Interview - Alison McGovern

Monday, March 23, 2015

Shadow children's minister

You're visiting 25 settings, talking to providers about Labour's plans to extend the free entitlement to 25 hours.

The tour has been amazing. People have been very kind. I've been to some amazing places - a nursery at a pupil referral unit supporting new mums in Croydon, more classic nurseries dealing with working parents, children's centres and Sure Start.

It's been a real pleasure getting to know what experience is out there. I've only had this brief since November, so it's been really good to get under the skin. I've been to 21 of the 25 so far.

How did you choose the settings to visit? Are they spread throughout the country?

It's a geographical balance. Some people asked me, some people made suggestions.

We've talked a lot about the 25 hours. It's clear that Government support for childcare is quite complex. Parents by and large understand the 15 hours. We've received a lot of support and people want to talk about what happens during the hours.

Early years practitioners are some of the most passionate experts on supporting children's development and learning and I would like them to pass on that knowledge to primary and secondary schools.

I've seen how focused early years professionals are on what children need next - in primary school, being part of a larger group, on bridging the gap from home to school. I would like to see other parts of the education system thinking about what comes next.

What about the issue of under-funding for the free entitlement?

We have, as a country, not sufficiently invested in children early enough - we're raising the bank levy to bring in £800m more.

In Lancashire there are rural areas, and in Islington there's a big problem finding space for childcare. Local authorities need to be talking to providers about investing in childcare supply in their area.

What about Tristram Hunt's plans to bring more childcare back into children's centres?

In some places, the 25 hours will help. In some localities we've got capacity in terms of buildings to build the childcare supply.

Local authorities need to be innovative. I went to an amazing early years centre near my constituency, in Upton near Birkenhead, and it had a really great centre, with a nursery and daycare, and creche facilities to help parents do GCSE courses. I'll be working to make more of this happen. It's a really brilliant hub.

Alison McGovern was speaking to Catherine Gaunt.

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