Stronger in Numbers as the Early Education and Childcare Coalition Launches
This week marks the launch of the Early Education and Childcare Coalition (EECC) – a group of experienced professionals representing children, families, professionals and the workforce, united to improve and sustain a high-quality education and childcare system for England.
We joined the Coalition many months ago because we all agree that given the significance of childcare to parents and children, we needed a coherent and strong voice to keep pushing the message across. The Coalition is run by an energetic Cork woman, Sarah Ronan, so obviously I could not say no!
The Coalition is timely as Early Education and Childcare is at a pivotal moment with the expansion of government support announced in this year’s Spring Budget.. I have been in the sector over 20 years and have survived many policy shifts and the intended and unintended consequences of them being unhelpful or under-funded. Therefore, I wanted to bring that experience to the table. We need to understand what went before if we are to march forward together.
A coalition will work if it has a clear voice and a common message which can be heard and understood by the public. Some of the research the Coalition has pulled together about understanding the public is very helpful. We have always found it hard to cut through to the public so they can understand the importance of Early Education and Childcare to the children, families and society (whether or not they themselves have children).
However, right now 59% of people think good Early Years Education and Childcare is good for the whole country, and not just parents. It is seen as a sensible investment in future generations.
Last year the conversation with the public was enhanced by the Royal Foundation’s ‘Shaping Us’ campaign aimed at raising awareness of how important the first five years of life are for shaping our adulthood.
The Coalition must navigate the importance of children balanced against the needs of parents wanting to work and a childcare sector. The three demands don’t sit easily if the sector is not operating within a well-funded, thoughtful and clear strategy. Right now, all three groups are experiencing multiple challenges. Parents are struggling to meet the cost of Early Years Education and Childcare amidst a protracted cost-of-living crisis; record numbers of Early Years staff are opting to leave the sector due to low pay and lack of progression, while providers are struggling to meet their operational costs, often facing closure.
Yet there are many benefits for parents returning to work, not least reducing child poverty by offering financial stability, and the role that plays in enabling their child’s emotional, social and physical development. The Treasury coffers are also boosted by a sector worth £4billion. This will also increase as more parents return to work and add their tax contributions as no one is expecting to access a completely free taxpayer funded service. Yet, right now our taxes are the highest they have been and we are all wondering how that money is been spent as it doesn’t appear to be focused on a regenerating economy!
To get all these aligned and see serious reform, we need the support of the 42% of the public who say that a political party’s plans for Early Education and Childcare will be important in choosing who to vote for at the next general election.
Interestingly, the public considers many of the Early Years staff as heroes. They remember how they stepped up during the pandemic and how they continue to support the children who are dealing with the learning and development fall out.
We know that right now we are seeing the worst speech and language delays ever. I always think of Early Years staff as pedagogical heroes as do families and now the Coalition agrees too! However, unless we address the entrenched staff shortages, we will not be able to deliver the high-quality education and care to the children and their families. Accessing support from the government through a dedicated workforce strategy is essential and the public seems to understand this.
The Coalition will therefore push for the triangle of child, parent and Early Years workforce and the pragmatic, empathetic game plan looks like this:
- Unite the voices of parents, children and Early Years staff
- Support ALL parents to choose to work and demonstrate the positive benefits for children and the whole of society
- Get the language right so people understand what we are talking about
- Articulate the definition of quality so people understand it
- Know the numbers – demonstrate value and evidence of how reforms will be funded
The Coalition will be energetic and collaborative. The public has no time for a model that build competition. They want a pragmatic, well costed clear strategy that makes sense to everyone and that works in tandem with children, families and providers to deliver affordable, sustainable, high-quality care and education.
The link to watch it is here: https://youtu.be/d5NT4YF9CV4
The link to the report is here: https://www.earlyeducationchildcare.org/pulse-check