Early years leaders publish manifestos for next government

Amrit Virdi
Friday, October 13, 2023

Early years leaders have laid out their calls for the next government around improving childcare in England.

The manifesto calls on the next government to improve support for the early years sector. Picture: Adobe Stock/ Oksana Kuzmina.
The manifesto calls on the next government to improve support for the early years sector. Picture: Adobe Stock/ Oksana Kuzmina.

The Early Years Alliance (EYA) manifesto focuses on emergency financial rescue packages for the sector, funding to improve support for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and a recruitment and retention strategy for the early years workforce.

Other key calls in the manifesto include:

  • Provide additional funding for healthy and nutritious meals and snacks in early years settings.

  • Increase early years pupil premium to match primary school funding levels.

  • Provide practical and financial support for baby and toddler groups as part of wider family support initiatives.

  • Exempt all early years providers from business rates and paying VAT on purchases.

The government's phased rollout of the expanded early years funded hours is set to begin in April next year, which aims to see all children aged nine months and older who come from families given access to 30 hours of government-funded early education and care.

The EYA has raised concerns that the rollout is happening at a time when there is already a lack of funding and staff shortages.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance said: “For far too long, the early years sector has been used as a political football by all parties, and forced to deal with the fallout of underfunded promises made to families. And with the expansion of the 30-hour offer fast approaching, many providers who are already struggling to keep their heads above water are set to be put under even more pressure going forward.

“We’re clear that whichever political party is in government after the next election, urgent support – and crucially – investment in the early years underpinned by a comprehensive long-term plan for the sector must form a key part of their priorities.”

The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has also launched its Blueprint for Early Education and Care which will be shaped to form their own manifesto for the new government.

This consists of 10 recommendations including:

  • An independent annual review into the cost of delivering high quality early education and care.

  • Revised early education and care qualifications to ensure that these adequately address the specific needs of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

  • A national commission into the future of early education and care.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, said: “We need to raise the status of the early years profession to that of school teachers – they are educating our youngest children during the time when children learn the most. Once society accepts that they are so much more than babysitters, we can ensure they receive status and recognition they deserve.

“Ultimately, early education and childcare policy – which is currently at the top of all political parties’ agendas - must work for children and families, but also for all types of providers.”

At the Labour Party Conference, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson revealed a plan for Labour to review early years provision if it wins the next general election which must be held before January 2025.

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