The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Tom Kerslake

Early years in 2015: what lies ahead?

Last year proved to be an uneasy time for the early years sector, and an extremely turbulent year for education in general. From a range of concerns about nursery funding and provision, to Michael Wilshaw’s ‘unsure start’ debacle, the sector certainly experienced its own tremors last year. The government sought to step up its support for the sector, with flagship policies such as the expansion of FSM to assist young children. At the same time, however, these schemes were coming under fire with complaints of underfunding, creating unsustainable pressures and misallocation of funds. Suffice to say it was a mixed year! But what lies ahead for early years in 2015?

The news so far

As we approach the general election, the government is looking to go further with its support for practitioners and young children, following their much-touted free early education and childcare scheme. The EYPP (Early Years Pupil Premium) is being trialled in several LAs before its introduction in April – the aim being to provide an additional layer of support for children in receipt of free childcare. Though the widespread concern surrounding the rising costs of childcare continues, this scheme may offer some relief to providers dealing with disadvantaged children. We’ve also seen the implementation of a new set of food standards for schools to promote healthy eating. Maintained nursery schools and units in primary schools may well be required to adhere to these regulations.

You can read more about these developments in our Early Years news article for January.

Childcare and schools

The recently appointed childcare minister, Sam Gyimah, has been making the rounds, attending various talks and events to discuss government policy. On January 8th he took part in a webchat session on Mumsnet, answering questions about the cost and provision of childcare. Here is a quick summary of some of the key points that were raised:

On wrap-around care

Wrap-around care is a key priority for the government. It is encouraging more schools to offer nursery provision outside of school opening hours, giving parents more flexibility when it comes to picking up/dropping off their children.

On childminders in school

The government is continuing to incorporate childminders into school environments. Recent regulations allow childminders to operate in non-domestic settings (ie. a school). The minister praised the ‘innovative’ new CMAs (childminder agencies) – existing childminders haven’t lost their Ofsted ratings since the agencies were introduced.

On SEN

The government is aiming to give parents of children with SEN equal access to childcare. LAs are required by law to secure funded positions for parents; the LAs can draw on funding from a dedicated schools grant to cover the costs of providing for the needs of the child. The most recent piece of news is encouraging: the minister is calling for a business rate relief for nurseries to help them to cope with their costs. In addition, he is urging LAs to ‘pass on funding to nurseries promptly’ in the wake of a report revealing that 37 per cent of nurseries have experienced delays of ‘nearly a month or more’ in receiving early education funding. It’s great to have some unambiguously good news for providers; hopefully this will signal an uphill trend for early years in 2015!

Further reading

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