Labour Party to undertake a full review of early years provision 

During her speech at the Labour Party Conference this morning in Liverpool, the shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson announced a ‘major’ early years review to reshape the childcare system.

The MP for Houghton and Sunderland South stated:

“Conference, for too many children, across too much of our country, their backgrounds are ravaging their opportunities, all their lives long. It starts with our smallest children.

“The Tories have committed to slashing staffing and standards in early years childcare, and they have no plan for early education at all. And as children grow, when school begins, the gaps widen just as the curriculum narrows.”

Phillipson also announced that Sir David Bell, former chief inspector of schools at Ofsted will lead the early years review.

Labour early years review

The Labour early years review by Sir David is set to cover the following areas:

  • Developing a plan for the widening of childcare eligibility that has been promised by the Conservatives at the 2023 Budget
  • Ways to increase the amount of primary school-based nursery provision while also looking how to remove restrictions on local authorities from opening nursery provision
  • Improve staffing and overall workforce

Phillipson added that the review will aim:

“To bring high and rising standards, for the workforce we need, for the qualifications they’ll have, for the settings where it’ll happen, for the education they’ll give, to deliver our ambition for a modernised childcare system, supporting families from the end of parental leave to the end of primary school.”

Action for maths

Another area that the shadow education secretary focused on was maths for young children. The Prime Minister had previously announced a new requirement for students to take some form of maths classes after GCSEs, from the ages of 16 to 18.

Referring to that proposal Phillipson said that tackling maths at that age is “just too late”.

“We’ll tackle our chronic cultural problem with maths, by making sure it’s better taught at six, never mind 16.

“One in four of our children leave primary school without the maths they need. That is a disaster. Maths is the language of the universe, the underpinning of our collective understanding. It cannot be left until the last years of school.”

Labour early years review: Policy experts respond

Commenting on Labour’s plans to launch an early years review, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: 

“We have long argued that a clear and comprehensive long-term strategy for the early years is desperately needed, and the launch of an early years review would be a very positive step towards that goal. 

“That said, for the proposed review to have genuine, long-lasting impact, those on the frontline in early years settings would need to play a key role in driving its direction and areas of focus. The early educators who work day-in and day-out to deliver quality care and education to our youngest children in the most challenging of circumstances know best what our sector needs, and so it’s critical that they are central to any decisions made about its future.” 

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “For a number of years we have been calling for a detailed review of early years policy because the system is not currently working for parents or providers. We welcome Labour’s plans for Sir David Bell to review this and look forward to working with him to provide the critical evidence and challenges facing the sector.

“Three quarters of providers told us that they would need to increase their staffing to be able to offer more children’s places, so any plans for extending the funded entitlement further would need to be fully costed with a workforce strategy in place.

“Nurseries and preschools have environments and staff teams designed to meet the specific needs of children in the early years, giving them the best possible start in life. Where there is existing high-quality provision, we must avoid any duplication which undermines the sustainability of providers.

“We are delighted that Labour is keen to expand NDNA’s Maths Champions programme into more early years settings and primary schools. We developed this programme to make a real difference to children’s learning and outcomes in maths by enhancing practitioners’ confidence in teaching and embedding early maths.

More about the Maths Champions

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