Early years is ‘a sector in crisis’

Childcare providers are like climate change activists in the early days, hitting their heads against a policy brickwall, a conference heard tonight.

evidence about childcare

Teacher and adorable children being creative with colorful pencils at kindergarten

Childcare providers are like climate change activists several years ago, shouting about the need for urgent action to prevent an impending crisis which those in authority do not appear to be listening to, the Early Years Alliance [EYA] conference heard tonight.

The conference, Small Steps, Big Changes: building an ambitious vision for the early years, included a keynote speech by the EYA’s leader Neil Leitch in which he argued that early years professionals can “relate to that very same frustration” of climate activists.

He said: “We’ve been crying out for so long that things need to change, that the sector is in crisis, that we need to act now to ensure we are able to continue to provide the best possible care and education for our children and families, and yet, so little seems to change. Instead, year after year, we have the same conversations – the same battles, over and over again.

“How many years have we been reading the same headlines about sky-high childcare costs and nothing changes?

“How many education schemes and policies have we seen rolled out that completely overlook our sector?

“And how many times have we had to explain that relaxing early years ratios is not now, nor will it ever be, the solution to the problems caused by years of underfunding?

Neil criticised government plans to consult on changes to early years ratios in England later this summer, saying:  “If implemented, this policy will not only put the quality of care and early education that children receive at risk, but it will also be an enormous backward step in how early years provision is viewed and understood in this country.”

He also stressed that the sector’s concerns about the proposals go beyond that of safety, saying:  “…We are not babysitters. We aren’t simply there to keep children fed and watered. Of course, keeping them safe is a priority – but that alone is not what we do.

“We are educators. Our job is to build the foundations of learning and development that will shape these children, and I don’t mean sharp go-getters who will step over others for money and careers … I mean caring, kind, thoughtful, unbiased children that will drive the safety and security of our world. And relaxing ratios threatens our ability to do just that.”

He added that now was the worst possible time to talk about ratios at the moment the head of Ofsted has said that young children’s development has stalled and they need more support than ever. He said that early years in the UK has some of the lowest early years investment of any economically-developed country and argued that quality early years care sets the foundations for educational outcomes througout people’s lives, despite often being overlooked in policy papers. However, Leitch said parents and childcare providers are now coming together to campaign and to ensure that every child matters.

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