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More focus needed on support for childminders

Speaking about the publication of Ofsted's report on early years, PACEY's Chief Executive Liz Bayram said,

"PACEY welcomes the commitment outlined in Ofsted’s first Early Years Annual Report to highlight the importance of high quality learning in the early years, especially for our most disadvantaged children. However, PACEY disagrees that the only solution to improving early education for disadvantaged young children is to extend nursery provision in schools from the age of 2. Thousands of childminders, nurseries and other childcare providers are offering a high standard of quality education to children all around the country every day – and as Ofsted data shows, the majority of professionals are doing a fantastic job.

"Simply enrolling more children in school settings at the age of 2 will not help reduce the current gaps in inequality. Instead of pursuing a course of ‘schoolification’ in the early years, policy makers need to recognise that there is excellent and poor practice in schools as well as childcare settings.

Critical to improvement, especially in areas of disadvantage, is to improve the qualifications and practice of childcare professionals. This should be through increased funding and support, and to better reward them for the vital services they provide to children and their families.

"A school setting isn’t appropriate for all children. We know for instance that many families benefit from the flexible, home-based care offered by childminders, who as well as supporting a child's physical and educational development are ideally placed to strengthen a child's social and emotional skills. This is especially important for more vulnerable children.

Ofsted’s report points to the lower quality of care delivered by some childminders in disadvantaged areas, but doesn’t address the need to offer them more training and support to improve -  nor celebrates the fantastic efforts of those many childminders who deliver consistently excellent care on very little pay.

"Ofsted’s report refers to the important role of parents in helping to share learning experiences for young children, but does nothing to suggest how childcare professionals can be supported to work together with parents more closely to embed this learning.

"Ofsted’s report highlights a real need for joined up thinking from policy makers and government around how inspectors and parents can identify real indicators of quality and progress in the early years – taking into account social, emotional and physical outcomes as well as educational development.

Whilst Ofsted says play-based learning is part of the approach they want to foster, the sector remains concerned that this rounded approach to child development already exists in the EYFS and is being eroded. Their report makes clear that inspection will increasingly focus on "improving vocabulary, getting children to follow instructions and focus on task".

PACEY wants to see policy built on the evidence that a play-based approach to learning is what best sets children up to be creative, resourceful and confident learners for life. Also we want to highlight the critical role that parents and carers play in making that a reality for young children."