Unions welcome Labour’s early years pledges

Unions have welcomed the Labour Party’s commitment to invest in early years education.

NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said: “The fight against disadvantage begins in the early years, and Labour’s policies recognise this. The closure of Sure Start centres under Coalition and Conservative governments was deeply damaging. Rebuilding the Sure Start programme is essential.  A recent survey of NEU members showed strong support for such a move.

“Free and universal provision of 30 hours of nursery education from age 2 upwards is an essential social investment.  It will lift a financial burden from parents. Juggling the demands of employment and childcare will become that much easier.

“Labour is right to recognise that expansion is an issue of quality as well as quantity. Making 3+ education graduate-led , is a bold, ambitious and necessary policy. Increasing staff numbers, introducing national pay scales and raising levels of staff qualification are vital to creating a system which is truly expert and inclusive. Addressing issues of inclusion by training Special Needs Co-ordinators will likewise do much to tackle issues of early intervention and support.

Expansion and quality improvement can best be achieved in a context where the public sector plays a leading role. It is essential that the next government recognises and gives full support to our world-leading local authority maintained nurseries, which have suffered greatly from government cuts, and continue to face an uncertain future.”

And commenting on Labour Party proposals to expand free childcare and open 1,000 new Sure Start centres, UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Accessible, quality childcare and early years support can have a life-changing impact on children and their families.

“Restoring the network of Sure Start centres will offer a lifeline by providing education and health services to those families most in need, after years of cuts left them in tatters.

“These proposals, along with an increase in free childcare, would bring long-term benefits far wider than just making life easier for families to go out to work. It’s vital that a new government recognises the importance of the staff in the childcare profession who have been undervalued for far too long.”

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