Famly Briefing
#38 - March

All the important nursery news, none of the fuss.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months (which, as it turns out, may well be the safest place to be), you’ll know that the coronavirus COVID-19 is taking up a lot of newspaper column inches.

What does that mean for childcare settings? Well, the government’s action plan in case of a pandemic may mean a relaxing of ratios. Nursery World has also covered what some nurseries are doing and the government has also prepared official advice for educational providers.

However, COVID-19 isn’t the only thing facing the early years world this month. There’s been reports on the Reception Baseline Assessment, news on the impact of the 30 hours, and some revelations on the upcoming changes to Development Matters.

Time to dive in.

1. Children are ‘scared’ of getting baseline tests wrong

This month, the government confirmed that full rollout of the Reception Baseline Assessment will go ahead, after citing new research suggesting the baseline provides an ‘accurate’ assessment of children’s progress. The report also found that it was representative of a wide range of skills, and was comparable across schools

However, it seems this isn’t the full picture. A report based on teacher surveys has found that children are often fully aware they’re being tested, and in some cases clearly ‘scared of getting it wrong’. Some other figures to come from the report include:

  • 80% of teachers said the tests doesn’t give an accurate picture of children’s attainment
  • 85% say their own on-entry assessment provided them with better information
  • 83% say that the baseline has increased their workload

For more details on the problems behind the baseline and the decision to roll it out fully, check out Early Education’s informative article summing up the evidence.

2. Is 30 hours making 2-year-old places more expensive?

Coram Family and Childcare Costs annual report has found that the average price for under-two care has risen by 5% in the last year, much above inflation.

This could be seen to confirm what many have worried for some time, that the underfunding of the 30 hours scheme for 3- and 4-year-olds has meant providers have to increase their fees for younger children.

The report also detailed a postcode lottery of both price and availability, with just over half of local authorities saying they have enough childcare places for all working parents.

The news comes as the government reshuffle was finalised, and we found we have a new early years minister. Vicky Ford taking over much of the responsibility for early education, while Nick Gibb will remain in charge of early education curriculum and teaching quality under his role as minister of state for school standards.

+ A joint survey by Nursery World and Ceeda has revealed that there is no great consensus within the sector on whether a free, subsidised or hybrid model of childcare entitlements would work best.

+ The problem-hit tax-free childcare scheme has only been used by a sixth of the families it was predicted to help, according to the latest figures from HMRC.

3. Take 20 minutes for this beautiful film on play

Sometimes the early years news can feel very doom and gloom, so I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you this beautiful film about the power of play.

The film was produced for International Play Iceland, and features famous faces like Tom Shea, Teacher Tom, Niki Buchan and lots of voices from across the Nordic countries. They talk about the pressures on play, and how to preserve it, and why risk-taking in early childhood is so vital.

4. Development Matters to begin trial

Julian Grenier has revealed a host of details about the revised Development Matters in an exclusive interview with me and the team at Famly, including that the new document is about to begin being ‘road-tested’ by providers.

The interview, which has been published by the NDNA and Nursery World. Julian also revealed:

  • That the primary goals of the changes are to reduce practitioner workload and reduce the disadvantage gap.
  • That the new document will aim to prevent a ‘tickbox’ approach to assessment.
  • The suggestion age bands may be replaced.
  • It will draw on new evidence and research, in particular on self-regulation and executive function.
5. The month in child development

This month, a huge study on the benefits of nature play, eczema in new borns, and critera for good infant sleep:

6. SEED study finds mixed results for early years

A government study of more than 6,000 two-year-olds has found that larger amounts of formal group care could be associated with poorer outcomes at year 1 on a number of socio-emotional factors.

The Study of Early Education and Development study looks into the effectiveness of early years education, trying to identify the benefits of government investment in early years. The report also found:

  • Higher verbal ability at year 1 for children in informal early years care.
  • Problems arising from large amounts of formal group care could be mitigated by some individual early years support, such as friends, families, or childminders.
  • The home environment has considerable influence on all attainment.

The report can be a difficult and messy read, but page 25 which covers variations in the home learning environment is a particularly worthwhile read.

+ A survey of parents has found that one in seven think it’s a nursery’s responsibility to help children learn to speak and develop conversational skills, while 65% strongly disagree. The survey also found that a quarter of parents said they often struggled to fit play and activities with their children into their daily routine.

7. A New early years workforce commission to the rescue?

Several sector organisations and experts have come together to set up an Early Years Workforce Commission, in an attempt to solve the recruitment crisis facing the early years.

The commission will work with the government to develop an effective workforce strategy, and includes members from CACHE, Ceeda, Early Years Alliance, Early Education and more.

The news comes as a study from NatCen and the EPI found that thousands of practitioners are being driven out of the sector by low pay and a lack of respect. The study also identified three types of professionals and their reasons for entering the sector – a tool that might help with your recruitment.

8. This month’s interesting reads.

Each month, we want to try and use this spot in our briefing to share the best stories, ideas, and opinion pieces that didn’t quite fit into any of the other big news topics.

For more inspiring and intriguing articles, head over to our new Facebook community Always Learning, where almost 1,000 early years professionals share articles, videos, news and guides that interest them. This month:

10. In other news

+ A new netflix series called ‘Babies’ has been released, following the lives of 15 babies during the first year of their life.

+ The NDNA are looking for nurseries to join a study to help improve young children’s maths development, where you can earn £500.

+ The DfE has accredited six apps for parents to use at home with their children, with a focus on early literacy, language, and communication.

+ The BBC Radio 4 Show ‘Analysis’ has hosted a 30-minute special called The Early Years Miracle, all about the government spending on early years, asking – does the evidence add up?

Learn more about Famly

Find out below from Neil Leitch about the impact of Famly at the Early Years Alliance, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

Neil Leitch from the Early Years Alliance explaining Famly's impact
“Every time I ask somebody, ‘How is the system going?’, the thing that always come back to me is that staff say ‘You should have done this a long time ago.'” – Neil Leitch, CEO, Early Years Alliance
Neil Leitch from the Early Years Alliance explaining Famly's impact
“I’d say this – every time I ask somebody, ‘How is the system going?’, the thing that always come back to me is that staff say ‘You should have done this a long time ago.'” – Neil Leitch, CEO, Early Years Alliance

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