This week seems to have been rather a gloomy one on many fronts, dominated as it was by the Strategic Defence Review, then the Comprehensive Spending Review. As we are closely involved with the military communities at 5 of our sites, the reductions in the Armed Forces will undoubtedly have an impact on many of the families whom we know and may make life harder for many of them. However, the CSR did not bring any unexpected changes for the Early Years sector as a whole, although clearly the loss of jobs in the Civil Service may affect families across the country and there are predicted to be a further half million private sector redundancies as well. The reduction in tax credits for many families will make childcare more expensive, although the Government has promised an extension of the funding for childcare for 2 year olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.
I have already been asked by one journalist why the tax payer should fund children being ‘looked after’ and had to explain that the reason for funding early education for the most disadvantaged children was to try and level the playing field for those of them who received the least support at home, particularly in areas such as reading books with parents and face to face conversation. We have been involved with a pilot study for the 2 year old funding and it can certainly make a real difference to some children. However, at risk of sounding like a stuck record, the Government really needs to sort out the funding for the ‘free’ pre-school entitlement before it rolls this model out any further. We shall have to wait and see as the detail from the CSR trickles down, to really understand how it will affect us all.