7th December 2023 All Posts

The latest from the early years sector: November news round-up

This month’s news round-up focuses on the dominating news stories within the early years sector. On 22 November, chancellor Jeremy Hunt released the Autumn statement intending to bring stability to protect businesses and the growth of the economy but there was no mention of the early years sector, a children’s charity campaign for SEND children to receive additional support. 

Read on to find out more…

No mention of early years in Hunt’s Autumn Statement

In the Autumn statement, the chancellor claims the package will grow the UK economy with 110 growth measures, including an increase in National Minimum Wage to £11.44 per hour and business tax cuts. 

Nursery Management Today outlines the impact this has on the early years sector, with Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance highlighting the fact that the early years sector was not mentioned during the briefing. The increase to the National Minimum Wage is welcomed by early years employees but there is no doubt the increase may come with teething problems. The National Living Wage is set to extend to employees aged 21 and 22, undoubtedly impacting the setting budgets as staff wages account for around three-quarters of provider costs. Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) mentioned that despite the expanded funded childcare offer from April 2024, the lack of offerings in the Autumn statement “could really make the difference between early years settings thriving and having to close.”

Autumn Budget: Increase to the minimum wage will 'tip many early years settings over the edge'

Nursery World expresses concern around the impact of wage increases against the lack of funding rates to support and prepare for the roll-out of the expanded offer next year. Since 2017 when the National Living Wage was initiated, there has been an increase of 52-62 per cent, contrary the funding rate for early years places has only risen by 21 per cent, NDNA states that the ‘disconnect must be rectified’.

Within the Autumn budget, the Chancellor announced the cut of employee National Insurance by 2 percentage points to 10 per cent. Set to start on 6 January, the move is expected to benefit 27 million people. The lack of investment into education within the budget has sparked disappointment for The National Education Union (NEU), referring to the investment as completely ‘inadequate’ and going against the Prime Minister’s claim of putting education at the forefront of the Government’s priorities.

Government announces £100m in capital funding

The Government have announced £100m is being made for early years places, the funding will potentially add thousands of new places across the country. 

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan highlighted in Nursery Management Today that “Nobody should have to choose between having a career and having a family, every parent who wants childcare should have access to it”. Gillian encourages people with young children or those thinking about starting a family to visit the Childcare Choices website to find out what they’re eligible for. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance urges the government to tackle the recruitment and retention crisis. He further mentions the importance of a suitable infrastructure to deliver the places that have been promised to families, urging the government to focus its efforts on building and sustaining a strong, stable early years workforce. Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of NDNA adds “The biggest challenge to this policy is underfunding, especially for three and four-year-old places, as well as staffing.”

Challenges of recruiting qualified early years staff continue to worsen, annual Ofsted report finds

This year’s Annual Report from Ofsted, published on the 23 November highlights recruitment and retention within the early years sector. The report found providers scaling down provisions or using either agency staff or apprentices to maintain staff and children ratios between. 

Neil Leitch mentions in Early Years Educator, Ofsted was “absolutely right to highlight the effect” further adding, that settings are struggling to survive wholly on adequate funding rates, resulting in low wages and causing strain when retaining staff. Purnima Tanuku expresses concerns about the fall in qualifications for early years staff within the report. She adds “Settings need to be able to attract and retain staff, but cannot do this unless the funding shortfall is addressed.” Early years of education is the most crucial time to get the right support for children, shaping their future attainment and lifelong chances.

Charity’s manifesto calls for urgent action to support early years education for children with SEND

Research from Dingley’s Promise finds that one in five families with children needing SEND in the early years are being turned away from settings due to their child’s needs. 

Recent research from Early Years Educator (completed by 550 respondents) found that 27 per cent of settings reported they were unable to offer spaces for children with SEND, after the introduction of the new entitlements the figure increased to 56 per cent. Catherine McLeod, chief executive of Dingley’s Promise said: “It is critical that decision makers consider the impact of the new entitlements on children with SEND and take action now to avoid creating even more exclusion of our most vulnerable children.” The entitlement comes at a time when 95 per cent of settings have reported an increase in children with SEND, and local authorities have emphasised insufficient SEND provisions. 

Dingley’s Promise’s manifesto suggests “better workforce training, simplified and sufficient funding for SEND support and a long-term focus on building early years SEND sufficiency” are the utmost priority within early years settings and is a matter of urgency to build early years SEND sufficiency. 

And that’s a wrap for our November news roundup, be sure to keep an eye out for what’s coming next month.

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