Early education and childcare resource pack
A child’s earliest years are their foundation; if we give them a great start, they have a much better chance of fulfilling their potential as they grow up. As councils, we have a big role to play here across a wide range of services, from housing and health to family support and education. This resource pack looks at the ways that we deliver our responsibilities around early education and childcare, which are incredibly important when it comes to giving our youngest residents a head start.
We know that children who are behind when they start school are unlikely to ever catch up to their peers – and that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are far less likely to achieve expected levels of development. We also know that high quality childcare can support children’s development and increase academic skills, helping children who start off at a lower level to catch up before they start school. Securing enough high-quality childcare for the children in our area, then, is something we need to invest our time and energy into, to make sure children can get the places they need.
This decade has seen big changes in terms of childcare and early education for children and families. Every three- and four-year-old is now entitled to 15 hours of free childcare every week of the school year; many will be eligible for 30 hours. Disadvantaged two-year-olds can also access the 15 hours. In addition, we have a new early years funding formula, which has had different impacts in different areas of the country. Councils have done an incredible job of bringing together early years partners to make these changes work locally, and despite the difficulties of squeezed funding, reduced resources and increased workloads, are finding ways to meet the needs of pre-school children.
Councils are seeing increasing demand for support for children with special educational needs and disabilities in the early years, as they are at all stages of the school system. This is particularly challenging in the context of the 30 hours policy and pressures on the high needs budget, and we are keen to hear from councils who are finding effective ways to meet this challenge so that all children can access the childcare they need.
Councils’ statutory abilities to intervene on quality in childcare settings are extremely limited, yet we know that around the country, they are facilitating highly effective networks and training opportunities to improve standards wherever possible. This resource pack includes some examples of the work councils are carrying out, demonstrating their vital convening role and their work as place-shapers and drivers of change.
The Government has recognised the role of early education in improving social mobility, dedicating one of the four ambitions in its social mobility action plan to closing the ‘word gap’ in the early years. The Local Government Association (LGA) will be working closely with government to support the delivery of this ambition, including through the implementation of an early years peer review programme. If you are interested in your council taking part, visit www.local.gov.uk/early-years-social-mobility-peer-review-programme to find out how.
The more prepared children are to start school, the more they’re able to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way. We owe every child the chance to have a really bright future, and an outstanding early years offer is a key piece of that puzzle.
Councillor Anntoinette Bramble
Chair, LGA Children and Young People Board