Prospects commits to high quality in early years
On Thursday 2 June Nick Bell spoke at the Policy-UK forum in central London called Early Years and Foundation Stage Education, Intervention and the Impact on Life Chances.
The conference welcomed more than 50 delegates from across the UK including Penzance, Durham, Northern Ireland and Huddersfield. 10 early years experts spoke about the implications of the 30 hours free childcare provision; how local authorities will have a 45% shortfall in places; how 43% of early years providers cannot recruit adequate staff numbers; changes to qualification entry recruitments that are creating skills gaps and future recruitment deficits; and the evidence that high quality early years provision benefits children throughout their lives, with the highest gains for the most disadvantaged children.
Nick’s talk focussed on the 20% of early years provision provided by childminders. He highlighted how this sector is declining, despite being a highly flexible option for many parents providing care and education from the end of parental leave.
Nick spoke about the excellent work Prospects is doing in Hampshire, where 92% of childminders at their first inspection were judged by Ofsted to be good or outstanding and 88% of providers were good or outstanding (compared to 85% nationally). In Kent where 87% of childminders were good or outstanding at their last inspection (compared to 84% nationally), and in Medway where the work we completed ensured childminders judged to be good or outstanding increased from 54% to 81%.
He explained some of the digital innovations Prospects is working to create, including virtual peer to peer mentoring programmes and webinar training. These are vital for childminders, who often work in isolation and are unable to access services due to their working patterns. Nick offered insights into Prospects work to support and help develop childminders’ businesses, networks and continuing professional development to enable them to expand to meet the needs of the 30 hours free provision.
Nick also addressed the current situation, where local authority cuts and the removal of ring-fenced budgets now means that only childminders judged to be inadequate or requires improvement receive local authority support. This means the 85% of early years provision judged to be good or outstanding cannot access support unless they are downgraded. There are fears that quality will plateau as services to support early years provision are reduced.
Nick enjoyed the conference and said: “Today has seen an interesting and important debate about the future of early years and how Prospects can play an increasing role in ensuring that every young person gets the best possible start in life.”
Early years is an important area for Prospects, recognising that high quality early years provision benefits people throughout their lives.