Welcome to PACEY’s regular policy update, which provides a summary of the latest policy developments in England and Wales concerning childcare and early years, and how we are representing your views to key decision makers.
We recently wrote to the minister responsible for early years and childcare, Robert Goodwill MP, to follow up on the key points raised in our meeting with him last month. In our letter, we stress the need for a long term sustainable funding plan for the 15- and 30-hour early education and childcare entitlements, and improved enforcement of the statutory guidance.
We also highlight the issue of the ban on providing places to related children, and have sent the minister a new policy briefing on this subject. We are calling on him to harmonise at the earliest opportunity the criteria for using childcare provided by relatives, so that parents in England can use related childminders for the early education and childcare entitlements, just as they can for Tax-Free Childcare, childcare vouchers, and the childcare element of Working Tax Credit/Universal Credit – as long as the childminder is registered with Ofsted and the care is being provided outside the child’s home. This is currently the situation in Scotland and Wales, but not yet in England. Unfortunately it is having a very detrimental impact on some children and families. Read more about our campaign.
30 hours update – According to new statistics, 93 per cent of 30-hour eligibility codes have been validated as of 6th November. However, a parliamentary question has revealed that there is a big discrepancy in the validation rates by local authority. PACEY has heard from a number of local authorities that take-up of 30 hours by parents has been lower than expected. We will be closely monitoring the impact of 30 hours in the coming months, particularly through Building Blocks, our flagship sector-wide survey, which will be launched in the spring. If you would like to share how 30 hours has affected you, for better or for worse, please contact our policy team.
Workforce strategy update – As a member of the Expert Reference Group (ERG) on the early years workforce, PACEY has been helping the Department for Education to develop new standardised criteria for Level 2 early years qualifications that was promised in the early years workforce strategy. There will be a public consultation on the criteria shortly (watch this space), and new qualifications are expected to be in place by September 2018. A new Level 3 apprenticeship standard is due to be rolled out in February, and future apprenticeship standards are being planned for Levels 4, 5, and 6. Future meetings of the ERG will be looking more closely at early years career pathways, something we have long been calling on the Government to improve. PACEY also has representation on the T level Panel on Childcare and Education, which will be co-designing the content of the new technical qualification (‘T level’) for childcare and education.
Menus for early years settings – A number of PACEY members were closely involved in the development of a series of healthy seasonal menus for nurseries and childminders commissioned by the Government. After a long delay, it is fantastic news that they are finally available and free to download. The menus follow the Children’s Food Trust’s voluntary food and drink guidelines for early years settings. However, we remain concerned that it will be increasingly difficult for settings to meet these guidelines in light of the low funding rate for the free entitlement, which doesn’t include meals and snacks. Families facing financial constraints could be forced to provide their own, likely less nutritious, meals and snacks.
Physical activity in the early years – The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood is calling on the Government to rethink the role of physical activity in its 2016 Child Obesity Strategy. In a new report, the group argues that accessible, sustainable and informative programmes of physical activity are essential components of child health and well-being, and that the UK is falling behind other countries in this area. There are a number of early years-specific recommendations. If you are interested in learning more, read our blog about the new guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer on physical activity in the early years – why they are they important, and what they mean for early years practitioners.
As always, don’t hesitate to get in touch with all your policy-related queries and concerns.
The autumn term is always a busy time in Wales for PACEY Cymru, as it is time to start looking ahead to the new financial year. Developments in Wales are moving fast as Welsh Government is planning to undertake a review of the National Minimum Standards and publish its 10 year plan for the childcare, play and early years workforce. Watch this space for more on these developments in the coming months.
Qualification development – The development of content and assessment methods for the new suite of qualifications due to be available for providers in Wales from September 2019 is moving forward. PACEY Cymru are involved in a number of advisory groups and working sub groups to support the awarding bodies in their aims. We are closely working with other Cwlwm partners, Social Care Wales, Qualification Wales and Welsh Government to ensure the needs of home-based childcare are understood and taken into account to ensure relevant qualification pathways for members to grow and develop. This will include new Level 4 Childcare and Play qualifications that usefully bridge the gap between the Level 3 and Level 5 qualifications.
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and childminders – Following concerns raised by childminders about inconsistencies around environmental health requirements, PACEY Cymru has been seeking clarification about whether childminders are subject to the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS). We have always understood childminders to be exempt since they operate on domestic premises. However, we recently learned that the All Wales Food Safety Expert Panel has been advising local authorities that a childminder should be included in the scheme when he or she ‘becomes a nursery’, which the panel advises happens when ‘a childminder operates out of a premises that is not their domestic premise and/or where the ‘childminder’ employs members of staff.’
We challenged the panel’s advice, highlighting the fact that the definition of a childminder is clearly laid out by the Welsh Government in the National Minimum Standards. We have raised our concerns with the FHRS Steering group and are pleased to report that the panel’s advice will be reviewed. PACEY Cymru are also due to meet with the Food Standards Agency in late December to discuss this and other issues related to home-based childcare. We will keep you informed of further developments.
Business Support for the childcare and play sector – PACEY Cymru and other Cwlwm partners have been involved in events in north and south Wales alongside the Welsh Government, Business Wales, local authorities, CSSIW and other key agencies to look at the picture of business support available to the sector locally, regionally and nationally. The aim of these events is to support collaborative working, share good practice and begin to identify issues and gaps. This work will be taken forward by engagement with providers, and we will share information on this once it is available.