May 25, 2010

Interesting times for Early Years

I have followed the political shenanigans over the last month or so with great interest; before the election each party claimed to have policies of some description regarding the Early Years Sector, and most even had a named Minister or Shadow Minister. However, when the coalition Government formed, there was a distinct lack of information about who would take on this portfolio, assuming they had remembered that Early Years even existed, with the swift re-naming of DCSF as the Department of Education.

Many of our trade bodies and larger providers had met with the Conservative Shadow Minister, Maria Miller, who seemed to be increasing her knowledge of the issues facing our sector as time went by. Therefore i was rather disappointed to read that she has gone to the Department of Work and Pensions, where her understanding of the issues of the Single Funding Formula for the Early Years Entitlement might be of limited use!

Today’s brefing paper from the coalition Government is interesting, but still fairly vague on some issues. Most people in our sector, and a huge number of parents, will be pleased to see that Sure Start is going to continue, although it seems likely that more efficient methods of running these services will be sought, and rightly so. I will be interested to see how ministers are going to tackle the thorny issue of funding for 3 and 4 year olds; we are currently grappling with the Code of Practice around delivering the sessions and trying to remain sustainable in some locations, where the hourly rate we are given is nowhere near the true cost of delivering the sessions. We do not want to see a 2-tier system, but getting the balance right between parental choice and truly putting the child at the heart of everything is a tricky one.

We all know that future rounds of spending cuts are going to be painful and we are still not sure where the axe will fall. Hopefully the sector will get the best of both worlds; less interference in how we run our settings, combined with recognition that the State can not provide the levels of Early Years Education that they wish to without relying on the private sector. Watch this space……

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