New year. New me. New early years sector?
Who knows. What is for certain is that there’s still plenty of causes for concern in 2019. This month we’ve got news on closing children’s centres, problems for SEND support, and a widening education gap between children from poor and rich families.
It’s not all doom and gloom, we’ve also got news on the new Early Years Pedagogy Forum, a brilliant piece about what it really means to prepare children for the ‘jobs of tomorrow’, and even some positive news about recruitment numbers.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
1. The state of early years recruitment
A new report by Ceeda has shown some early signs of good news about the early years recruitment crisis.
They report that only one in three settings are currently recruiting, a number that was close to one in two just a year ago. The number of staff qualified at level 3 or above has also risen from 71% to 76%.
Sadly, it’s not all rosy. More than half of settings still report skills gaps, and 77% of settings still report that they find vacancies hard to fill.
+ There are concerns over the future of the Early Years Teacher qualification, with the number of people starting the course dropping by a third last year, coupled with a fall in the number of providers offering the course.
+ Ceeda have announced the first conference targeted at solving the recruitment crisis, featuring roundtable discussions and keynotes from leading figures Julie Hyde and June O’Sullivan.
2. A widening education gap
Updated data from the EYFS profile shows that the gap between children on free school meals and their better-off peers is widening. Just 55% of children eligible for the means-tested free school meals hit the expected standard in all 17 ELGs, while 73% of other children managed to do so.
Sadly, it doesn’t stop there. Research by Save the Children suggests that poorer children fall even further behind their classmates by the end of Reception in exactly half of England’s local authorities. Early intervention charity Early Intervention Foundation has advocated for an increased focus on core cognitive skills in order to address this gap.
+ There are further concerns highlighted by the DfE that disadvantaged children are not accessing the funded places that they are entitled to. Parents in poor areas are also less likely to use childcare entitlements due to lack of awareness.
+ Is there an appetite for change? When teachers are having to buy coats for children? When more children of working families are falling into poverty? Thankfully, yes, as findings from a Social Mobility Commission have revealed that the public do want the government to do more. Now just to get the politicians onboard…
3. The gloomy fate of children’s centres
It’s becoming increasingly clear that children’s centres are facing an uncertain fate in 2019.
Already, children’s centres in Surrey and Lambeth are facing closure, and Leicester City council have said they can no longer afford to pay the 15 teachers employed at their centres.
In Birmingham too, the 14 council-run nurseries are set to be privatised.
4. Early Years Pedagogy and Practice Forum members announced
A forum set up by Ofsted to better understand best practice and pedagogy, has found it’s first 22 members.
They include nine representatives from nurseries, nursery schools, and preschools, along with members of local authorities, universities, consultants, and those from professional organisations.
Well-known names such as Penny Tassoni from PACEY, Christine Rogers from Pre-school Learning Alliance, and Dr Julian Grenier are involved. They will meet for the first time in January to discuss reading, numbers, physical skills, and other pedagogy and practice research.
+ Are you looking to improve your own pedagogy or help support the learning of other members of your team? Our introduction to early years pedagogy guide is completely free and includes information on a huge range of early years pedagogies, with in-depth sections on forest school, Te Whariki, and The Curiosity Approach. Get your copy now.
5. The month in child development
Here are the studies worth paying attention to from the last month:
- A report has returned insufficient evidence that screen time harms children, explaining a lack of age-approriate time limits. Take this with a pinch of salt – they are still reporting negative asociations with too much screen time affecting play and mental health.
- Nap time can boost learning according to this study from the University of Massacusetts. They warn to be careful forcing children out of napping behaviour before they’re ready.
- A parent’s brain activity ‘echoes’ their child when they play, which could be further evidence of the important phenomena of Sustained Shared Thinking.
- Imaginary friends can help boost child development, according to this article from The Conversation, where they discuss various reports and data on imaginary friends and what they can mean.
- Gently stroking babies can reduce brain-related pain activity, according to researchers from the University of Oxford, and Liverpool John Moores University.
- The latest government guidance on breastfeeding and dental health could be a great resource to share with your parents who have babies at the setting.
6. A crisis in SEND support
Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has highlighted concerns over SEND support for children across England at the launch of the second Annual Ofsted Report.
Speaking at the launch of the report in London, She said that “Identification of SEND is often inaccurate or late, and the gap in outcomes for children with SEND is widening, which in turn places even greater strain on services.”
+ The report generally finds the early years sector in somewhat good health, with 95% of providers now judged good or outstanding compared to only 54% just six years ago. There are around 900 fewer providers in the market without much of a drop in children supported, suggesting a bigger role for groups and chains.
+ The government has launched a review of the support provided for children with autism, which will collect evidence from children, families and carers on how to provide better support. It’s due to be published in the Autumn of 2019.
7. What even are the ‘jobs of tomorrow’
This month we really enjoyed this piece by the always-on-point Teacher Tom, about exactly what we mean when we talk about these mythological ‘Jobs of Tomorrow’.
He argues that we have no idea how the job landscape will look when these children grow up, and a focus on STEM learning is often merely an excuse for more vocational training at the expense of a play-based approach.
“Most of the jobs my daughter will be applying for didn’t exist when she was in preschool,” he says. “If I’d pursued the careers my guidance counsellors recommended in high school, I’d be unemployed today. Anyone who claims to know the specific skills required for the jobs of tomorrow is just blowing smoke. They are wrong and they have always been wrong. Those jobs of tomorrow, as is true in every generation, will instead be largely invented by the generation that fills them.”
8. Children and pensioners: A match made in heaven
A report by United for All Ages has thrown more light onto the benefits of intergenerational care, not just for the older people involved, but for the children too.
Early years expert Alistair Bryce-Clegg contributed to the report after working on the Channel 4 series Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds. “The outcomes for children were very positive,” he writes. “They all made notable progress during their time in the experiment, with some of them making truly significant steps forward in their development.”
+ The thinktank behind the report has also announced five free regional workshops in 2019 to bring generations closer together.
9. The business bit
It might have been Christmas time, but Decemeber had no shortage of big business news for the sector. Here’s the rundown:
- Just Childcare takes on eight settings.
- Tommies Childcare raises £1.65m to continue expansion with 8th setting.
- Busy Bees acquires two Montessori settings in Harrow.
- 6-setting Little Inspirations secures funding to open two new settings in South Wales
- Icelandic Group Hjalli Model buys first UK setting in Scotland.
- Storal Learning acquires three-setting chain Swingboat Nurseries
- North-west group Safehands closes down nine of its 12 nurseries.
10. In other news
+ The full line-up for the 2019 Nursery World Show in London has been announced, and we’ll be there too! If you’re at the show come stop by the Famly stand and find out about Famly Free – learning journey and parent communication software without spending a penny.
+ A number of early years practitioners and other staff have been honoured in the New Year’s Honours, including Karen Mackay of Busy Bees, Alma Loughbrey, and Anne Bramley. You can see the full list of early years honourees here.
+ Much-loved children’s author John Burningham has sadly died aged 82. During his career, he wrote many favourites including Mouse House, Avocado Baby and Oi! Get off Our Train.