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This conference focused on next steps for the early years and childcare sector in England.
Delegates discussed key issues for early years providers and parents, and how they can be addressed in light of developments, including:
- the Government’s new childcare offer, which extends free childcare to cover younger children, announced in the Spring Budget
- recommendations to exempt nurseries from business rates, and other outcomes from the Education Select Committee’s recent inquiry into support for childcare and the early years
With concerns from the Education Select Committee over the extension’s effectiveness, and how accurately funding reflects the costs and complexity of the system, delegates assessed how parents and guardians can be supported through challenges surrounding the choice, affordability and availability of childcare.
Policymakers and delegates looked at the future for the childcare market, including how burdens on providers and the numbers facing closure can be reduced, as well as assessing next steps for improving the availability of childminders across England, with calls from the Select Committee for radical financial and regulatory reform.
Further sessions considered priorities for the early years workforce, including implications of the changing qualification landscape.
Delegates also discussed the impact that formal childcare has on children aged under two, and how best to support parents and guardians who need to stay at home to look after their children.
We are pleased to have been able to include keynote sessions with: Neil Leitch, Chief Executive, Early Years Alliance; Rob Wilson, Commissioner, Social Mobility Commission; Professor Christine Pascal, Director, Centre for Research in Early Childhood; and Dr Kitty Stewart, Associate Professor of Social Policy and Associate Director, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics and Political Science.
Overall, areas for discussion included:
- funding and costs: help for parents with the costs of childcare - options for reducing financial burden on providers, including business rates - the future of the early years and childcare market
- quality: maintaining and growing standards of provision with the rising child-to-staff ratio - best practice in engagement with parents and carers
- early years workforce: priorities for training and professional development - improving recruitment and addressing high staff turnover - measures to ease workload and diversify the workforce
- SEND: ensuring adequate training for early years providers - raising awareness - supporting children and parents
The conference was an opportunity for stakeholders to consider the issues alongside key policy officials who attended from the Cabinet Office; CMA; DBT; DfE; DHSC; GLD; NAO; and Ofsted.