12 Jan 2018, Catherine Gaunt
While the Department for Education has not yet officially confirmed the policy areas for the new minister, as we reported earlier in the week, Mr Zahawi has been tipped to replace the outgoing children and families minister Robert Goodwill, and this appears to have been confirmed by Mr Zahawi on Twitter.
Nursery owner Helen Gration tweeted, ‘Waiting avidly to see who will get the Early Years portfolio@theresa_may Is it for @Nadhimzahawi? It is such an important part of a child’s education@NDNAtalk’
Mr Zahawi responded simply ‘Yes it is’.
Ms Gration, who runs four nurseries in York and Leeds, replied with an invitation to Mr Zahawi.
The MP for Stratford-upon-Avon also confirmed his appointment in response to a tweet from an adoptive mother.
Mr Zahawi posted a photo on Twitter yesterday of his meeting with the chief social worker for England Isabelle Trowler and social workers, saying, ‘Delighted to get cracking in my new role, meeting children’s social workers at @hackneycouncil with @IsabelleTrowler & seeing projects funded by our Innovation Programme. I look forward to championing the hard work of this profession.’
Commenting on Mr Zahawi's appointment as the new minister responsible for early years, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘At such a pivotal time for childcare and early education policy - not least in light of the roll-out of the 30-hour offer - now more than ever, the early years sector would have benefited from some continuity and consistency of leadership. As such, it is disappointing that we are losing yet another early years minister after such a short period of time, with this week’s reshuffle resulting in the sector's fifth minister in less than six years.
‘That said, we of course welcome Mr Zahawi to his new role and look forward to working closely with him as he gets up to speed on his new brief, and supporting him in gaining a full and comprehensive understanding of the views and concerns of early years practitioners and providers.
‘There is no doubt that now is a particularly challenging time for the early years, and so we hope that Mr Zahawi’s appointment will mark a fresh start and a chance for a new and more collaborative approach between the Department for Education and those in the sector working on the frontline.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said, ‘We are pleased to welcome our new minister with responsibility for early years, Nadhim Zahawi, and look forward to working with him.
‘He will certainly have a tough job on his hands.
‘Nurseries across the country are struggling to deliver the government’s pledge of 30 funded hours because funding from central government just doesn’t cover providers’ costs. Increases to National Living Wage will increase staffing costs from April by 6% - but the vast majority of nurseries won’t see a penny increase in their hourly rate.
‘This is the fourth minister with the early years brief in three years – what the sector needs now is some stability.
‘The new minister needs to look carefully at all possible solutions. These include much-needed new investment, reducing the eligibility threshold which would reduce the number of places needed and allowing nurseries flexibility in charging parents for additional services in order to balance their books.
‘Mr Zahawi is already familiar with some of the sector’s challenges, having assisted NDNA’s members in his own constituency who handed him a petition calling for the government to rethink its 30 hours funded childcare scheme.’
Susanna Kalitowski, policy manager at Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), said, 'The early years sector has been in a state of flux with four different childcare ministers in the past eighteen months, we hope the new appointment of Nadhim Zahawi will bring some much needed stability. Childcare businesses are under immense pressure.
'Childminder numbers continue to fall, and a lack of sustainable funding remains the single biggest burden on the sector. Increasing costs and poor funding levels for "free" places are really taking their toll. We will be meeting with the minister at his earliest convenience to discuss the issues our members are facing and work towards a brighter future for all early years professionals.'
According to his website, Mr Zahawi was born in Baghdad to Kurdish parents in 1967. Under threat of persecution from Saddam Hussein’s regime, his family immigrated to the UK when he was nine. He grew up in Sussex and was educated at King’s College School in West London and University College London where he studied Chemical Engineering.
Mr Zahawi has been MP for Stratford-upon-Avon since 2010. Before entering politics he founded polling company YouGov in 2000.
In David Cameron's Government he was appointed to the Prime Minister’s Policy Board with special responsibility for business and the economy and also served on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. In 2015 he was appointed by David Cameron as his apprenticeships adviser.