In a speech today, Kier Starmer will set out Labour’s plans to expand opportunity via five “missions” including “Early years reform – to boost child development with an ambitious target of half a million more children hitting their early learning targets by 2030.” We welcome the focus on the early years, and applaud the aim for many more children to be achieving their potential at age 5. However, we caution that the priority should be raising the quality of provision, not setting arbitrary targets, and especially not using the current flawed “Good Level of Development” measure as we know that certain groups consistently perform less well on it including boys, children with SEND and summer born children.
We note that in an article in the Guardian on Monday, Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson set out an ambition for more graduates in the early years and more nursery places in schools. We endorse this approach of increasing the number of children in graduate and teacher-led provision, as the evidence shows that this raises quality and improves children’s outcomes. Additional funding will need to be carefully targeted, but the Graduate Leader Fund shows this can be done.
Increasing the number of graduates in the sector also requires a clear understanding of the current picture. The Guardian article states that “There are about 400 state-maintained nurseries in England, all with degree-level leadership and attached to primary schools, and another 1,300 primaries without early years settings on site.” There are in fact over 7,500 nursery classes in maintained schools and about 900 governor-led nurseries (which aren’t required to have teachers) on school sites, and 383 maintained nursery schools which are stand-alone schools, not attached to primary schools.