Brendan Clarke-Smith, the MP for Bassetlaw in Nottinghamshire, has been appointed the new children and families minister, with a remit which includes early years and childcare.

He was appointed to the Department for Education (DfE), alongside Andrea Jenkyns, MP for Morley and Outwood and will be working with James Cleverly who was appointed Education Secretary on Thursday, following Michelle Donelan’s resignation.

Mr Clarke-Smith posted on Twitter that he was excited to join the DfE as Children and Families Minister.

He said: “Together we’ll take forward ambitious plans to tackle the cost of childcare, support social workers, and protect children across the country.”

Both the Early Years Alliance and the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) have welcomed Mr Clarke-Smith into his new role and have publicly said that they hope that his priorities will focus on the early years “funding crisis” and “sustained recruitment and retention” rather than “pursuing plans” to relax ratios for two-year-olds.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “There’s no doubt that he joins at an extremely challenging time for the sector, as we continue to battle with the impact of the early years funding crisis, sustained recruitment and retention challenges and the ongoing debate over the proposed relaxation of ratios.

“Amid ongoing uncertainty regarding the future shape of the government, we hope that whatever the outcome of current political debates, over the coming weeks and months we will see a much greater focus on the early years and on ensuring that the sector gets the support and the respect that it both needs and deserves.”

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “We welcome the new Children and Families Minister Brendan Clarke-Smith to what his predecessor referred to as ‘the best job in government’.

“This is so true – it’s also one of the most important jobs because it holds a huge responsibility for the future of our children. We hope that he recognises that a child’s first five years count and look forward to sharing our new campaign to raise awareness of this.

“This is a critical time for early years with providers working so hard to support children who are behind in their development following two years of restrictions and lockdowns. Their overstretched staff are stressed as nurseries find it ever more difficult to recruit.

“Childcare businesses who are paying rising costs and business rates are grappling with shortfalls in government funding, with increasing numbers having to close their doors for good.

“It’s important for the new Minister to focus on these challenges and support the sector rather than pursuing plans to relax ratios for two-year-olds. We look forward to our first meeting and to working with him going forward.”

The article, published by Daynurseries, can be read here.

Image credit: UK Parliament

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