The Famly Briefing
All the important nursery news, none of the fuss.

What a year it has been for the nursery world. We’ve welcomed (or not so welcomed) 30 hours funding, there’s been concerns about the increasing schoolification of early years, and we’ve had more reports and studies than you can shake a stick at.

And that’s not to mention the worries about orange juice, the problems with glitter, or the importance of dirt. Seriously.

For what it’s worth, we don’t think 2018 is going to be any quieter. So let’s get it underway with the top 10 stories from the last month.

BREAKING NEWS: Goodwill sacked

Reports have started to come out that Robert Goodwill, the Minister for Children & Families has been sacked as part of the government reshuffle.

He leaves just 7 months after taking on the role, which included responsibility for the early years, having been in charge of the implementation of the controversial 30 hours funded entitlement and tax-free childcare. At the time of writing, Theresa May has yet to appoint a successor, although Nadhim Zahawi is looking likely to take over the role.

1. Who should be getting funded childcare

The chair of the education select committee, Robert Halfon, has argued that struggling families with non-working parents are actually far more in need of childcare than those in work. In a month where Theresa May has faced questions in parliment about the 30 hours offer, it is clear that not everyone thinks that subsidised care should only be going to parents in work.

++ It has been announced that foster children will be entitled to the same amount of funded childcare as others. In a move welcomed by many in the sector, Early Years Minister Robert Goodwill has made a move to correct the “vital” issue.

++ The treasury has launched a much-anticipated inquiry into the effectiveness of affordable childcare schemes. Led by former education secretary Nicky Morgan, the inquiry will consider whether the 30 hours free childcare scheme has received sufficient funding, as well as why tax-free childcare has received such poor take up from parents.

++ The government has quietly scrapped the Early Years Expansion Fund, which was due to provide £30M in low interest loans to help early years settings implementing the 30 hours.

2. The tale of two reports…

Two controversial reports out in December have painted a worrying picture for those in the early years sector. The Bold Beginnings report covers the effect of the reception year on preparing children for school. Largely critical of the reception year, many of the recommendations appear to propose a move towards the more formal teaching of four and five-year-olds. The report has drawn much criticism as ‘narrow’ and ‘political’, with many concerned that it is more evidence of an increasing schoolification of early years. In response, Ofsted have reacted with suprise, before doubling down on the messages in a sector meeting.

The Ofsted Annual Report doesn’t make pretty reading for those against the schoolification of early years either. The headline? As far as Ofsted are concerned, the EYFS does not prepare children for year one. That means they are recommending more maths, more literacy, more phonics and many in the sector are not happy.

3. Don’t take our snacks

A new government campaign is encouraging parents to choose healthier snacks over chocolate or sweets. Their core message is that children should be having ‘100 calorie snacks, two a day max’. Not everyone’s happy with this simple rule, claiming that the Public Health England guidelines are ‘too simplistic’ and ‘a step too far’.

++ Do you have picky eaters at your setting? Turns out, they may have their genetics to blame.

4. Successfully manage your nursery team

Are you looking to improve your team management skills in 2018? Well, you’re in luck. We’ve just put the finishing touches to our guide all about how to get the most out of your nursery team. Packed full of expert interviews, ideas, and tips to develop certain important managerial skills, the guide has everything you need to become an outstanding nursery manager.

5. Letting them fight it out

What do you do when there’s a conflict going on in your setting? Do you jump in immediately, or do you take a step back to see if the kids can resolve it themselves?

When there’s no immediate danger, teachers in places like Germany and Japan tend to allow the conflict to go on, observing and stepping in if necessary. And it turns out, that much like forcing a ‘sorry’ from a child, intervening too soon can teach children that fighting is only problematic because it will get them in trouble.

6. £50M for school nurseries

As part of the government’s recently announced Social Mobility Plan, there will be a £50M pledge to increase school-based nursery places. The money will go towards more nursery places in disadvantaged areas, as well as promoting a focus on closing the language and attainment gaps between those from poor and well-off backgrounds. The exclusion of nurseries in the PVI sector has not gone unnoticed.

7. Start potty training sooner?

Cheryl Hadland made waves last month after banning Glitter from every Tops Day Nurseries setting throughout the country, and she’s in the news again after calling for parents to potty train their children earlier.

With more than 8 million nappies sent to landfill sites every day in the UK, her argument is that the environmental impact of potty training children early is potentially crucial in reducing waste. In a wide-ranging interview, Cheryl also discusses why they’re doing away with plastic toys, why straws are out, and how they’re transitioning to electric cars for their staff.

8. The month in child development

From newborns and numbers to the universal language of baby talk, here’s our roundup of the child development studies and reports you need to be aware of.

  • Newborn babies know their numbers – A study has found that our ability to order numbers may be hardwired from birth. The study of 45-hour-old newborns found that most were able to associate the concept of fewer with the left-side and ‘many’ with the right-hand side, suggesting they may be able to order things in the same way.
  • Are we introducing solid food too soon? – A new report is suggesting that more than half of babies are given solid food before the age of 6 months, against the recommended advice from the World Health Organisation.
  • How baby talk sounds around the world – Do we goo goo and gaa gaa the same no matter where we are in the globe? The answer is, well, sort of.


9. The business bit

All the news from the business side of the nursery world.

  • Busy Bees welcome major shareholder – The largest nursery chain in the country have announced a new partnership with Temasek, in what is thought to be the biggest nursery investment of the year. The Singapore-based company will help Busy Bees continue their plans for global expansion.
  • Nursery group wins bid for children’s centre settings – Nursery group Reach for the Stars has won a bid to run two children’s centres in Cheshire, with the third being taken over by a local Primary school. The move means Reach for the Stars now have five settings across Staffordshire and Cheshire.
  • 100+ nurseries to receive business rate relief – Over a hundred nurseries in Wales will no longer have to pay business rates from April, as part of a move to introduce permanent small business rate relief across Wales.
10. In other news…

++ A look inside the £9,150 a term Willcocks Nursery School that Princess Charlotte will be attending.

++ An emotional post defending nurseries, childminders and the parents that use them has gone viral in response to a neighbour shaming a mother for taking her child to nursery.

++ This kid’s excitement about receiving a banana for Christmas is the best thing to come out of the holiday season.

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