Tackling disadvantage in the early years Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Quality early years education

1.Barriers to progression for early years teachers must be removed in order to encourage the recruitment and retention of a skilled, high-quality early years workforce. We recommend that early years teachers should be able to access Qualified Teacher Status via a specialist route. (Paragraph 22)

2.We agree with witnesses that there is a lack of clarity on progression routes and quality of apprenticeships in childcare. The Government should commission quality research on training provision, induction and coaching for apprenticeships in childcare, as well as professional development for those already in the profession seeking to progress. The Government must act on that research to ensure clear and viable entry routes and development. (Paragraph 23)

3.We are disappointed that the DfE has chosen not to fulfil its commitment to conducting the early years workforce feasibility study. We urge the Government to recognise the difference that a highly skilled workforce makes to narrowing the quality gap between disadvantaged and more affluent areas. We further urge the Government to justify its failure to conduct the early years workforce feasibility study and to either reconsider its decision not to go ahead with the study or provide a suitable alternative. (Paragraph 25)

4.The Government does not appear to have an early years workforce strategy, encompassing recruitment, quality and retention. We call upon the Government to develop one at the earliest opportunity. (Paragraph 26)

5.Maintained nursery schools (like the one we visited in Manchester) are extremely successful at ensuring excellent outcomes for disadvantaged children. Their success is not limited to their catchment area but can have positive outcomes for provision across the local area. They must be supported to ensure that disadvantaged children are given the best possible start to life. Given their importance we are concerned that funding for maintained nursery schools is set to decrease substantially in 2020 unless the Government commits to additional funding. (Paragraph 34)

6.Maintained nursery schools cannot wait until the Spending Review. Funding decisions regarding staff and places for the next academic year are being made now, and the transitional funding already provided is running out. We recommend that the Government should set out plans for, and commit to, fully funding maintained nursery schools by the end of the financial year. (Paragraph 35)

7.Given the ability of maintained nurseries to spread expertise, we recommend that local authorities should encourage cooperation between maintained nursery schools and nurseries in the private and voluntary sector. We call upon local authorities to broker relationships between maintained nurseries and nurseries in the private and voluntary sector to enable them to “buy in” support, particularly for children with special educational needs and disabilities, or those who require extra support. (Paragraph 36)

8.The Government’s 30 hours funded childcare policy is entrenching inequality rather than closing the gap. (Paragraph 42)

9.We recommend that the Government review its 30 hours childcare policy to address the perverse consequences for disadvantaged children. The Government should reduce the earnings cap for the 30 hours childcare and use the extra funding to provide early education for disadvantaged children. (Paragraph 43)

Supporting a strong home learning environment

10.Support for parents before and after birth is a key starting point for ensuring good life chances for children. Home visits from health visitors is a crucial part of this support. We recommend that the Government should ensure that local authorities are collecting full and complete data on the number of home visitors and home visits conducted in their area, providing additional funding if necessary. (Paragraph 51)

11.We recommend that the Department for Education work with the Department of Health and Social Care to develop a health in maternity strategy covering the first 1,001 critical days from conception to the age of two. (Paragraph 52)

12.We also encourage the Government to make more comprehensive and needs- and evidence-led use of children’s centres including utilising contact time with registrars and signposting parents to relevant support services. (Paragraph 53)

13.Developing communication and language ability in the early years is crucial for children’s outcomes. The home learning environment has a huge part to play in supporting children to develop those skills. Interventions to support the home learning environment should have a particular focus on communication and language. (Paragraph 59)

14.The Government should build upon the evidence in Greater Manchester where every child is assessed eight times between 0–5 years old, including for speech and language development, with interventions following as necessary. This model should be followed across the country. (Paragraph 60)

15.We are concerned to hear of the lack of evidence about interventions that will support parents and families in creating a positive home learning environment. Interventions must be based on solid evidence and rigorous evaluation, to ensure that activity and funding is not being wasted on efforts that may not be effective. (Paragraph 63)

16.We recommend that the Government commission research on interventions to support effective home learning environments. This work should be published and used as the evidence base from which to decide which projects to support. (Paragraph 64)

17.Parental engagement and involvement in the home learning environment is crucial to children’s development. We recommend that the Government commission research on interventions that will support parents in providing a strong home learning environment for their children. (Paragraph 72)

18.We have heard a huge amount about the positive effects of children’s centres on children’s life chances. We recommend that the Department for Education should resurrect their review of children’s centres and develop a wider, comprehensive strategy for provision of high quality and effective early years services. In order to create this wider strategy, the DfE should explore promoting family hubs as a wider model for provision of integrated services. (Paragraph 82)

19.We recommend that Ofsted inspections of children’s centres should be reinstated. (Paragraph 83)

20.We are pleased that the Leader of the House of Commons is chairing a cross-government working group reviewing how to improve the support available to families in the period around childbirth to the age of 2. We urge the Leader and her working group to be ambitious and radical with their recommendations. We look forward to the findings of the review and urge the Prime Minister to listen carefully to, and act upon, the findings of the Leader’s review. (Paragraph 84)

Published: 7 February 2019