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Education committee calls for new approach to tackling disadvantage in the early years

The House of Commons Education Committee, an all-party group of MPs, has published the findings of its inquiry into life chances, which focused heavily on the role of early years settings. In its report, the Committee argues that the Government has a “confused” approach to early years education, and policies such as 30 hours appear to be “entrenching disadvantage”.

The Committee calls for Government action in three key areas:

  • First, the Government should reform the 30 hours free childcare offer and target provision to early education for disadvantaged children.
  • Second, maintained nursery schools should be fully funded.
  • Third, the Government should develop a comprehensive strategy to join up early years services and build on the success of children’s centres and other provision, such as family hubs.

The Committee’s report quotes evidence from PACEY at length. Our Chief Executive, Liz Bayram, gave evidence in person to the Committee back in June, and we also made a written submission. The Committee makes a number of recommendations that we support, notably around improving career pathways for the early years workforce and reforming the early years teacher qualification.

PACEY's Chief Executive, Liz Bayram comments:

“PACEY welcomes the Education Committee’s long-awaited report on tacking disadvantage in the early years. Since we submitted written and oral evidence to this inquiry over six months ago, things have only got worse. The gap between disadvantaged children and their peers is widening. Take-up of the two year offer for disadvantaged two year olds has stagnated.  We have a growing concern that the downward trend in the qualifications and training of the early years workforce is going to impact on quality of care. New research has reinforced how low-pay and low status leads to far too many talented practitioners leaving the sector. It is truly shocking that almost half of the people providing early education to our youngest children rely on in-work benefits to make ends meet. Despite all this, there is little progress from the Government, and some backward steps too, including decisions not to allow Early Years Teachers to teach in maintained schools or to grow the graduate workforce in disadvantage areas.

“We agree with the Committee that there continues to be a complete lack of clarity on progression routes in childcare, and that, despite ongoing efforts by PACEY and others, the Government still hasn’t established a coherent early years workforce strategy that meaningfully addresses the challenges of recruitment, quality and retention. Once again we ask the Government to work in partnership with the sector to develop this. As a first step, it could address on-going funding concerns and rectify the policy barrier that stops Early Years Teachers being recognised as Qualified Teachers. Their qualification route is the same and they should be able to enjoy the same access to teaching jobs, salaries and CPD as their primary teaching colleagues.”