The start of the new school year often brings with it a slew of big news for the early years, and this month is no different.
With Brexit and the goings-on in Parliament dominating the news, in the background there were so many stories bouncing around in the early years world that it was hard to keep track.
That’s why we bring you this monthly breakdown, to focus on the big stories that matter, share interesting studies and articles that might not have broken through, and keep you informed on everything that matters.
Below, you’ll find our first monthly video compilation, which brings together all the Early Years Weekly shows we’ve made this month over on our Youtube channel. If you haven’t already subscribed to get weekly 5-minute doses of early years news in video form, head over to our channel and click that subscribe button now.
1. UK early years vs. the rest of the world?
This month marked the launch of a fascinating study into the global early years workforce from Christie and Co, who visited over 1,000 settings and heard from 200,000 respondents. They found that 67% of managers in the UK struggle to find good quality staff and, of those qualified staff in the UK, only 9.5% hold a formal teaching or degree qualification, compared to 50% in countries like Japan.
What’s more, their survey found that while the UK government gives parents the most generous offer in terms of ‘free’ childcare across the countries they surveyed, UK settings receive the second-lowest funding amount per child. As the NDNA’s Purnima Tanuku commented, this again shows that “UK Providers are expected to do more, with much less.”
+ At the Conservative Party conference this week, the government announced that they intend to reduce the age threshold for the National Living Wage down to those aged 23 by 2021, and those aged 21 within five years. While we can all agree that early years staff deserve to be paid more, the concern is that without an increase in funding, this could put yet another burden on already stretched providers.
2. What will be in the new Development Matters?
This month we got a step closer to understanding what sort of changes we might see to the EYFS and Development Matters when they’re announced in the new year.
First, we had the ‘Getting it right in the EYFS’ report from a coalition of early years organisations, including PACEY, the NDNA, and the Early Years Alliance. In the report, they argue that the changes need to handle the EYFS with care, and that it is already a “world-class framework. Among their recommendations are that the Characteristics of Effective Learning should be emphasised, the Prime areas should be protected, and that there is no evidence for Maths and Literacy to play a greater role.
Some of this language was echoed in Julian Grenier’s piece for Nursery World, where he argued that the changes to Development Matters should be “an evolution, not a revolution.” Julian is in charge of the overhaul of Development Matters, and spoke at length in the article about the potential to move away from what he sees as restrictive age band categories in order to stop development becoming about simply moving a child through these bands.
+ As ever, June O’Sullivan is clear and knowledgeable in this piece about why the EYFS does not need large-scale change.
+ If you’re not a Nursery World subscriber, Julian shared some of his thoughts on the EYFS and early years education in general on his blog this week too.
+ Any changes will certainly hope to address the problems of excessive paperwork in the early years. This week the Alliance announced that 84% of providers are producing more paperwork than is required.
3. The Early Years Minister Roundabout
Having only been in the role for a month, we learned this month that Children’s Minister Kemi Badenoch will be going on Maternity leave, with Michelle Donelan temporarily replacing her.
At the same time, we found out that controversial Schools Minister and Phonics fan Nick Gibb will be taking over the early years brief, including funding, support for the workforce, curriculum, quality and entitlements. Whether this is long-term or temporary we are yet to find out.
While it’s exciting to have a more senior minister appointed to early years, there are concerns from some parts that his huge portfolio may leave him little time to focus on the vital issues we currently face in early years.
+ We found out late last month (just before we published our last briefing) that the Chancellor has pledged £66m in increased funding for the early years. Sadly, the proposal is still very light on detail and while the pledge is a positive step for those who have campaigned so hard, many of us are justifiably concerned that this small amount will not even begin to make a dent in the funding shortfall.
+ Labour have used their party conference to announce that they would scrap Ofsted if they were to come to power, instead turning to a two-tier Local Authority health check system. To hear more about their plans, including a pledge to extend free hours to two-year-olds, check out our Early Years Weekly Episode 4.
4. The power of sand and water
Sometimes, you just have to step back, and pay homage to the classics.
This month, we wrote a piece about the power of water play, chock full of advice for those of you feeling like your water play provision needs a bit of a revamp. There’s a little on the numerous benefits to water play, and some fantastic ideas from the likes of Alistair Bryce-Clegg. Check it out.
We also really enjoyed this piece in Nursery World from Penny Tassoni about how you can reconsider your water and sand play with Ofsted and the EYFS in mind. As if that wasn’t enough, Helen Pinnington also had a fantastic read in TES about why sand is such a crucial part of early years education.
5. The month in child development
Here are the studies worth paying attention to from the last month:
- Children tend to learn retribution before gratitude, essentially explaining why it can take some children longer to learn to pay back kindness. Definitely worth giving this study a read to get an insight into the sort of behaviour we can expect from our youngest.
- Offering children a variety of vegetables makes them more likely to accept them according to this Elsevier study, which suggests parents and educators should provide a wider array of options to those children less keen to try out vegetables.
- Important associations that allow us to associate sounds with shapes may depend on early visual experiences, such as the idea of a ‘spiky’ k or a ‘smooth’ b. This study on children with congenital blindness showed that early visual stimulus can have a big impact on how we develop these concepts.
- Parents find that reading together with their children is an opportunity to talk about their worries, according to this study of over 3,000 parents. Parents reported that around a third of them worried about their child’s mental health at least once a week.
- Children who face children can have their longterm health saved by teachers or good neighbours, according to this study which shows just how important positive childhood experiences are. Never forget how powerful you are.
6. Government launch SEND review
The government have announced a review to improve support and services for children with special educational needs and disabilities.
The review will look at how consistently provision is accessible across the country, and will suggest new actions to help parents make decisions about the right kind of support for their child. It will also make sure that public money is being spent in the most efficient, sustainable way.
While most in the sector welcomed the news and focus on children with SEND, some, including the National Educational Union, lamented the time that another ‘long drawn out review’ may take, when we already know many of the areas that need investment.
+ The National Audit Office this week warned that the needs of children with SEND are not being met, reporting ‘significant’ concerns that many children are not being adequately supported.
7. How should early years tackle climate change?
This week, one nursery made national news when they turned off their electricity for the day in order to educate their children on what’s happening with the climate emergency. They spoke with the BBC and Early Years Educator about why they thought it was important to have the day and what the children learnt.
With that in mind, it was a good time to bring out the video of our interview with Kate Peach from Each Peach Childcare, who spoke with us about her own unexpected journey towards running a more sustainable setting. You can either watch the full video or check out the clips and highlights.
+ Campaign group Plastic Free Nurseries has now signed up 104 settings to their plastic-free pledge, including swapping milk cartons for bottles and banning plastic glitter.
8. This month’s interesting reads.
Each month, we want to try and use this spot in our monthly briefing to share the best stories, ideas, and opinion pieces that didn’t quite fit into any of the other big news topics. Here they are:
- Dulcinea Norton on the problems of topic-based learning in the early years in the TES.
- Cathy Gunning on her top five tips for the Autumn term in the EYFS on the Early Education blog.
- Ex Children’s Commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green on the early years crisis facing the UK, being interviewed in the Guardian
- Gill Jones on what Ofsted learnt from the pilots of their new Inspection framework on the Early Years Alliance blog.
- Sue Allingham on how to get home visits right in the EYFS on TES.
9. The business bit
The latest and greatest in nursery expansions and acquisitions:
10. In other news
+ Little Owls Childcare have offered free two-hour sessions for the children of 10 families employed by Thomas Cook at their new setting near the former travel firm’s headquarters so that parents can have time to attend job interviews. A touching offer from the Peterborough-based nursery chain.
+ It’s early years award season, starting with the winners from the Nursery World Awards. Congratulations to Famly customers Spring Bensham, who took home the top prize of Nursery of the year. Watch out for our interview with them coming up over the next few days.
+ The NMT award nominees have also been announced, and Famly are delighted to have been selected in the Nursery Staff Resource category. Fingers crossed!
+ We loved this story about a setting in Bickley Park School in Bromley who have had a therapy dog join the team at their setting.