The conference was held on 20 May 2011.
Chair – Sharon Hodgson MP Shadow Minister for Children and Families
The Chair opened the event by acknowledging the research and investigation carried out on improving quality of provision for children in their early years. She identified Sure Start* as a specific development which would be going through changes over the next year or so. She stated that of the four policies set in place by Labour, only one remained. The Tickell Review* acknowledged the importance of the Early Years Foundation Stage and proposes that it is made more streamlined and therefore easier to apply. She also mentioned the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) report Doing Better for Families, which would be addressed by the next speaker.
Deborah Roseweare – Head of the Education and Training Division, Directorate for Education OECD
She identified 3 rationales: ECEC (Early Childhood, Education and Care) whose research acknowledged the significant economic and social pay-off for investing in the care and education of very young children. She stated that several studies have found that even children suffering form deprivation fare much better if they have early years stimulation and support from trained professionals. The return is higher where there has been investment into pre-school children.
On an international perspective, investing in young children and early childhood saw all children gain and disadvantaged children gained even more. The PISA graph 2009 identifies trends across the world. The structural quality of provision was a key to success. There should be appropriate space for each child to learn and develop; the size of the group should seriously be considered; the qualifications of staff are important and the content of the curriculum itself.
Page 9 of the OECD Report –*Encouraging Quality in ECEC shows that the actual cost of childcare in this country were almost 50% of the parent’s salary whilst the net cost was considerably less. Research carried out in USA concluded that high quality input into pre-school care and education produces fewer children who may need additional support once they get to school.
Dr Louise Bamfield – Assistant Director, Policy and Research Barnardo’s leading on education, early years and children in care
She spoke about making sure that we reach every child; that we support and enable the whole child and that there is effective prevention of harm. She hopes that there will be a re-focussing of Sure Start to get it back to its original purpose. She mentioned a number of reviews and pieces of research that were current:
- Frank Field Review which looks at eradicating child poverty by 2020,
- Graham Allen Review which proposes the establishment of early intervention for young children,
- The Munro Review – a systems analysis of child protection proceedings,
- The Young Foundation – Sinking or Swimming, which offers an understanding of Britain’s unmet need and how people cope with poverty and crises.
She also mentioned making the best use of our resources, which is a challenge in this time of economic reduction. Possible use of more volunteers has been suggested, across children’s centres where the professional resources are stretched to capacity.
Eva Lloyd Co-Director International Centre for the Study of the Mixed Economy of Childcare (ICMEC), Cass School of Education, University of East London
She referred to the history of EYFS from Child Care Act 2006 to the present time. The research that her organisation conducted showed that 7 out of 10 people thought that EYFS had been successful. The Tickell Review has recommended 46 changes, for example, a reduction from 67 to 17 early learning goals, and the Welfare requirements to be re-named Safeguarding and Welfare.
Any changes to EYFS will be from September 2012. She closed by affirming that the purpose of EYFS was to make schools ready for children and not children ready for school.
In the next frame, four guest speakers contributed their perspective on EYFS: Nansi Ellis, Head of Education Policy and Research for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers; Anne Page, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for the Family and Parenting Institute; Sandra Rodrigues, Sure Start Centre Manager, Ethelred Nursery School and Children’s Centre Lambeth; Dr. Martin Bradley, Chair, Montessori Schools Association.
They produced a mixed yet comprehensive view of how EYFS could and should be operated. It was evident that most speakers had concerns about the quality of training of practitioners and the amount of support and guidance on offer. Everyone was passionate about the children who remain the focus of any development to policy and practice.
This was part of a very full morning programme and was well worth the participation. It is reassuring and at the same time disappointing that so many of us really want the very best for all children yet there appear to be more bureaucratic obstacles than ever. It also brought to my attention how fast the world of childcare is moving. I have now made a mental note to self: keep abreast of all developments!
Doing Better for Families:
Frank Field Review
Graham Allen Review
Munro Review of Child Protection
Young Foundation 2009
Early Years Foundation Stage