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Experts in early years education, including academics and organisations have welcomed the publication of the new Pre-school Learning Alliance Early Years Agenda manifesto.
Early years experts such as David Whitebread and organisations such as PACEY, and TACTYC are among high-profile early years representatives to endorse the manifesto outlining the Alliance’s calls to the Government to address funding, schoolification and the issue of paid-for re-inspections.
Chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil Leitch, said: “With so many challenges facing the early years, it has never been more important for us to speak with a united voice – as such, we’re delighted that the Early Years Agenda has been endorsed by so many key figures within the sector. The more support it receives, the stronger the message to Government, and so we hope that practitioners will join them in voicing support for the manifesto.
“We have already seen significant progress in a number of areas: the Government is currently carrying out a long-called for review of early years funding, while Ofsted has committed to bring early years inspections in-house. But there is still much to do – and it can only be done if we as a sector work together.
“As such, we remain committed to working in partnership with colleagues across the sector – and with Government – to push for necessary changes and to ensure that early years policy always, without exception, has the needs of the child at its centre, and is based on both objective evidence and consultation with the sector.”
’This manifesto offers recommendations that are child-centred, evidence-based and collaborative’
The manifesto includes calls for the Government to work with the Pre-school Learning Alliance to review the free-entitlement funding system and review the cost of delivering funded nursery places. In addition, the Alliance has called for the introduction of a statutory requirement for local authorities to collect annual data from local providers about the cost of delivering free-entitlement places.
Currently, children aged three and four and 40 per cent of disadvantaged two-year-olds in England are entitled to 15 hours of free early years education each week for 38 weeks of the calendar year and this is to be increased to 30 hours a week for three and four year olds from working families.
However, the hourly funding rate that childcare providers receive is not enough to cover the current entitlement before the 30 hour increase, leaving many providers struggling to make up the extra costs and having to raise the cost of paid for provision to make up the shortfall.
Speaking on behalf of Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY), chief executive, Liz Bayram said: “PACEY is supporting the Early Years Agenda because we share its concerns and believe the early years sector is stronger when organisations and individuals work together.”
Dr Richard House from the Department of Education Studies at University of Winchester and co-founder of Too Much Too Sound, Early Childhood Action and Open EYE campaigns, commented: “The time has come for early years practitioners to re-professionalise their work after decades of relentless de-professionalisation perpetrated by all political parties.
“This admirable manifesto offers recommendations that are child-centred (not politician-centred), evidence-based (not ideology-driven), and collaborative (not imposed) - surely this isn’t too much to ask for? It invites politicians to listen to professionals, and fundamentally to change their approach — and for our children’s sake, I wish them the wisdom, open mindedness and sound sense to do just that.”
Commenting on the agenda, Jane Payler, Wendy Scott and Nancy Stewart from TACTYC said: “TACTYC fully endorses the call from the Pre-school Learning Alliance for the needs of the child to be always at the centre of decision-making, for policy to be based on independent research evidence, and for genuine consultation with the early years sector at the beginning of all policy development.”
The agenda also suggest that the proposed baseline assessment is scrapped and the Government reinstate the EYFS Profiles statutory status.
’The manifesto presents a clear and evidence-based case for radical change’
The document further suggests early years inspections are brought in-house and the introduction of independent provider representation for the quality assurance stage of inspections and at the complaints and appeals process. In addition, the Alliance is calling for the introduction of paid-for re-inspections as detailed in the Children and Families Act 2014.
Senior lecturer in psychology and education at the University of Cambridge, Dr David Whitebread added: “The Early Years Agenda highlights three important areas of concern in relation to the current support by the UK Government for early childhood education, and proposes well-evidenced changes which need to be made to establish high quality provision throughout this sector.
“The concerns articulated about under-funding, about schoolification of the curriculum, and about the damaging impact of poor quality Ofsted inspections, are real and significant. The manifesto presents a clear and evidence-based case for radical change, and argues very persuasively for the needs of the child to be at the centre of early childhood education policy.”
The manifesto has been created to support the Government development of early years policy and help practitioners to understand issues surrounding current policy, lobby politicians and local MPs on key issues facing the sector. Furthermore, it is hoped that the agenda will inform early years colleagues and parents about changes the sector currently faces and what can be done to solve them.
Chief executive of Early Education, Beatrice Merrick added: “Early Education endorses the Early Years Agenda as we believe that a high-quality early years sector must be properly funded: private, voluntary, independent and maintained providers all need funding at levels that allows them to recruit, retain and develop high quality staff in order to deliver the quality early education which will make a difference to children’s futures.
“We support children’s rights to a rich play-based experience in the early years, and are concerned about the distorting impacts of initiatives such as baseline assessment and the phonics test which create counterproductive pressures to narrow and formalise children’s learning. We call on Government to work with the early years sector and draw on its extensive knowledge and experience to deliver policies that really work for young children and families.”
The Pre-school Learning Alliance represents 14,000 member settings, supporting them in the delivery of care and learning to more than 800,000 families each year. Early years practitioners can sign up and endorse the manifesto for free by visiting: www.pre-school.org.uk/endorse
To view or download a copy, visit: www.pre-school.org.uk/EYAgenda-manifesto