[Video] Famly Briefing
#30

All the important nursery news, none of the fuss.

It has been quite a month-and-a-bit in the early years.

Since we sat down to write last month’s briefing, the Famly bookmark folder has been fit to bursting with stories about the 30 hours, the upcoming spending review, early years recruitment, phonics, child development, and so much more.

So without wasting another single word on this intro, let’s get started with this month’s (slightly bumper) edition of the Famly Briefing.

1. New PM + spending review = more money for early years?

With a new Prime Minister due in number 10 this month, and a spending review on the horizon, a number of voices are making increasing noise about more money for the early years.

And it’s really about time.

The Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield is calling for the remaining PM-candidates to put the billions they’ve promised for tax cuts towards rebuilding services for the most vulnerable children. Her annual vulnerability report estimates 2.3 million children are now growing up with a vulnerable family background, and calls for a properly evidence-based strategy to tackle the problem.

At the same time:

2. MPs attack government early years policy

For almost anyone working in the early years, chief among those spending concerns should be an improvement to the funding for the government’s flagship 30 hours childcare offer.

This month, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Childcare and Early Education released another damning report, entitled Steps To Sustainability. In it, they claim 30 hours has exacerbated the financial situation for nurseries so much that there is now an average 20% shortfall in funding per child. If it continues, they suggest early years education may soon be accessible to only the most wealthy families.

They make nine recommendations to the government, focused on four areas:

  • Funding – They must address the funding gap, commit to a cross-department annual review of costs and funding rates and deliver full business rates relief.
  • Supporting practitioners – They must support providers to ease recruitment and retention challenges and make reporting requirements less burdensome.
  • Social mobility – They must prioritise closing the funding gap in deprived areas and allow universal credit to go straight from the government to providers.
  • Long-term steps – They must establish an independent early years commission and lead a campaign to champion the work of childcare practitioners.

Certainly seems pretty sensible to us.

But that’s not all. This month we also had the Early Years Alliance’s Fair Future Funding Week, coinciding with Ceeda’s latest Counting The Cost report. Their figures now suggest a £662 million funding gap, while their survey reports that nurseries in England’s poorest areas are twice as likely to face closer that those in affluent areas. 11% of all settings lack confidence they’ll be trading in a year and 50% are reducing staff training to save costs.

3. Recruitment struggles now a ‘full-blown crisis’

That’s according to NDNA CEO Purnima Tanuku, after their annual Workforce Survey produced some pretty worrying figures, including:

  • The proportion of staff qualified to level 3 has fallen to just 52%, threatening a drop in the quality of provision.
  • There’s been a 16% jump in unqualified staff from 10% to 26% compared with last year.
  • Staff turnover is at 24%, compared to the UK average of 15-18%, and 48% of those leaving the sector are leaving for better pay in retail.
  • One in five providers say they’re taking on more apprentices due to funding pressures.

+ This news made it a perfect time for us to write our latest marquee piece on early years recruitment. Along with the data from Ceeda and NDNA, we spoke with Kindred Nurseries CEO Ruth Pimentel, and Acorn’s Kieran Glackin to work out how the bigger groups are approaching this crisis. You’ll learn about how they still recruit in the tough climate, and what we can all do to improve the situation in the sector. Read it here.

4. Big contract for phonics training provider

The government have awarded the contract to run the new English hubs training centre and network of English hubs to a leading commercial phonics provider.

The centre will train and advise teachers to work in the local hubs, promoting best practice and supporting local settings and schools.

But the government has come under fire for awarding the contract to a company run by Ruth Miskin, who devised the controversial Read Write Inc phonics programme. They will run the centre in association with I CAN and the National Literacy Trust as well as five other phonics training providers.

While many recognise the importance of phonics, a number of figures have questioned the decision, saying that it could lead to a phonics-only approach in many schools, which isn’t sufficient for well-rounded reading development. David Reedy from the UK Literacy Association says the announcement is severely lacking in a focus on comprehension, which he says is the primary purpose of reading.

5. The month in child development

Here are the studies worth paying attention to from the last month:

6. A new curriculum for Wales

A new Welsh curriculum has been unveiled, with a focus on providing experience-rich learning.

The Foundation phase is to be replaced with a new curriculum that covers children from 3-16, and is out for consultation until the end of July. It will be phased in from september 2022.

The traditional curriculum areas will be replaced with six Areas of Learning and Experience, which are:

  • Expressive arts
  • Humanities
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Science and technology
  • Mathematics and numeracy
  • Languages, literacy and communication

Religious education will also be mandatory from the age of three, although it is clear this must include non-religious beliefs too.

Broadly, the new curriculum has been well-received, with its focus on enabling teachers and practitioners to decide the best approach to support individual achievement, although this comes with some concern that big investment in training will be needed.

+ The timetable for the revised EYFS has been announced, with schools allowed to adopt the revised ELGs a year before early years settings in September 2020, while the revised EYFS will become statutory in September 2021.

7. Best articles from around the web

Our new section featuring some of the best stories and opinion pieces makes a comeback this month. Here’s a selection of thought-provoking ideas:

9. Get involved

A few ways you can have your voice heard this month:

10. In other news

+ Tops Day Nurseries have started using reusable nappies in their settings, and are encouraging others to do the same in order to reduce the almost 3 billion nappies thrown away every year.

+ There’s a new children’s literature laureate. Cressida Cowell is the author of the Emily Brown Picture books as well as the huge How to Train Your Dragon series.

+ They might not have secured Kylie Minogue, but these children in Bristol created their own mini Glastonbury, complete with stages, wristbands, and portable loos.

+ A new nursery in Milton Keynes is calling itself the first gymnastics-focused setting to open in the UK, with beams, monkey bars, vaults and a giant foam pit.

+ This adorable clip of a father and son babbling away to each other sent us into cuteness overload…

+ Children at Petersfield Infant School broke an unlikely world record this month, with 251 of them bringing in their favourite soft toy for a huge cuddle-a-thon.

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