Tag Archives: early years education

Sure Start centre closures hit vulnerable families hardest

One of my main election platforms last year when running for Oxfordshire County Council was the closure of our local children’s centre. I’m glad to report that it has re-opened as a community initiative, run by a committee of volunteers.

But that is not the case in many areas of the country. Research published today by the Sutton Trust and conducted by academics from Oxford University shows that as many as 1,000 Sure Start centres have closed since 2009, with 69% of local authorities reporting a budget decrease in the last two years.

Professor Kathy Silva, one of the authors of the “Stop Start” report, writes

We surveyed local authorities across the country and found reductions in senior staff and ‘hollowing out’ of open-access services, the kinds of non-stigmatising activities aimed at all families in the surrounding neighbourhood and not just those on the books of Social Services.

…Hard-pressed local authority officials described that cuts necessitated a major shift away from open access activities such as Stay & Play or Rhyme Time, to statutory duties of child protection or social work support for families whose children are ‘at risk’.

‘Stop Start’ has five key recommendations, one of which is

Children’s centres should reconnect with their original purpose. Shifting the balance too far towards referred children and families, away from open access, and merging children’s centres into preventative teams working with a very much wider age group, serves a very different function and requires very different skills. It does not seem to fit well under the label of a local ‘children’s centre’. A good mix of children is important for social mobility and children’s social development.

This report follows on last year’s paper Closing Gaps Early, which analysed the role of early years policy in promoting social mobility. As the party who introduced free school meals, the pupil premium and shared parental leave, we understand that children need a good start in life. Equalising opportunity is key in fighting societal inequalities. The Closing Gaps Early report states:

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Nick Clegg on the Liberal Democrats’ vision for a world class early years education system

Nick Clegg has made a major speech on early years education and  child care to the Pre-School Learning Alliance. He pointed out that as a result of Liberal Democrat input, an extra £1 billion has been put into child-care in this Parliament and that only the Liberal Democrats would protect that level of spending in the next Parliament. In contrast, the Conservatives would cut it, at a cost of £625 per child. Not only that, but welfare cuts would affect low income families.

Here are the main points of his speech:

Over the last five years, we’ve made it one of our biggest priorities in this Government to ensure that every child – whatever their background or circumstances – gets an equal shot at the successful future they deserve.

Disadvantaged background start to bite early:

 So much so that, if you’re a child born into a poor family in this country, you will already have fallen behind a child with richer parents by the time you’re 2 years old.

That’s before you step anywhere near a classroom and it has absolutely nothing to do with your talent or potential – just the circumstances of your birth. Without focused action to change it, that gap between you and your peers will continue to get bigger as you grow up. So that when you turn up, proudly wearing your new uniform, for your first day of school, you will be well over a year behind your better-off classmates. Morally and economically, we simply cannot afford for so many children to have their future written off like that in this country.

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Opinion: Making the two-year-old programme work

Teacher Tom at Canterbury994I’m a governor at Seven Sisters Primary School and South Grove Children’s Centre in Tottenham, where we’ve been running a programme for two-year-olds from deprived backgrounds for the last three years. We’ve tracked the progress these children make, and it’s clear there are real benefits. This is a good Lib Dem policy, aiming to break down the barriers that hold back children from poorer families.

In September, the eligibility criteria for the programme will be widened, so that around 40% of two-year-olds become eligible. In Haringey, that means that …

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Opinion: Professionalisation vs Professionals in early years

The Liberal Democrat Education Association Conference 2014 was a thoroughly enjoyable event with friendly people and some fantastic debate. One such debate was the emphasis placed on professionals teaching in early years education.

It is important to note, governance relationships within the modern welfare-state has evolved from its top-down centralised roots to a system of partnerships, networks and stakeholders. Equally, the philosophy of state-interventionism has moved away from the notion that education professionals exist in isolation from other stakeholders such as parents as well as other areas of welfare such as health. Therefore to direct ones faith in …

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David Laws writes… Tackling disadvantage must start before school

When money is tight, where a party chooses to spend says something important about that party’s values.

So today is an important day for Liberal Democrats – as Nick Clegg launches our £760m investment to provide a free early years education for every disadvantaged two year old.

From today, for the first time ever, 130,000 two year olds from the poorest homes become eligible for a free place with a nursery or childminder. And we have announced that, from next year, this same offer will be extended to families earning less than £16,000, adopted children and those with special …

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