The Famly Briefing
#32 - September

All the important nursery news, none of the fuss.

Edit: Chancellor Sajid Javid has just announced an extra £66 million to increase the hourly rate for the government’s 30-hours programme. It’s not yet clear on how this will be distributed or who will qualify. More to follow on this on Early Years Weekly, next week.

And so it begins again…

The start of a new school year is here, and with it, we’ve got a few new initiatives of our own.

Right now, the big announcement is the start of our news show, Early Years Weekly. We’ll be bringing you all the most important early years news, every week, in five minutes or less. Head over to Youtube to check out our very first episode.

Don’t worry if you like the current format – we’ll still be doing our monthly round-up of the ten stories that matter, and we’ll be editing together a video from our weekly show to make the full, monthly round-up.

This month – governmental wranglings, the Scottish staffing crisis, and a certain, controversial Channel 4 show…

1. Ofsted changes go live…

The big news this September is, of course, the official start of the new Ofsted inspection framework. That means an updated early years inspection handbook and safeguarding advice in line with the changes.

The official launch has come with some interesting guides to help you navigate the changes. Both the Early Years Alliance, and PACEY have new books about the changes, how the judgements will work, and advice on how to prepare for an inspection.

There’s also a free guide to cultural capital in Nursery World while the mainstream newspapers are starting to pick up on some of the controversies around the term. This Guardian article reports on attacks that the term is ‘elitist’, as it writes off the experience of working-class pupils.

+ More changes are on the way, with the EYFS due to be reshaped for 2021. With that in mind, Development Matters authors Nancy Stewart and Helen Moylett wrote a brilliant piece for Nursery World this month about their concerns with the way the reforms are being done, and what they’d like to see changed.

2. Leaky school policy plans

The big news in education this month has been the, first leaked and then later confirmed, announcements surrounding schools. The plans will be fleshed out in full during Wednesday’s Spending Review, but from what we know so far they include:

  • A total of £14bn promised over the next three years.
  • Teacher starting salaries to go up to £30,000 by 2020.
  • A focus on confiscating or banning mobile phones.
  • Increased power for teachers to exclude.
  • A push for a new wave of free schools and academies.
  • The slashing of teaching assistants.
  • Plans to allow teachers to employ ‘reasonable force’ in behaviour incidents.
  • Removing the regular inspection exemption given to Outstanding schools.

Now, with the current turmoil in the commons, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether these plans will ever come to fruition. Or, with a potential election coming up, whether they were even meant to.

But one thing is for sure – the complete absence of early years from the leaked papers is deeply concerning. As Early Years Alliance CEO Neil Leitch points out, “The silence in the face of a £662 million shortfall in government funding is incomprehensible.”

+ This reading charity has produced a fantastic list of books for children who are just about to start Reception.

3. Train your baby like a what?

One of the big stories of the last month has been the outrage caused by the appallingly titled Channel 4 show, Train Your Baby Like A Dog.

The programme name, along with a trailer that depicted a ‘trainer’ helping parents to teach children good behaviour with treats and a clicker, led to a 35,000-signature petition, angry comments from the NDNA, and a whole lot of outrage in the sector.

Now that the show has actually aired, we wanted to take a deeper look. That’s why we asked early childhood consultant Sue Asquith to do a full write-up about the show, what they got wrong, what (if anything) they got right, and how we can take a more measured view to behaviour in the early years.

She was pleasantly surprised about the positive approach advocated on the show, which could help parents to understand how to really listen to their children. At the same time, she explores the deeply problematic compliance techniques shown in the show, while this June O’Sullivan piece points out that the title alone reflects the sorry state of modern childhood, and the place children have in our society.

4. Scottish PVI staffing crisis looms

We’ve previously reported on the worrying NDNA figures about the state of the early years workforce in England. Well, sadly it seems as though things are no better north of the border

The figures from the NDNA’s inaugural Scottish workforce survey reveal a deep crisis on the horizon, in particular for private and voluntary settings. The survey reveals that 62% face significant challenges keeping their staff from leaving for schools and council-run nurseries, who can afford higher wages. Their turnover is sitting at 29%, even higher than in England, while almost 71% say they’re facing problems recruiting Level 3 staff.

With the 1,140-hour funded childcare scheme coming into place in just a year’s time, things are not looking good for the PVI sector.

5. The month in child development

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

6. Housing crisis affecting our youngest

More sad news this month on poverty in the UK, as two studies have shown worrying figures about how our youngest are housed.

First, this National Housing Federation report has found that 1.3 million children are stuck in overcrowded homes. At the same time, a report from the Children’s Commissioner has revealed that hundreds of thousands of children are living in old office blocks, shipping containers, and B&Bs, estimating that between 550,000 and 600,000 children in England are homeless or at risk of becoming so.

+ Save The Children have released a free toolkit to help people who work with children support those in poverty. It combines first-hand experience with expert advice about how to support children with their learning outcomes, and how you can further help to support communities.

7. Problematic parent surveys

A couple of worrying survey results have been released this month, starting with the news that despite being five years on from the SEND reforms meant to help parents, nine in ten still feel they have to fight to get the support they need.

We also saw that three-quarters of parents say a lack of play areas is affecting their child’s health, revealing growing parent concern around the gap between outdoor play and indoor screen time. The positive? It seems like parents continue to have a strong understanding of the effectiveness of high-quality outdoor play.

8. 50% of portions given to children are wrong

Following on from last month’s rejuvenated portion guidance, it’s been revealed that almost half of all meals served to children between one and four were either too small or too large.

Working on data from their online food tracker, the Infant and Toddler Forum has also revealed that 44% of toddlers eat too many crisps, while other foods high in fat and sugar were usually overserved and fruit and vegetables were often given in too small a portion.

+ Dental surgeons are urging schools to go sugar-free in an attempt to tackle ‘worrying’ levels of tooth decay.

10. In other news

+ Last month, we reported on the sad news of Vivian Gussin Paley passing. Here are some lovely words from those who knew her and were inspired by her, as well as a touching obituary in The Guardian.

+ Ceeda have launched their new initiative ‘What is Early Years?’ where they will survey practitioners and potential candidates for the sector, in order to better understand what drives people to work in the early years. Hopefully the starting point for some nationwide campaigns on early years recruitment.

+ A brilliant story of a father who stepped in to save his child’s local nursery.

+ The Very Hungry Caterpillar has been named the best children’s classic storybook in the 2019 Sainsbury’s Children’s Book Awards. That’s fine by us.

+ Busy Bees have launched an app, UP, which they hope will support parents and practitioners with supporting children’s learning and development.

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