“Children are the most powerful source for a better world” Martha Llanos
It’s great that the government commissioned Cathy Nutbrown (click to view review) Foundations for Quality to review early years qualifications and that they have now set up a Childcare Commission to look at costs involved. However I feel that the government need to consult with a wide range of early years/childcare/education providers, specialists and parents.
The cost of childcare has always been a catch 22 situation, as quality childcare is expensive and parents want to pay less. As a single parent, who used childcare previously, I found that childcare costs made a huge dent in my monthly outgoings but felt that this was a sacrifice worth paying for.
I work with providers across the UK and know that financial investment in early years makes a considerable impact on children’s outcomes. The cliché ‘quality childcare costs’ is not to be underestimated. Qualifications are important and most providers already exceed the current recommendations for qualifications. But, what is more important is how the individual practitioner emotionally connects with the young children that they work with.
In addition, the current staff to child ratio has a huge benefit on children’s learning and development as do most of the quality controls imposed by regulation. These must not be reduced if we wish our children to be kept safe and provided with inspiring opportunities that lay the foundations for their future learning.
The cuts from central government have had a huge impact on local authority budgets, resulting in a lack of training and support for providers. I believe that investment post-qualification needs to be directed at ongoing continuous professional and personal development.
The idea, as stated in the media today, of schools staying open until 8:00pm worries me; headteachers and governors have other priorities! There are providers currently who have vacancies and willing to offer flexible care for children up to and beyond 8:00pm. We should press the pause button and stop trying to reinvent the wheel, when we could work with existing providers to achieve this.
I recently spoke to my ex-childminder who cared for my sons and she has vacancies and is willing to offer flexible childcare for parents. She states that she and other childminders are struggling to fill vacancies. Note, deregulation of childminding will not solve this! A solution could be that providers (nurseries, Pre-schools, Crèches, childminders and out-of-school clubs) who are willing to offer greater flexibility in opening hours are given extra financial support to do so.
We also need to carefully look at free entitlement and why providers are, inadvertently, supplementing this government scheme.
As a sector, we need to be creative in our solutions, for instance planning departments within local authorities can decide the opening hours for nurseries and may impose conditions that they can’t open beyond 6:00pm – even though we know there is a need for more flexible childcare e.g. parents who work in retail and in hospitals don’t down tools at 6:00pm! More joined up thinking is needed; let us open up discussions with planning departments and more importantly the local community, as to why day care providers need to open past 6:00pm.
The Government will need to invest financially to make this happen and carefully continue to listen and work with the sector.
Cross reference previous blogs:
Follow the conversation on: