It might feel like half of the UK has been stopped in its tracks by the current back and forth in Westminster, but the early years news train doesn’t stop for nothing or no-one.
This month we’re covering the disappointing spring statement, news on the baseline, lots of brilliant child development studies and coverage on how providers are going to support the living wage hike.
That and plenty more as we cover the top 10 news stories from March. ORDER.
1. No spring in our step from the Spring statement
After plenty of anticipation and hope that the Chancellor’s Spring Statement might bring some welcome funding increases for the early years, the failure to acknowledge the funding crisis at all has been met with anger in the sector.
Chancellor Phillip Hammond has suggested that there may be more money for public services if a Brexit deal is agreed, and it will come with a full spending review just before the summer recess of parliament. But for now, nothing for embattled early years settings, children’s services or schools.
“It beggars belief that the Government is walking a sector as vital as the early years to this cliff edge, with their refusal to budge on frozen funding levels even as outgoings soar,” said Early Years Alliance Chief executive Neil Leitch. “With report after report of quality providers being forced to close their doors for good, it’s vital that the Government takes urgent action on this issue – the sector cannot afford any further delay.”
+ Hundreds of nursery school head teachers marched on Downing Street before the announcement to put pressure on the government to fully fund maintained nursery schools in the long-term.
2. Self-regulation axed as the baseline drops
The self-regulation element of the reception baseline has been dropped following the trial in schools. The controversial assessment will now go ahead without the self-regulation aspect because it could not be effectively measured, and took far longer than the other parts of the assessment.
At the same time, The Department for Education has confirmed that they won’t be releasing the results of the trial, to the anguish of many in the sector.
+ Campaign group More Than A Score wrote for us last month on why the baseline should not go ahead.
+ This piece from Ruth Swailes on why it’s so common that early years is merely viewed through what happens in the older phases of education, is a great short read on the subject.
3. The living wage
A report by Early Years Alliance has revealed that 90% of providers are planning to increase fees this year. The fees will rise in order to meet the demands of higher staffing costs due to increases to the national minimum wage and the national living wage, along with growing problems coming from the underfunding of the 30 hours programme. Two in five providers went as far as to say that the increases in costs from the wage hikes may force them to close in the next 12 months.
Figures from the DfE themselves have also suggested that underfunding is pushing up the costs of childcare for parents. The report shows an average 58p difference in the hourly rate a setting charges for three and four-year-olds against what they get in funding.
+ The NDNA have also warned this month that the rise in costs could risk closures, with their own study showing that three-quarters of nurseries will be facing staffing cost increases of between 5 and 12 per cent from April 1.
4. Nancy Stewart talk from The Famly Sessions
Last month we hosted our inaugral event, The Famly Sessions, at the Childcare Expo London. It featured a wonderful talk from Tom Richardson of Naturally Learning, and early years expert Nancy Stewart, all about how to count what really counts when it comes to assessment.
You can see her talk in full over on our blog, and watch this space for more Famly Sessions near you.
5. The month in child development
Here are the studies worth paying attention to from the last month:
- Traditional print books might be better than e-books, when it comes to quality time shared between parents and their children. The University of Michigan study found that children verbalised and interacted less with e-books compared to their paper counterparts.
- Another study shows the impact of an adult’s actions on child learning, in particular, the questions they ask and the activities they undertake alongside them.
- Parents are literally on the same wavelength as their children, according to this study from the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, as it turns out a baby’s brainwaves literally sync with their mother’s when they are learning from them. Another step towards our understanding of Sustained Shared Thinking.
- It might seem effortless for children to learn a language, but really it’s a phenomenal feat, according to researchers from The University of California. They found that rather than being something humans are hardwired to do, it is actually a very powerful feat of human cognition.
- Play has been proven to help children learn self-regulation, by a study from The University of Otago, New Zealand. Interested in learning more about self-regulation? Check out this piece that Sue Cowley wrote for us on self-regulation and the role it plays in behaviour.
6. Should children be forced to share in the early years?
This article in TES from David Cahn is sure to cause much debate in settings across the UK. His basic premise is that toy conflict causes emotional strain for practitioners, and in our rush to solve these conflicts, we miss out on some valuable teaching opportunities. Instead, it might be better to give the children the tools to solve the problem themselves.
Another great read on the TES website is from Helen Pennington, explaining how we can balance general topics or themed approaches to planning, with an clear focus on child interests at the same time. Not an easy thing to marry, but she has some great ideas to make the thematic approach a more democratic process.
7. Childminder numbers falling fast
It’s a difficult time to be a childminder right now, and the latest figures from Ofsted have reported a 3% fall in childminder numbers in just a three month period. The fall, which represents a loss of 1,000 childminders, has led to PACEY commissioning research into the fall and the reasons for it.
+ PACEY have launched a new campaign entitled #notababysitter in an attempt to dispell myths about childminders, bringing more childminders into the sector and encouraging parents to take up places with them.
+ A new organisation to support childminder agencies called OFCMA (Organisation for Childminder Agencies) has been launched by eight of the top 11 Ofsted-registered childminder agencies, with the aim of working together to tackle challenges in the sector.
8. What do parents think about early education?
A new survey commissioned by Montessori St Nicholas has revealed that 90% of parents of children six and under agree that early years staff play an essential role in their child’s development.
The study, which has been comissioned in preparation of marking 100 years of UK teachers being trained in Montessori, also found that:
- 50% of parents think free play is the most beneficial way of helping children to learn.
- Parents value life skills such as social skills (81%), self-confidence (80%), and kindness (75%) over more formal skills like reading (69%), writing (66%), and numeracy (61%).
- Only 40% of parents want their children to personally interact with devices while at nursery or pre-school.
9. The business bit
Plenty of big news in the nursery business world this month with some rather busy groups:
10. In other news
+ A deaf charity has launched a competition to highlight the need to include more disabilities in children’s stories.
+ A nursery practitioner from Singapore has shared her thoughts about being on exchange in the UK, commenting “children are the same everywhere”.
+ Battledown Centre for Children and Families in Cheltenham has been awarded Early Years Setting of the year at the Shine a Light Awards.