High-quality early years education and care is a government priority, and the fact that it brings numerous benefits for children, parents and society more widely is beyond doubt. However, there is little consensus on how we should define ‘high-quality care’ from the perspective of child development. What is the evidence which demonstrates how it can best be achieved in the UK?
A report by Imogen Parker, published by the Institute for Public Policy research, part of their ‘Childcare: A strategic national priority?’ project, reviews the evidence of both the benefits of quality childcare, and the policies which have been successful in improving standards in the UK and abroad. From this body of knowledge it draws 10 lessons for UK policymakers on how our care system can be improved, providing answers to vital questions such as:
- Which aspects of early years education and care provision should be prioritised, protected and reformed for different preschool age groups which have very different developmental needs.
- How graduates can improve the quality of provision and outcomes for children, and how the qualification levels of all early years professionals can be lifted.
- Where the priority areas are for any additional funding: for example, greater access to high-quality care for children from an early age is more important than extending the hours that older preschool children spend in early learning.
- Why Ofsted may not always be an accurate judge or effective driver of quality in the early years.
- What kind of provision has the greatest positive impact on child development.
It also sets out some concrete measures which are easily implementable in the short term, but which could be of great benefit to the next generation of children throughout their lives. Government policy for early years education and care should:
- prioritise qualifications and ratios to meet age-related developmental priorities
- use funding mechanisms to boost uptake by the most disadvantaged children in high-quality care settings
- ensure monitoring and assessment reflects best developmental practice
- build the professional infrastructure, and accountability and support structures, that is necessary to drive quality
The full report can be downloaded here.
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If you are 24 or over and an independent childcare worker, a new Government initiative is set to open the door for further training. The new 24+ Advanced Learning Loan will enable the more than 53,000 childminders across the UK, who might not have previously been eligible, to now access a loan to fund a training course and help them to progress in their business.
As one of the UK’s largest childcare training providers, Parenta Training knows full well that in the highly competitive market, qualifications can play a key part in securing business success. With approximately 1500 learners on their nationally recognised childcare courses at any one time, Parenta’s training division is rapidly growing and this new loan could see many more adults reap the benefits of their courses and enhance the service they offer to parents and children.
The 24+ Advanced Learning Loan initiative was introduced to give learners who are 24 and over studying at Level 3, Level 4 or Advanced and Higher apprenticeships the opportunity to pay for courses through loans from the 1st August 2013. Repayments don’t start until April 2016 and you won’t have to pay anything back until you earn more than £21,000 a year.
“It’s vitally important that people continue to invest in their education throughout their career rather than just at the start,” said Allan Presland, Managing Director of Parenta. “The new loan scheme will open the door for many self-employed childminders to gain a new qualification, which will benefit their careers and raise standards across the industry.”
Working with hundreds of nurseries across England and Wales, Parenta specialises in helping people build a career in childcare offering training programmes that deliver qualifications ranging from Apprenticeships and Level 2 through to Level 5 and Assessor Awards.
From April 2013, grants of up to £500 will be available for those setting up a nursery or childminding business, thanks to a £2m scheme to be announced by the Government. The money is designed to help with legal and insurance costs, health and safety training and equipment. Advice and mentoring will also be offered as part of the scheme.
Maria Miller , Women and Equalities Minister, said childcare was an important part of getting women into work.
“There are more women in work than ever before and they are playing a vital role in our economic recovery but good quality, affordable and reliable childcare is the key to even more women being able to work,” she said.
“More childcare options mean more women can take up jobs, help support their families and realise their own career ambitions.
“The childcare industry is already a major employer of women and this scheme will provide huge opportunities for female entrepreneurs to start up and run their own businesses.
“This is an injection of cash designed to stimulate the sector in tough times. The new scheme will provide more childcare places but will also help get up to 6,000 new childcare businesses off the ground.”
Earlier this year, Downing Street launched a review of childcare provision in the UK as research suggested six out of 10 parents felt there was insufficient childcare in their area.
This review came after the Department for Education released a report showing almost a quarter of childcare providers in England were making a loss despite fees being among the highest in the world