Delay in childcare minister appointment worries early years sector

Derren Hayes
Friday, July 18, 2014

The delay in appointing a new childcare minister following Tuesday's Cabinet reshuffle will increase concerns the government does not consider the issue a priority, early years organisations have warned.

Pre-school Learning Alliance chief Neil Leitch said the delay was "counterintuitive".
Pre-school Learning Alliance chief Neil Leitch said the delay was "counterintuitive".

Three days after the reshuffle saw former childcare minister Elizabeth Truss promoted to Environment Secretary, the government is still to announce who will be taking on the early years portfolio within the Department for Education.

Early years organisations say the delay is concerning and could indicate that childcare does not figure highly in the government’s future plans.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “Given that the government has identified early education and childcare as a key political priority in the run-up to next year’s general election, it seems counterintuitive that it has still not confirmed who within the DfE will be taking over responsibility for early years.
 
“This delay will do little to allay concerns that, contrary to the government’s claims, early years remains low on its list of priorities.”

Victoria Flint, head of communications at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (Pacey), urged the government to name the new minister as soon as possible.

She said: “The government faces a challenging year ahead in setting out how it will ensure that all families have access to flexible, affordable and high-quality childcare, and also ensuring a robust workforce programme is in place that drives quality across all settings. During such a critical time for the sector, it is important that we have clear leadership and commitment from government.”

In addition to Truss’s departure, the reshuffle saw Nick Gibb appointed as minister of state at the DfE and Sam Gyimah appointed as under secretary of state. At the time of publication the Number 10 website stated their responsibilities had yet to be decided, although it seems likely that childcare will sit with one of them or go to Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws. ?

The DfE has been contacted for comment.

The reshuffle also saw relatively unknown former Treasury minister and Conservative MP for Loughborough Nicky Morgan replace Michael Gove as Education Secretary.

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