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What the manifestos say on early years

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Friday, 19 May, 2017

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have all now issued their manifestos.  Here's our analysis of their commitments on early childhood education.

Analysis

The Tory manifesto is the briefest on the topic of early childhood education, with little more than a commitment to follow through on the 30 hours and then "assess what more is needed".  They surprisingly have nothing to say on the PVI sector, or on the still vexed area of funding, and focus only on the maintained sector, with capital funding for school nursery expansion, a presumption that new primaries will include a nursery and a commitment to allowing maintained nursery schools to become academies, either independently or as part of a MAT (something that can only work if a viable funding solution is found -about which nothing is said).  There is no mention of why the emphasis is on schools eg whether they wish to raise quality through an increase in teacher-led provision  There is no mention of workforce, suggesting they have nothing to ad to their workforce strategy.

Labour have a more extensive set of commitments, including to extend the amount of fully funded provision, and to introduce subsidies for additional hours, as well ass moving from the current mixed model to supply-side funding, as well as a commitment to further capital funding.  While rationalisation of the current funding system might well be wise, the commitments to extend the amount of fully funded childcare shows a failure to learn from previous experience that the rush to expand places tends to be at the expense of the quality which makes a difference to children's outcomes  Labour commit to improve qualifications and pay in the workforce, but do not explain how they will do so affordably at the same time as increasing capacity in the system.  They are the only party to commit to scrapping baseline assessment in Reception, and to halting closures of Sure Start children's centres.  

The Lib Dems, like Labour, are committed to a gradual proces of extending funded childcare from the end of parental leave until school starting age, starting with extending the 2-year-old provision to all children.  They are the only party to commit to increasing funding for disadvantaged children, by tripling EYPP to £1000 per child, which is a welcome recognition of the importance of the early years in combating the impacts of economic disadvantage.  The Lib Dems also set a challenging target to have all early years provision let by an early years teacher by 2022.

Members may also be interested in further comments on the manifestos, including from Early Education Vice President Naomi Eisenstadt and trustee Sandra Mathers via the Education Media Centre.

At a glance

 

Conservative

Labour

Lib Dem

Funded places

30 hours for 3- & 4-year-olds of working parents, and “assess what more is needed”

Maintain current commitments.

Extend the 30 free hours to all 2-year-olds, and move towards making some childcare available for 1-year-olds.

Provide 15 hours a week of free childcare to the parents of all two-year-olds in England.

Then prioritise 15 hours’ free childcare for all working parents in England with children aged between 9 months and 2 years.

Long-term goal of 30 hours’ free childcare a week for all parents in England with children aged from 2 to 4 years, and all working parents from the end of paid parental leave to 2 years

Subsidised places

 

Phase in subsidised provision on top of free-hour entitlements

 

Early Years Pupil Premium

 

 

Increase EYPP to £1,000 per pupil per year

Funding structures

 

Transition from subsidies to parents to direct subsidy to providers

Protect the education budget in real terms per pupil from early years to age 19.  Ensure that this provision is fully funded at sustainable levels

Capital investment

Capital fund for primary schools to develop nurseries

“significant capital investment during our first two years of government”

 

Schools

All new primaries should include a nursery

 

 

Nursery schools

Maintained nursery schools to be allowed to take on academy freedoms independently or as part of a MAT

 

 

Workforce

 

Transition to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, by increasing staff wages and enhancing training opportunities.

Raise the quality of early years provision and aim for every formal early years setting to employ at least one person who holds an early years teacher qualification by 2022

Assessment

 

Abandon plans to reintroduce baseline assessments and launch a commission to look into curriculum and assessment

 

Children’s centres

 

Halt the closures and increase the amount of money available for Sure Start

 

Key excerpts from the manifestos

Conservative manifesto:

A Conservative government will strengthen the teaching of literacy and numeracy in the early years so that all pupils – regardless of background – get the best possible start in life. (p51)

High-quality childcare for working families, supported by thousands of new nursery places a year (p62)

Children and Families

Britain should be the best country in the world for children. We want to reduce levels of child poverty, and have high ambitions for the quality of childcare, children’s health and support for vulnerable children for whom the state acts as a parent.

High-quality childcare

We know high-quality childcare is important not just to working parents but even more so to a child’s development and happiness. That is why a Conservative government will introduce, this year, thirty hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds for working parents who find it difficult to manage the costs of childcare. We will go further. The next Conservative government will assess what more is needed, including looking at the best ways that childcare is provided elsewhere in Europe and the world. As a sign of our commitment, we will immediately institute a capital fund to help primary schools develop nurseries where they currently do not have the facilities to provide one. We will introduce a presumption that all new primary schools should include a nursery. And we will continue to support maintained nurseries and allow them to take on academy freedoms, supporting them to grow independently or as part of a multi-academy trust. (p72)

Labour manifesto

Early Years

Currently, there is a gap between the end of maternity leave and the beginning of full-time schooling. This gap can make it difficult for parents, particularly women, to return to work, unless they have access to informal childcare support. There is also extensive evidence that early years education has a major impact on child development, and that time in a formal education setting for young children can improve performance at GCSE and beyond.

Labour would seek to roll out educational provision for early years children as part of a National Education Service that is truly cradle-to-grave.

Labour introduced free childcare hours for parents, which were fully funded and resourced.

Under the Conservatives, the free hours entitlement is chronically under-funded, with provision patchy and hard to navigate. Many providers now simply refuse to participate in the scheme. The result is that many parents aren’t even getting the hours they’re entitled to.

Labour would:

  1. Overhaul the existing childcare system in which subsidies are given directly to parents who often struggle to use them, and transition to a system of high-quality childcare places in mixed environments with direct government subsidy.
  2. Maintain current commitments on free hours and make significant capital investment during our first two years of government, to ensure that the places exist to meet demand.
  3. Phase in subsidised provision on top of free-hour entitlements, to ensure that everyone has access to affordable childcare, no matter their working pattern.
  4. Transition to a qualified, graduate-led workforce, by increasing staff wages and enhancing training opportunities. This will benefit staff, who are among our worst-paid workers, and improve child development.
  5. Extend the 30 free hours to all twoyear-olds, and move towards making some childcare available for oneyear-olds and extending maternity pay to 12 months.

Sure Start, and the support it gives to vulnerable and hard-to-reach parents, was one of the great achievements of the previous Labour government, but under the Conservatives 1,200 Sure Start centres have been lost. Labour will halt the closures and increase the amount of money available for Sure Start. (p35-6)

We will abandon plans to reintroduce baseline assessments and launch a commission to look into curriculum and assessment (p38)

Lib Dem Manifesto:

Our priorities in the next parliament will be: […]

  • Investing in high-quality early years education, tripling the Early Years Pupil Premium to £1,000. (p25)

3.2 Quality really counts in early years Investing in high-quality early years education has a huge impact on children’s attainment as they enter school. Our most vulnerable children have the most to gain from excellent early years settings, with partnerships with parents a key component. We will:

  • Increase our Early Years Pupil Premium to £1,000 per pupil per year.
  • Raise the quality of early years provision and aim for every formal early years setting to employ at least one person who holds an early years teacher qualification by 2022. (p26)

We will therefore commit to […]

  • Protect the education budget in real terms per pupil from early years to age 19. (p37)

Establish a new online Family University, supported by leading organisations such as the BBC and Open University, to provide every family with advice and guidance for learning and parenting at home, as well as inspiring trips out and local opportunities (p30)

Support families and communities

[…]That’s why we will increase the availability of childcare to help parents who want to work and why we will ensure that the benefits system is fair – focusing on helping people and not just saving money. […] Our priorities in the next parliament will be:

  • Extending free childcare to all two-year-olds and to the children of working families from the end of paid parental leave, and encouraging new fathers to take time off with an additional month’s paid paternity leave… (p57)

6.1 Help with childcare costs

Parents often want to take time out from paid work to care for young children but in many families both parents want, or have, to work. The costs of childcare can be prohibitive and opportunities for flexible working are scarce. In government, we were proud to introduce Shared Parental Leave and increases in free childcare but there are still gaps in the system. We will:

  • Expand Shared Parental Leave with an additional ‘use it or lose it’ month to encourage fathers to take time off with young children. We would make Paternity and Shared Parental Leave a ‘day one’ right.
  • Encourage employers to provide more flexible working, making this a ‘day one’ right, so that there is a presumption that work is flexible unless there is a clear business reason it cannot be.
  • Provide 15 hours a week of free childcare to the parents of all two-year-olds in England. We will then prioritise 15 hours’ free childcare for all working parents in England with children aged between nine months and two years.
  • Commit to an ambitious long-term goal of 30 hours’ free childcare a week for all parents in England with children aged from two to four years, and all working parents from the end of paid parental leave to two years. This will not only help parents afford to work, but will also help all children start school confident, happy and ready to learn.
  • Ensure that this provision is fully funded at sustainable levels, provides flexibility for parents who work unsocial hours and enables parents to use free hours during school holidays. (p58)