So we’ve got a new Early Years Minister. And he’s looking like a bit of a doozy….
But that’s not all! It’s been an even busier month than usual in the nursery world. It wasn’t easy to break everything down into just ten stories, but we just about managed to squeeze everything in.
So let’s get started, with what has been a troubled first month for the new man in charge of early years…
1. A shaky start for Zahawi
After Early Years Minister Robert Goodwill lost his job in last month’s cabinet reshuffle, first time minister Nadhim Zahawi was given the brief for early years and social care. As one of the richest MPs, Stratford-upon-Avon MP was already under suspicion in the sector for his many responsibilities outside of parliament and his lack of experience.
The suspicion worsened after Zahawi was found to be among the guests at the widely condemned President’s Club Dinner, where many of the hosting staff were sexually harassed by guests. Zahawi has since said that he ‘found the event extremely uncomfortable’ and left shortly after the start.
2. Beginning to look pretty bold
Last month’s Bold Beginnings report has continued to split the sector. Ofsted’s Deputy Director for Early Education Gill Jones has embarked on a promotion tour of sorts in an attempt to clarify the message for early years educators. Jones has explained that the report does not advocate moving away from play, just that children need to be immersed more in numbers and reading from an early age.
She’s made it clear that they don’t think the answer is more desks, and that they’ve focused on maths, literacy and reading because those are the weakest areas for children in the UK.
++ “If I had a wish for pre-school or nursery, it would be more singing, much more emphasis on singing, because children get so much good articulation and good phonetic knowledge through singing.”
++A letter signed by 1,700 people, including MPs, early years experts, teachers and parents has shared concerns about the report, warning against moves to formalise early years maths and literacy teaching. On the other hand, some have raised concerns about jumping to ‘tribal conclusions’ every time we’re presented with a new idea.
3. £1M for tax-free shambles
It doesn’t even feel like news anymore. Having officially opened the scheme to parents with children under 9, the tax-free childcare website is still facing problems. Having received almost 3,500 complaints, the government has paid out almost £1M to parents in lieu of tax-free childcare, along with compensation of almost £40,000 for inconveniences and expenses.
4. Funding difficulties
A survey by Pre-school Learning Alliance has revealed that only a third of 30 hours places are being offered completely free. The extent to which many nursery owners, such as pre-school owner Toby Evans, are having to ask parents for voluntary contributions are even higher than first thought.
++ Statistics from the DfE have also revealed that there is a severe difference in regional uptake of the scheme, with almost 98% validated in Bath compared to less than 60% in Derbyshire.
++ With all this fresh in their minds, MPs will be looking into how well the various childcare schemes actually support parental employment. The first session has already taken place and you can watch it on parliament TV.
++ What is the way forward for nurseries? Well, one Sheffield nursery group has shown what can happen when you approach parents with honesty and the right information.
5. A helping hand with Ofsted
Does the thought of an upcoming Ofsted inspection fill you with terror? Then we might have just the thing. First, make sure you’re ready for whatever the inspector might throw at you with our guide to the questions Ofsted will ask you and your nursery team. Then, take a look at our guide to the SEF to find out how to better evaluate your setting. Enjoy!
++ In other Ofsted-related news, it was revealed this month that nearly 1,000 children’s centres have not been inspected for over five years. Action for Children have said that by not inspecting almost 40% of centres in the UK the government ‘is letting families down’.
6. The Early Years and China
Theresa May has launched £500m in education programmes with China, including £75m for Nursery Chain Busy Bees to open 20 new nurseries in China. It continues increased links in the Early Years sector between the two countries, with Chinese investment pushing up UK nursery prices by more than 10 percent.
++ Why the increased interest in the UK early years sector from abroad? Nursery World explains.
7. Changing nappies without gloves?
Following Tops Day Nurseries decision to ban glitter from their nurseries last year, Kids Allowed have also taken a bold stand to reduce plastic waste in their setting. After finding out they threw out 461,000 gloves in 2017 alone, the 8-setting group have stopped using them for nappy changes and instead prompted staff to use robust hand washing protocols when changing nappies.
8. Who can afford an EYT?
Why aren’t more settings able to have an EYT? Well, cost certainly seems to be a big factor, with over 79% of respondents in a Save the Children study blaming salary. Having qualified Early Years Teachers has shown to improve development and yet the number of people completing the training continues to fall.
9. The month in child development
There’s been loads of child development research and studies out this month. Let’s take a look at just a few:
- The social function of a baby’s babbling has been explained. It’s all about helping them to organise their parent’s verbal responses.
- Brushing children’s teeth might not be enough to protect against sugary snacks.
- Councils are facing an increase in demand for child support, with one child being referred to social service every 49 seconds.
- It’s well known that many mothers have a bias towards holding children on their left hand side. It turns out many other mammals are exactly the same.
10. In other news
++ A nursery has raised more than £13,000 for charity after a staff member was diagnosed with cancer.
++This robotic implant can help babies born with a rare birth condition to eat.
++ This grandpa spends his weeks cuddling babies in intensive care.
++ This slightly creepy baby robot gives us an uncomfortable reminder about the state of our carpets…
BONUS – A few free bits
That’s enough nursery news. Here are some free resources for you to take a look at this month:
- Early Years SEND association Nasen have released hours of invaluable webcasts, miniguides and face-to-face training materials for practitioners working with SEND children
- The National Literacy Trust is giving away 25 free membership to celebrate its 25th Anniversary. The memberships give you access to a whole host of literacy training and resources that usually cost £100.
- Our guide to help you manage your nursery team even better is still free to download for everyone.