Welcome to PACEY’s new monthly policy update, which provides a summary of the latest policy developments concerning childcare and early years, and how we are representing your views to key decision makers.
This month’s update is undoubtedly more newsworthy than most. We have a new Government; a new children and families minister (Robert Goodwill MP); and a new shadow early years minister (Tracy Brabin MP). Our message to all has been clear: Get 30 hours right before moving on to any new priorities. Robert Goodwill has issued a letter to all early years providers introducing himself and discussing the upcoming 30 hours in September.
As our recent childminder fees survey so clearly illustrated, funding levels for providers in many areas in England must be increased in order for this policy to be sustainable. During our first conversation with the new minister, we highlighted this funding gap as well as other key barriers to childminders delivering the early years entitlement, such as the unfair restriction on providing funded places to related children – which only applies to childminders.
The updated operational guidance makes it clear that childminders are a ‘valuable part of the childcare sector’ who should ‘play a full role in delivering all of the free entitlements’. It also explains that childminders may charge parents accessing a free entitlement place for a number of ‘optional extras’ with their consent, including pick-ups and drop-offs and emergency ‘on-call’ cover.
Unfortunately, the independent evaluation of the 30-hour pilots revealed that only seven per cent of 30-hour places were delivered by childminders. On top of this, the latest Ofsted early years statistics revealed another deeply disappointing drop in registered childminders. Since 2012, the number has declined by nearly a quarter (24 per cent). At the same time, more childminders than ever (92%) are now graded ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
PACEY is campaigning for childminders to be actively championed by national and local government and the health service to parents, so they understand that childminders are more than glorified babysitters; they are providing some of the highest quality care and early education for children and their families. This was vividly demonstrated by last week’s SEED study, which found that childminders in particular have a strong impact on young children’s’ language skills and behavioural self-regulation.
It is essential that the Government builds on the fantastic achievements made by childminders and other providers over the past several years through a successful implementation of its early years workforce strategy. We recently met with the workforce team at the Department for Education (DfE) to stress the need for an ambitious strategy that meets the needs of the whole sector and genuinely helps practitioners to progress their careers. We’ve been asked to join an expert reference group advising on improving level 2 early years qualifications and career pathways: Watch this space!
In other recent policy news, we responded to the Government’s consultation on primary assessment, reiterating our longstanding opposition to baseline assessment in the reception year. We do not believe baseline assessment is a reliable, proportionate or ethical, which is why we are founding members of the Better without Baseline campaign. We called for revision of the Early Learning Goals in the EYFSP, and the criteria for what constitutes a Good Level of Development (GLD), as well as for the EYFS to be extended to include year 1. There is a wealth of evidence from across the globe that has shown that an extended period of playful learning is extremely beneficial for the development and wellbeing of children under the age of seven.
Parliament has now gone into Recess, but this will be a busy summer for ministers and officials, with implementation of 30 hours less than two months away. As always, please get in touch if you have any questions or information to share related to PACEY’s policy work.
Policy and Research Manager