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.
New year, new ministers
2018 has begun with a bang, with an early January cabinet reshuffle leading to a major shake-up at the Department for Education (DfE). Damian Hinds MP has taken over from Justine Greening as the education secretary. Nadhim Zahawi MP has confirmed on Twitter that he will have responsibility for childcare and early years, replacing the outgoing minister, Robert Goodwill MP. PACEY will be meeting with new minister shortly to discuss our key concerns. At the top of our list is long-term sustainable funding for 30 hours ‘free’ childcare; better career progression opportunities for all practitioners; and an end to the ban on childminders providing funded places to related children. Let us know your priorities by contacting the policy team.
30 hours update
The Department for Education published statistics in December and January on the number of 30 hours childcare codes issued and validated for the autumn and spring terms. Whilst the majority of parents with eligibility codes (94 per cent) accessed their funded place in the autumn term, a significant number of families were unable to do so, and there was significant variation by local authority. Improved funding levels, monthly payments and reduced red tape remain key to the success of 30 hours, and PACEY will continue to raise these issues with national and local government.
In December, the Government announced that the 30 hour offer will be extended to foster children, with more details to be released shortly.
Government funding for school nurseries
The DfE has published a national social mobility plan to support all children and young people to reach their full potential. At the centre of the plan is an ambition to close the 'word gap' in the early years, and £50m allocated to the development of school-based nursery provision. Another £20m is being invested in school-led professional development for early years practitioners. PACEY is calling on the Government to justify its focus on school-based provision, and explain how private, independent and voluntary sector (PVI) providers, including childminders, will benefit from the proposals.
Ofsted’s push for more reading, writing and maths in the early years
Ofsted published two reports at the end of 2017 which criticised the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum for failing to adequately prepare children for Year 1. Bold Beginnings, a report on Reception Year, and Ofsted’s Annual Report both called for a renewed focus on mathematics, reading and phonics in the early years. The reports have been met with widespread condemnation from the early years sector. PACEY was a signatory to a letter in the Guardian – along with 1,700 others – that is calling for the ‘flawed’ Bold Beginnings report to be withdrawn.
DfE parents’ survey
The DfE has published the latest childcare and early years survey of parents, which it carries out every two years. As in the past, a majority of parents (64 per cent) were satisfied with the quality of local childcare. According to parents, the most important factors in delivering high quality childcare and early education were the provision of activities that encourage children to socialise together (65%); staff members having a small number of children to look after (53%); and children beginning to learn writing, reading and maths (45%). This chimes with the latest annual British Social Attitudes survey on attitudes to education and children’s services which found that the most commonly perceived benefit of nursery or pre-school is interaction and socialisation with others.
The DfE survey also revealed that the proportion of families using breakfast clubs has doubled since 2010-11, from 4% to 8%, and there has also been a rise in the number of families using after-school clubs (from 35% to 38%) and day nurseries (from 8% to 10%).
These statistics point to a need for childminders to do more to actively promote their services and unique benefits to parents, and PACEY will be doing all we can to help members do this in the coming year. A range of marketing tips can be found in our free Business Smart toolkit.
It has been a busy start to the year following an exceptionally busy end to 2017. Following the Welsh Government publication of their 10 year workforce plan in December PACEY Cymru are pleased that the ambition from the Welsh Government includes childcare and play being seen as a valued career of choice. There is work required to support this cultural change in society and the clear references within the plan to the work of Cwlwm and PACEY show how key partnership working is to take this forward alongside the other aims.
Some of the key work streams within the plan are already in development including a closer look at the pre-registration requirements for childminders and development of the new suite of qualifications as we have previously highlighted.
PACEY Cymru was also pleased to see the announcement from the Welsh Government that the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill has been passed by the Welsh Assembly. This follows on from PACEY Cymru supporting work on the content of this bill over the past year.
PACEY Cymru gave evidence on the draft Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill to the Welsh Assembly's Children, Young People and Education Committee at the Senedd on the 16th March. This followed PACEY Cymru's consultation response on the Bill.
Earlier this year the Welsh Government held a consultation on options for implementing the Bill if it became law. The full report is available on their website.
Review of National Minimum Standards
Cwlwm partners have also had an initial meeting with Welsh Government to start discussions on how the National Minimum Standards for Regulated Childcare in Wales could be revised to ensure they respond to the changing needs of the sector. Further work on this will take place in early 2018. There will be options for members and all other childminders to be involved in engagement events and focus groups and this is a good opportunity for providers to influence the development of policy and have their views heard. PACEY Cymru will share further information on this in coming months.
CSSIW name change
As you should all be aware CSSIW changed its name to Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) on the 15th January. PACEY has been working behind the scenes to ensure products, resources, training and publications are updated to reflect this change of name. We have also received confirmation from CIW and form our legal team in PACEY on a number of key queries raised by the name change and have shared this information on our website.
Childminders and related children in Wales
PACEY Cymru were disappointed to learn that Welsh Government changed the guidance they previously offered on access to Childcare Offer funding for parents who use a relative who is a registered childminder. This change means that childminders in Wales are now in a similar position to childminders in England where they are unable to provide funded childcare for related children. PACEY has been campaigning for over a decade for childminders to be permitted to deliver funded early education and childcare places to children who are related to them. PACEY Cymru will be working closely with policy colleagues in England to lobby on this issue and call for a change to the law.
We are aware of situations where this change in position has meant families with long term private childcare arrangements with childminders are having now to make a choice as to whether to continue with their current private childcare arrangement, and the financial cost of this, or move children to a setting where they can access the funding greatly disrupting continuity of care. This can be particularly detrimental if the child has a disability or special educational need. We do not believe this supports key Welsh Government aims around emotional well-being for children or sustainability of childcare provision.
PACEY believes there are already sufficient safeguards in place to ensure the Welsh Government would not be ‘paying parents to parent’ if it allowed childminders to deliver funded places to relatives. The registration and inspection process requires the same standards of all childminders, whether they care for a related or an unrelated child.
Are you affected or will you be affected by this change in position? We are collecting evidence and case studies to support our lobbying work in Wales. Contact us on email@example.com to share your views and/or experiences.
Welsh Government is looking for feedback to support the development of the Childcare Offer in Wales through their Talk Childcare campaign. They are currently seeking the views of childcare providers and it would strengthen lobbying work for as many childminders as possible in Wales to share their thoughts in writing with Welsh Government.
Economic Review of the Childcare Sector in Wales
The Welsh Government has also published this month a report commissioned by Alma Economics on an economic Review of the Childcare Sector in Wales. The aims of the research aims were to quantify the economic impact of the sector in Wales and look to provide detailed breakdowns of the costs and charges required for childcare providers to operate efficiently and sustainably. There are numerous findings for the wider childcare sector and many specific to childminders.
Welsh Government are considering the recommendations for further areas of research suggested by Alma as they develop their priorities for the next few years. PACEY Cymru will use the findings of the research to support work locally and nationally in Wales on key areas identified.