It is a pleasure to have James Hempsall as my guest blogger. James has been the Director of Hempsall’s since 1999, leading a team of 25 trainers, researchers, development officers and consultants in early years, childcare and children’s centres. He has worked with over 100 local authorities supporting them to implement all aspects of government childcare policy at strategic and operational levels.
James writes ”There’s big things happening around two year olds. The government has signalled their importance by allocating significant new funding to the roll out of thousands of new places. At a time when new money is scarce, it is incredible that all roads lead to two year olds and their early education. It is an economic, social mobility, early intervention, poverty and achievement agenda. And one which retains the potential to support families to make sound economic choices, learn and achieve, and close the gap between the least advantaged children and their peers.
The early years and childcare sector has distinguished itself as a sector that delivers. It should not be overlooked, forgotten, nor uncelebrated by us or those around us. We have grown, changed, raised standards, gained changing qualifications, and closed the achievement gap between the least disadvantaged children and their peers. And we have been here before – many of us were startled by the ambition to offer universal early education to all four year olds, then three year olds, and the sea change to offer greater flexibility. Yet, we delivered, and parents now expect such provision to be in place. It would seem unthinkable to remove it. The recent report by the Economic Intelligence Unit shows we compare very favourably with other countries of the world when it comes to early education, coming fourth overall out of 45 countries. So I am more than confident we will deliver on providing places for the 40% least advantaged two year olds by September 2014.
It’s a great challenge to have, and it needs some considered thought from local authorities and providers alike. My monthly column in Nursery World magazine ‘Take Twos’ has shown how sometimes small changes in practice, staff routines, quality processes, partnerships with parents, and business modelling can make the difference and meet the needs of two year olds, their families and the provider’s business. It is this sort of learning that needs to be harnessed and shared to ensure future developments. Such experiences remind us that our delivery is not exclusively about funding.
However, core to the issue of delivery is the availability of funding from the government, via local authorities, to fund places, and from the provider to secure long term vision and sustainability. There is a need for open, inclusive and effective dialogues between local authorities and their providers to negotiate and agree appropriate resourcing and partnership working. In these economically challenging times, it may also mean that providers choose alternative sources of investment funding – such as loans, supported by the small business loan guarantee scheme championed by the minister, Sarah Teather. Everyone should carefully consider how this exciting new strategy offers opportunities for families and providers as we all have a responsibility to offer sufficient, quality and financially sustainable places. There is a long-game to be played.
It is a fact there are hundreds of millions of pounds being invested by government into the sector – which can only be good news after a recession that has challenged us all. With it comes new opportunities and some new market considerations. Last week’s Census report showed the under-fives population is booming (400,000 more than 10 years ago), particularly in the least advantaged communities and in BME groups and recent arrivals. It will be vitally important that early education providers are able to connect to all families and meet all their needs in terms of addressing poverty, supporting employment and enabling two year olds to become successful learners. However, the sector should do this in ways that benefit the sector as providers and small businesses, as well as those of children and families. We have a vital role to play in increasing educational achievement, economic chances, supporting families to move from benefits into employment, identifying children’s needs early and signposting to early intervention and support, and in our contributory role as front-line safeguarders of children. There cannot be a more important job to do.”
For more information, please visit Hempsall consultancies website:
I couldn’t agree with James more! With the needs of two year olds in mind we, at Childcare Consultancy, are delivering the following course to support them:
Neither One nor Three – Supporting the Developmental Needs of Two Year Olds© – Saturday 20th October
Practitioners will understand how to support the holistic needs of two year olds. Practitioners attending this training will have an opportunity to develop and practise strategies in order to carry out effective observations and, more importantly, how to communicate with parents regarding their child’s development. There will also be a focus on the two year progress check.
The course includes: comprehensive handouts, refreshments, a hot lunch and a certificate of attendance.
If you would like to book a place or for further information, please email Juliette: email@example.com or call 0208 689 7733
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