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Next Government Urged to Ensure Early Education Policy is ‘Child-Centric’

The NDNA has put forward a number of recommendations for the next government, PHOTO: NDNA

The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has called upon the next government to initiate a national commission focused on the future of early education and care within the first 100 days of their term.

In their manifesto, “The First Five Years Count: A Manifesto for Early Education and Care,” the NDNA presents a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring early education policy is ‘child-centric,’ evidence-based, and equally valued as mainstream education. The manifesto highlights the unique challenges faced by early education providers, especially in light of the upcoming second phase of the extended funded offer. Key recommendations include creating a comprehensive national dataset, consulting on the use of under-utilised school premises, ensuring a fair funding system, conducting annual reviews of education costs, removing business rates and VAT for settings, and investing in the early years workforce. Purnima Tanuku, NDNA’s chief executive, emphasises the importance of government support for early education providers to address the sector’s significant challenges, including workforce shortages and insufficient funding.

As the general election approaches, the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has taken a proactive stance, urging the next government to prioritise early education and care. Their manifesto, “The First Five Years Count: A Manifesto for Early Education and Care,” sets out a vision for a child-centric, evidence-driven approach to early years policy. The NDNA argues that early education should be held in the same regard as mainstream education, reflecting its critical role in child development and societal well-being. With the second phase of the extended funded offer for nine-month-olds set to commence in September, the manifesto outlines the pressing challenges facing the sector and proposes actionable solutions to address them.

The Call for a National Commission

The NDNA’s primary recommendation is the establishment of a national commission dedicated to early education and care within the first 100 days of the new government. This commission would play a pivotal role in shaping a coherent, long-term strategy for early years provision, ensuring that policies are child-centric and based on robust evidence. Such an initiative would signal a significant commitment to the sector, highlighting the importance of early education in the broader educational landscape.

Addressing Unique Challenges

The manifesto underscores several unique challenges that early education providers must navigate. The second phase of the extended funded offer, which provides 15 hours of funded education for nine-month-olds, presents both opportunities and obstacles. Providers must prepare to accommodate this new demographic while maintaining high standards of care and education. The NDNA stresses the need for adequate support and resources to meet these demands effectively.

Comprehensive National Dataset

A key proposal is the creation of a comprehensive national dataset that integrates education, health, and social care information for all children. This dataset would empower early years professionals to better identify and refer children with additional needs, ensuring timely and appropriate support. By fostering greater collaboration between different sectors, the dataset would enhance the overall quality of care and education provided to young children.

Utilising School Premises

The manifesto also addresses the potential use of under-utilised school premises for early education and care, a policy supported by the Labour party. The NDNA advocates for thorough consultations with established settings and local communities to ensure that these school-based nurseries are age-appropriate and meet the specific needs of families. This collaborative approach would help maximise the benefits of existing infrastructure while maintaining high standards of care.

Funding and Financial Support

Ensuring that the funding system works for all children, families, and providers is another critical recommendation. The NDNA calls for annual reviews of the cost of delivering high-quality early education and care, with adjustments made to reflect actual costs. Additionally, the removal of business rates and VAT for all early years settings would alleviate financial pressures and enable providers to reinvest in their services.

Valuing the Workforce

The NDNA’s manifesto places significant emphasis on valuing and investing in the early years workforce. The sector faces a severe workforce crisis, characterised by high turnover rates and difficulties in attracting and retaining qualified staff. Addressing this issue requires a comprehensive strategy that includes competitive wages, professional development opportunities, and recognition of the vital role early years practitioners play in children’s development.

Government Support

Purnima Tanuku, NDNA’s chief executive, highlights the essential role of government support in overcoming the sector’s challenges. She emphasises that recognising the significance of child development and supporting early education providers is crucial for the well-being of future generations. The manifesto provides a clear roadmap for the next government to follow, ensuring that early education policy is both effective and sustainable.

“It’s vital that not only the new government, but all those who are elected into Parliament, understand the significance of child development and support the amazing work that early education and care providers do every day.”

– Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of NDNA

Join us in advocating for a brighter future for our children. Support the NDNA’s call for a national commission on early education and care. Share this article and let your voice be heard!

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