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Robert Goodwill announced as the new childcare minister

Article By: Melissa McAlees

Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, has been appointed as the new minister at the Department for Education (DfE) and will take on responsibility for early years and childcare.

Credit: Department for Education - Robert Goodwill MP

The announcement was made at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Nursery Schools and Nursery Classes.

In a statement following the general election, Mr Goodwill said: "As a constituency MP, I've already spent a lot of time working with families, working with schools. I understand some of the problems, particularly in some of the more deprived areas.

"Certainly, my experiences in Scarborough and Whitby will be very useful for me, particularly as Scarborough's going to be one of the 'Opportunity Areas', with more money going in to help with some of the social problems."

The former immigration minister will also take on the brief as minister for vulnerable children and families. The position was previously held by Edward Timpson, who lost his seat in the general election.

Overcoming the remaining challenges

Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) welcomed the opportunity to work closely with Mr Goodwill and his team, ensuring the concerns of the sector are represented and that the early years remains a top priority.

PACEY's chief executive, Liz Bayram, said: "We are looking forward to working with Mr Goodwill, not only to ensure sustainability issues around the delivery of funded early education are urgently addressed, but also that the previous Government’s commitment to a workforce development strategy for early years is fulfilled.

"Given he will have a much wider Ministerial remit than his predecessor, PACEY is keen to ensure early years continues to receive the focus and priority it deserves. The early years are critical to ensuring children, especially the most disadvantaged, receive the best start in life. PACEY is keen to work with Mr Goodwill to overcome the remaining challenges we face as a sector so we can be assured we have the sustainable, high-quality childcare and early education that children and families deserve.”

'Up for the challenge'

With the sector "still battling against the historic and chronic underfunding", and with the roll-out of the 30-hours 'free' entitlement offer only months away, National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), hopes Mr Goodwill will be "up for the challenge."

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, said: "With his constituency in North Yorkshire, which has one of the lowest funding rates in the country and includes early implementer nurseries testing out how they can deliver 30 hours sustainably, he should be aware of the issues which are troubling nurseries and other providers.

"We are clear that, unless there is enough investment to pay a fair hourly rate for 'free' places, then nurseries must be allowed to make mandatory charges for meals and other extras to be able to balance their books.

"We can help him in his new role, but he must be prepared to work closely with the sector and listen to what nurseries, children and families need."

'The scale of the task should not be underestimated'

The Pre-School Learning Alliance also hopes Mr Goodwill will quickly address issues surrounding the viability and sustainability of the policy.

Chief executive, Neil Leitch, said: "There’s no doubt that childcare and early years is a challenging and complicated brief, and so the scale of the task facing the new minister should not be underestimated.

"While we recognise that there is natural cross-over between the respective early years and vulnerable children and families’ briefs, the fact remains that we now only have one minister looking after these policy areas, where previously there were two.

"It’s therefore vital that the Department for Education ensures that it is committing the necessary departmental resources to ensure the smooth roll-out of early years policy going forward."


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