“Government is destroying early years education” – NEU on Sutton Report

Sutton TrustThe NEU has accused the government of “destroying” early years education in the UK.

The Sutton Trust has today published a report, Closing Gaps Early, by Dr Kitty Stewart of LSE and Professor Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University, that examines the current state of early years policy in England in light of evidence about ‘what works’.

It finds that the government’s childcare offer is not well-designed to improve social mobility because it is being implemented at the expense of quality early years education for disadvantaged toddlers.

The report states:

“Early education and childcare has been a major focus of policy in this area. Of concern is that recent developments indicate a shift in funding and policy focus away from quality early education for child development towards childcare affordability for working families. Investments in affordability are welcome, but neither the tax-free childcare scheme nor the 30 hour entitlement for working families are well-designed to promote social mobility, meaning longer hours in state-funded early education for children who are already relatively advantaged, which may be expected to widen gaps in child development at school starting age. Particularly worrying, these investments are coming at the expense of the quality of provision.”

In response, NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “England has a tradition of high-quality early years education. This report is the latest confirmation that government policies are destroying it.

“As this report points out, high quality Early Years education that is properly funded and run by a qualified teacher is essential to ensure every child has the best start in life. This aim however is being undermined by government policy, with funding in the early years being cut in real terms and the requirement for a qualified teacher in every school nursery and reception class removed.

“The report notes that the big picture is one of inadequate funding to support high quality provision, with government policy likely to further damage quality provision. This has been accompanied by sustained cuts to Sure Start provision. Cuts to local authority funding have undermined the support and services local authorities provide for early years education. The new 30-hour offer is not properly funded.

“Early Years education is a vitally important stage in a child’s development, and should be considered by government and policy-makers as such. It is not merely preparation for formal schooling, but an important stage of a child’s education in its own right. It is the quality of childcare that makes the difference in reducing the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers before they start school.

“The government’s funding of nursery education for the youngest children lacks vision and is leaving many children without access to the essential support and services their families may need.”

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