CYP Now asked seven leading early years and children’s organisations what their three main policy priorities would be ahead of next year’s general election, with increased government investment in the sector ranked top of the list.
The organisations, Barnardo’s, the Family and Childcare Trust, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), the Pre-school Learning Alliance, the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey), and the think-tanks Bright Blue and the Resolution Foundation, said greater investment in the early years could be crucial to improving outcomes for young children.
The top five key issues selected by the organisations also include the need for increased investment in the training and continued professional development of childcare professionals.
Liz Bayram, chief executive of the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey), said the incoming parliament needs to focus on supporting the professional development of all practitioners in a bid to improve the quality of care available for young children.
She said: “We need a childcare workforce programme that offers support to existing childcare professionals as well as new entrants to the profession.
“While it’s important to attract high-quality graduates to the sector, we shouldn’t forget the need to offer increased support for those already working as childcare practitioners.”
Several of the organisations also said that extending the offer of free childcare to more disadvantaged two-, three- and four-year-olds should be a priority for the next government, along with a long-term strategy on which policy proposals can be judged.
The organisations also said that the next government should work with more employers to support flexible working for parents.
Commenting on the sector’s responses, Professor Cathy Nutbrown, head of the school of education at the University of Sheffield, said: “Few, I think, would disagree that it is the children who are the key focus in all decisions about policy in early childhood education and care.
“Whatever is done, however decisions are made, the central concern should be the impact on babies, toddlers and young children. So, all policy should ultimately be aimed at achieving excellent provision for children and their families.
“If we agree on that guiding principle, then the next questions are about how we achieve such excellence.”
The NDNA has now launched its Childcare Challenge, which calls on the government to implement its three key policy changes.
To read more about the sector’s childcare policy priorities, see the new issue of CYP Now or click here.