An Open Letter to the Minister, Sam Gyimah MP

Dear Minister

I was sorry to miss your Policy Exchange lecture last week but maybe that was a good thing as it’s often better to read the script in the cold light of day. https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/childcare-minister-speaks-about-more-pre-schools-in-schools

I am sure you are aware of the risk faced by politician’s speeches where in trying to address big broad issues, they make sweeping statements which can seem patronising to the more informed. For example you were quite blithe in your assertion that schools were the best places for two year olds not least because they were cost effective and convenient for parents to drop off their children. Minister, the issue is more complex. It’s easy to be disparaging and suggest that there is a simple solution, in this case schools: believe me if it was that easy your predecessors would have solved the predicament.

I was pleased to hear that you are reading Nursery World and CYPN ; both very good Early Years news magazines led by two great editors. No better introduction to the world of care and education for small children. However, to widen your understanding you might permit us to give you a Christmas reading list and introduce you to the world of child development, education philosophy and pedagogy. Better still, it would be preparation for you EYTalking on 4th November?

The Policy Exchange report, The next stage of improvement for primary schools in England, concludes with the suggestion the future of Primary Schools will be improved if and when

‘The question for government is how best can the expertise, capacity and capability of the best schools, leaders and teachers be harnessed and ‘magnified in order to deliver benefits across a wider sweep of the system?’ Pg 74

The report is right to point this out and it applies just as much to the Early Years. Good policy is more likely when the Government works closely and equably with the people who will be required to make the policy work. Schools are providing just over 2% of the provision for two year olds and even if you continue to make it easier for them to take two year olds, the PVI sector provides the majority of places and parents trust their local nurseries.

So, in the spirit of good government, I ask that you consider the issues we face together as a society to give our youngest and most disadvantaged children the best start in life.

The research will keep telling you, no matter which way you read it or whether it’s summarised in Nursery World or in full script from EPPE to EEL, quality of engagement, good ratios, tuned in adults and the ability to build a strong home learning partnership are critical to the successful roll out of the two year old programme. Read the LEYF report the Twoness of Twos which we wrote to prepare LEYF for taking the biggest cohort of two year olds from the programme in London.

So Minister, please don’t dismiss the sector as irrelevant. The bravest politician allows for discourse and debate. In the words of the great Tory statesman Benjamin Disraeli.

‘Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be failure.’

Let that be our rallying cry. So please Minister don’t devalue the importance of giving children the right start. It’s not where the child is placed that matters, it’s what happens when they are there.