First Thoughts on June’s #EYManifesto : Let’s start the Next Big Conversation

October 14th 2013

We have just had the party conferences and watched as each party started to position itself in readiness for the next election.  They are all hard at work shaping their manifestos. This is the time sensible politicians should seek the views of the public to initiate an open, balanced and fully informed national debate about what the public want, need and are prepared to pay for. We want to lead that debate in Early Years so we can puts the best interests of the child first and with that ensure the policies are in place to make it happen.

So, I thought I might give them the heads up about Early Years and get the sector to help me get our politician and policy makers thinking and reading. My opening gambit is that education is a tool for change, employment and social mobility.

So with that in mind how will we shape a sector manifesto? So like the #OfstedBigConversation, let’s begin a debate among ourselves and shape a manifesto that we can support and make happen. Look out for EYTalking session on Tuesday also and then let’s get Regional.

This is what we know

  • We know that good quality childcare can improve the lives of all small children but especially those from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • We know that children from the poorest homes are on average 19 months behind those from richer homes when tested for vocabulary at the age of 4years.
  • We know that children will thrive in the right environment with staff who can care and educate consistently.
  • We know that the nursery should be a garden of delight. (By nursery I include all non settings where children are educated)
  • We know that if we are to make a difference, children from disadvantaged homes should have a minimum of 15 hours in a setting over 36months
  • We know that to embed learning we need to create a great home learning bridge.
  • We know that the most successful parenting style is warm, boundaried parenting.
  • We know that 76% women work and need to do this to support their families so they need childcare.
  • We know that in many parts of the country, there are no extended families to help out. For example on 18% of families in London have access to grandparents locally.
  • We know that community settings where children from all social backgrounds learn together are very successful.
  • We know that Scotland has decided that it wants to be the best place in the world to grow up in by improving outcomes and reducing inequalities, for all babies, children, mothers, fathers and families across Scotland to ensure that all children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed.

The Current State of Affairs

  • We have an underfunded programme for all three and four years olds to access 15 free hours
  • We have a billion pound programme to provide daycare to two year olds from disadvantaged families.
  • We have  22% of children living in single parents homes.
  • We have 1 in 4 children are growing up in poverty.
  • We have confusion and interference into how we develop and apply good quality care and education in practice.
  • We have increased academic pressure in small children’s lives through inappropriate standards and political interference in how we teach young children. The ‘hurried child’ is now not just hurried but also worried.
  • We have a term called “schoolreadiness” which is a political driver rather than a pedagogical perspective.
  • We know policymakers are overlooking the ample evidence that young children learn best in settings rich with warm human relationships, imaginative play, and playful learning, where children participate in choosing their activities and teachers help them build on their experience.
  • We know that faster is not better when it comes to early education; young children need play and hands-on interactions for genuine learning to occur.
  • We know that children need both unstructured free play and playful learning under the gentle guidance of adults to best prepare them for entrance into formal school; academic and social development are so inextricably intertwined that that the former must not trump attention to the latter … learning  takes place best when children are engaged and enjoying themselves.
  • We know that summer born children do worse and parents want flexibility with entry to school.
  • We have insufficient advice and support available on home learning to ensure all settings understand how to make it part of the daily service.
  • We know that the Government is far too fond of programmes that are flawed and owe much to their own preferences and the ability of good salesmen to over promise and under-deliver very expensive programmes.
  • We have 92% of our staff qualified to Level 3 but the balance of qualified staff is still skewed.
  • We have a confused strategy about how we readdress the balance in qualification in a speedy way.
  • We have a Regulation Body taking a draconian approach to inspection which is resulting in demotivation, confusion in settings and gradings that make them unusable for parents.
  • We have insufficient affordable childcare across the country.
  • We have 3000 Children’s Centres that are not linked effectively to the nursery provision.

What are we being promised?

  • We are being offered free school meals for all primary school children by the Lib Dems
  • We are being offered a school premium up to £1300 by the Lib Dems
  • We are being offered 25 free hours of school for three and four year olds by the Labour party
  • We already have the More Great Childcare from the Conservatives.

What do we want?

Well let’s start thinking and remember that we start with the core so that if we have nothing in the piggy bank we invest in the one thing that will make the most difference.

Comments, chat, tweets, linked-in reclaim early years these are just some forums we can start using to develop our collective voice and end up with our #eymanifesto to share with parents, staff, politicians, local authorities and everyone who will listen.