Today, on the last day of Labour’s Annual Conference, Bridget Phillipson MP announced plans for a large-scale review into early years education and childcare in England, in advance of next year's general election.
The review will be chaired by Sir David Bell, the former Chief Inspector of Ofsted, and the former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education.
Labour said its review would outline a plan for the upcoming expansion of the early entitlement offers, look at major reforms for the early years workforce, and contribute to the party's plan to deal the poor availability of early years places.
The party also plans to look at ways to use spare capacity in primary schools due to falling birth rates to provide additional early years places and to remove restrictions on local authorities from opening nursery provision.
Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“Our ambition starts, as education starts, at the beginning of all our lives: our childcare system must be about life chances for children, as well as work choices for parents.
“That is why I am determined that new investment in childcare comes with ambitious reform, to ensure early education is available in every corner of our country for every family and every child, to drive up standards for our youngest children and for the amazing people who support and teach them.
“And that focus on high and rising standards, is why today I’m announcing that Sir David will lead Labour’s work to develop the plan we need, for the workforce we need, for the qualifications they’ll have, for the settings where it’ll happen, to deliver our ambition for a modernised childcare system, from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school.
Helen Donohoe, PACEY Chief Executive commented:
Our sector and the dedicated professionals working within it were not consulted over 2023 Spring Budget announcements. We would like to see the Labour review address this, with the whole workforce – from nurseries to childminders – enabled to set out their vision for high quality, sustainable early education and childcare.
Further, the review must ensure that excellent early education is available to all that need it, not just those that can afford it. In particular disadvantaged children and those with SEND who are too often excluded from the best possible start in life that early education and care can provide.
As we approach the next general election, we should remember what was achieved in the years following the 1997 election. A comprehensive long-term, cross departmental strategy with the needs of children at its centre. We want to see that ambition again: a fully funded vision for world class early education and care that is integrated with all the local services that children need and which has a respected and properly rewarded workforce at its core.
We hope that the review announced today can be the next step towards that goal.