Summer really is here. June-time means that the longest day is approaching and the weather is even starting to (sort of) play ball.
But the sunny days and shorter nights haven’t stopped the nursery news train from rolling. In this month’s round-up we’ve got even more than usual, with coverage of mental health, childhood obesity, SEND news and much more.
This time, we’re kicking it all off with the coverage of Ofsted Chief Amanda Spielman and her headline-grabbing talk at the Pre-school Learning Alliance’s annual conference…
1. Literacy, toilet training and some bold beginnings
Amanda Spielman used her speech at this year’s Pre-school Learning Alliance annual conference to bring up a few areas that have been Ofsted’s focus for some time now. Alongside calls to close the word gap and to help children get excited about reading, the Ofsted Chief Inspector clarified some of the main talking points from the controversial Bold Beginnings report.
She reiterated that the focus of the report was on the Reception year, and tempered the report’s focus on ‘teaching’ by explaining that it should not be at the cost of ‘lots and lots of play’. She also announced that Ofsted’s next big piece of research would be focused on physical development.
+ Spielman also grabbed plenty of headlines with her comments on toilet training, explaining that childcare providers needed to do more to get children ready for the demands of school. Her comments came in the same week as a Scottish study that proclaimed that increased nursery hours help with a smoother transition to school.
+ For those of you who just can’t get enough of our favourite early years governing body, check out our free guide on how to be outstanding, from five Outstanding nursery managers.
2. ‘Missing’ mental health
A damning report from MPs has accused the government’s mental health plans of ‘failing a generation’ of children. The joint-report from the health and the education select committees of MPs claims that the proposed Green Paper outlining the government’s strategy ‘lacks ambition’, in part because of its failure to focus on early years as a target for prevention.
+ It’s not just the children’s mental health at risk. A major survey has revealed that a quarter of early years workers are considering leaving the sector altogether due to stress and mental health problems.
3. SEND Support
The DfE released a number of important announcements in May to help support early years settings throughout the country provide an inclusive environment for everyone:
- New £50m fund for extra places and facilities – Local authorities will have access to £50m in government funding to improve facilities and create more school spaces for children with SEND. The DfE has said that over half of English councils will receive more than £225,000 and that every council will get at least £115,000.
- DfE awards additional service contracts – The DfE has also promised almost £28m in contracts to the Council for Disabled Children, Contact, and the Whole School SEND consortium, all to help support children with SEND and their families.
- Guidance for new SENCo early years qualification – The DfE has also produced a job description and qualification specifications for Early Years SENCos, intended to be used by awarding organisations to develop a new level 3 qualification. Early years awards body CACHE has already confirmed it will be developing the qualification in line with the guidance.
+ Are you looking to improve the quality of the SEN provision in your setting? Take a look at one of our latest series of articles, on how to get your provision right to begin with, how to offer an even more inclusive environment for every child, and physical activity ideas for children with SEN.
4. Obesity is everyone’s business
After a recent report found that the number of severely obese children leaving primary school is now almost 22,000, a committee of MPs has produced a report stating that ‘obesity needs to be everyone’s business’. In it, they explain that childhood obesity can no longer be ignored and that young children at risk must be identified early in order to get them the support that they need.
+ How early is early enough? Well, a new study from Brown University has found that children on the threshold of obesity in the first two years of their life ended up with significantly lower perceptual reasoning and working memory at ages five and eight.
+ One crucial way you can help is by making sure that you have a supportive and healthy mealtime environment at your setting. Here are a few ways that you can do just that.
5. The child development round-up
There have been plenty of new child development studies worthy of your attention this month. Here are just a few of them:
- The secret to language and literacy – Researchers at Michigan State University have found that a child’s ability to self-regulate is essential to developing faster language and literacy skills as they develop. Essentially, the earier that they can keep information in their working memories and pay attention to tasks, the quicker they’ll pick up crucial language and literacy skills.
- Babies like to hear other babies – Researchers at McGill University have found that 5-month old babies spent 40% longer listening to sound from other babies than they did from adults making exactly the same sounds. The study could form a crucial basis for how we understand speech development – what babies know innately and what is shaped by their experience as listeners.
- The more hugs they get, the smarter they are – New research suggests that physical attention during a baby’s development is even more important than we previously thought. The more you hug young children, the more their brains appear to grow.
6. The £500m shortfall
New research from Ceeda has revealed that there is a funding shortfall of half a billion pounds each year. They estimate that the average cost of care for two-year-olds is 32% higher than the average funding rate, with many predicting this cost is going to end up being swallowed by parents.
At the same time, NDNA is reporting a 47% rise in member closures since the introduction of the 30 hours. A problem? Early Years Minister Nadhim Zahawi doesn’t think so, insisting that nurseries don’t need protection from 30 hours underfunding.
+ Pre-school Learning Alliance chief Neil Leitch commented that the report is proof that ‘the childcare sector’s concerns are completely justified’. For ideas on what you can do to campaign against the funding, he also featured in this brilliant episode of Early Years TV with Kathy Brodie.
7. The great private debate
This piece by Helen Penn has caused a stir in the sector, as she warns against an over-reliance on the private sector for children – in particular, the big chains. She tells the story of ABC Learning in Australia, whom the government had to bail out because they were too big to fail.
Is it really that simple? Not so, thinks June O’Sullivan, CEO of the London Early Years Foundation. She argues that the way forward should be building bridges between state and private providers. What do you think?
8. The abandoner
Amidst the daily chaos that is running a nursery, it can be easy to forget the emotional difficulty many parents face when dropping their children off at those doors for the very first time. That’s why we thought this opinion piece in The Guardian was a timely reminder of what it’s like on the other side of the doors, and what nurseries can do to make that process easier for parent and child.
9. The business bit
Another month, another million odd nursery business stories. Here are some of the best.
- All about Children and Kids Planet continue to grow with string of acquisitions
- Children’s 1st Day Nurseries 100-place flagship nursery opens its doors
- Busy Bees buys 9-setting Mace Montessori
- Busy Bees also acquires 30-setting Foundation Early Learning in Australia
- Stone Eden Nursery to open first franchise in China
- Nanny finder app Koru Kids receives £3.5m investment
- Just Childcare secures £12m in funding to expand to the South of England
- 4-setting Kiddi Days closes without notice
10. In other news
++ Congratulations to the Carlisle arm of the NDNA, who raised £8,000 for a local motor neurone disease charity.
++ Read this heartwarming story about the man with the ‘golden arm’ whose blood donations saved an estimated 2.4 million babies.
++ Famly is proud to support the Tinies Inspiring a Future in Childcare campaign. They are working hard to solve the recruitment crisis in the sector, and one way you can help is by signing up to help out at a local career’s networking event. All you need to do is give an hour – find out more here.