Talking Early Years: In conversation with Sarah Ronan

October 6th 2023

Can the new Early Education and Care Coalition Influence the next Government?

Sarah Ronan, Director of the recently formed Early Education and Care Coalition (EECC) joined me to talk about the EECC. As a fellow Cork woman, she got a warm welcome!

The Early Years sector is often criticised for not always speaking with one voice, a consequence of being part of a very fragmented sector. The Coalition has been developing over the past year and is the brainchild of Lucie Stephens who some people will know from her work at the New Economics Foundation.

The Coalition has been set up to raise the importance of the Early Years; a cohesive voice to send a strong message to government and political parties that you cannot separate our interests, as we all want the best and most sustainable policy decisions to secure the sector. This must be of benefit for all children and reduce the way current policy is creating a gap between affluent and disadvantaged children. As Sarah says:

The clunky and segmented treatment of policy in this area has been delivered through the single lens of parental employment without a much bigger holistic view of the way in which it touches everyone’s life. It also highlights the way in which the Government Departments need to interact when it comes to the life cycle of a child. They need to come together as well.

The Coalition, which needs to remain a working size. Sarah and the team studied coalitions across the world and found that the bigger coalitions got, the more likely they were of failing.  With that in mind the Coalition has about thirty members.  For example, it has membership bodies, children’s charities, Booktrust, LEYF, parent groups, trade union, advocacy organisations and small businesses.  The Coalition organises regular focus groups with owners and managers, Early Years educators, parents living in many different circumstances and there will be more. Cleverly, they did focus groups in the constituencies of Gillian Keegan and Bridget Phillipson – bet that was interesting!

The Coalition commissioned a report from Claremont Behavioural Change Agency which looked at the public perception of the sector was very interesting, explaining that most people understood childcare but struggled with the concept of Early Education and Care, a finding that was supported by the Royal Foundation Centre research last year.  Given 42% of people said childcare would influence their choice of votes in the next election then maybe the Coalition can help. I look forward to joining them at a panel at the Labour Party Conference this weekend.

If you are interested in helping shape a plan to create a national Early Years strategy and committed to working together, then listen here and consider how you and your wider circle can step in and step up.