With the upcoming UK Parliamentary elections due to take place on 12 December, we know that early years and childcare are again key areas and that all the main political parties will be making policy commitments. PACEY is making it clear to all parties that children and families need high quality early education and childcare and that childminders, nurseries and pre-schools can only provide this if they are fully recognised and properly funded.
PACEY has three key recommendations for political parties to achieve this:
1. All commitments to government funded childcare and early education must be fully costed and sustainably funded.
We welcome commitments to extend funded early education and childcare for families as it is central to supporting all children to reach their full potential and lift more families out of poverty. But, any future Government must ensure that all current government childcare and early education entitlements are properly funded before making new promises to families. Registered providers can only ensure high quality experiences for children in their care if their delivery costs are fully covered. The current high levels of underfunding mean many providers are making a loss; and are forced to make additional charges to families or face closure.
2. The skilled practitioners who work with pre-school children must be better recognised and rewarded.
Any future government must work in partnership with the early years sector to develop a workforce strategy that removes the key barriers to entry and career progression in early years, and ensures practitioners are fairly rewarded and recognised for the vital role they play.
3. Families and carers as well as the professionals who advise and support them should receive more information and guidance on childcare and early years.
Too many people still do not understand the importance of quality childcare or early education. Childminders in England , just like pre-schools and nurseries, are all registered and inspected by Ofsted to deliver the same early education curriculum. Most parents are still relying on friends or family members to help them decide what type of childcare setting they use. Any new government needs to work with local authorities as well as other partners to ensure there is a public information campaign for families and carers to help them make informed choices about the childcare that best suits their child.
Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive, comments:
“Too many childminders, nurseries and pre-schools are at breaking point because the current funding levels for government-subsidised early education and childcare are not enough to cover the cost of delivering the high quality experience all children, especially our most disadvantaged, deserve. Whomever forms the next Government has to make sure it sets a comprehensive and sustainable plan for current childcare commitments, as well as any proposed for the future. All backed up with a strategy that ensures early years and childcare practitioners are better valued and rewarded, and families better informed why early education is so important and the types of support available to them.”
We will be listing the early years commitments from each political party as new pledges are announced.
Current commitments include:
- To provide 30 hours per week of free care to all children aged between 2 and 4. They are also planning to invest in additional hours which at subsidised rates staggered with incomes.
- Extending childcare provision for 1 year olds.
- £1 billion investment into reopening Sure Start Children’s centres.
- Switch to singly supply side model so that providers are no longer paid by local authorities but instead recieve the money themselves.
- Extend paid maternity leave to 12 months.
- Plan to recruit 150,000 additional early years staff.
Liberal Democrat Party
- Working families to access free childcare from 9 months old
- All families to access free childcare from 2 to 4 years old
- To extend the 30 hour offer to 35 hours for 48 weeks a year
- Increase funding levels for early years providers by 37% for 2-year-olds and 20% for 3- and 4-year-olds.
They predict these proposals will cost around £14.6 billion which will be funded by reversing cuts to corporation tax and increasing capital gains tax.
- Establish a £1bn fund to help create more high quality, affordable childcare, including before and after school and during the holidays.
The Green Party
- 35 hours of free childcare for all children from 9 months old