the key barriers to career progression and ensures practitioners are fairly rewarded for the vital role they play;
- Promote childcare, especially childminding, as a valued and viable career option to encourage more people to join the profession and dissuade fewer to leave; in doing so grow capacity so families have more choice around the childcare they want for their children.
We’ll be making sure all parties in England and Wales understand these four important priorities so whoever forms the next Government knows the job of supporting families with high-quality affordable childcare isn’t done yet.