Childcare policy 'not fit for purpose', warns report

By Laura McCardle

| 04 June 2014

Decade-old childcare policy is affecting the quality of early years education for today's young children, a report concludes.

The Family and Childcare Trust is calling on the government to bring childcare policy up to date. Image: Alex Deverill

The Family and Childcare Trust’s Where Next for Childcare? urges the main political parties to make the development of a new childcare policy a priority ahead of the 2015 general election.

The report claims that much of today’s childcare policy continues to be based on a 2004 strategy introduced under Tony Blair’s Labour government.

Although the Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare report, published by the now defunct Department for Children, Schools and Families, was designed to be a 10-year strategy, the Family and Childcare Trust has claimed that the strategy is no longer fit for purpose and fails to address the needs of young children and their families a decade on.

The report makes a series of recommendations based on the four broad aims of the 2004 strategy – choice and flexibility, availability, quality and affordability – in a bid to bring childcare policy up to date.

Crucially, the report recommends that the government should implement recommendations put forward by Professor Cathy Nutbrown in her June 2012 review of early education, that all early years staff should be qualified to at least NVQ Level 3 and all settings be led by graduates.  

In addition, the report recommends that schools should be encouraged to deliver early education and that local authorities should develop early years quality networks to support the professional development of providers.

Anand Shukla, chief executive of the Family and Childcare Trust, said it is vital that political parties recognise the need to update childcare policy.

He said: “Our childcare market is not fit for purpose. It is failing to fill gaps in provision, particularly for those parents who most need childcare; it is failing to drive up quality; and it is becoming more unaffordable to parents despite increased government funding.

“It is now ten years since any government developed a comprehensive strategy for childcare and a complete overhaul of the system is needed.

“The Family and Childcare Trust wants to see all political parties commit to developing a new childcare vision that delivers for parents, childcare providers, and crucially, for children.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Childcare costs in England have fallen in real terms for the first time in 12 years. That is because this government has taken action to make it easier for high-quality providers to expand and for schools to offer more flexible care from 8am to 6pm. Our reforms to early years teaching have seen a 25 per cent increase in new recruits.

“We have done more than any previous government to help parents with the costs of childcare, including giving every three- and four-year-old access to 15 hours of free early education a week, and extending this to 260,000 two-year-olds from low-income families.”

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