Time for a U Turn

imagesUJ64W9R5One of the very positive impacts of the Blair Government came as a consequence of his speech on education. The realisation that investment in early year’s education and the need to raise the profile and standards of those who work in the sector was the necessary building block to improve the education of all children. It was a concept that people like Estelle Morris really understood and championed, even though at times it challenged the idea of small children and their educators being irrelevant to the bigger issues. Since then, almost without exception whenever a Government Minister has spoken about early year’s education, it has been to talk about how expensive it is, and how the costs must be reduced. Unfortunately since the days of Lady Morris, finding a Minister in the Department for Education with any real experience of teaching or education apart from as the wealthy sponsors of Academies is like searching for rocking horse manure. The costs of providing early years education is ‘expensive’, because when working with very young children it is vital to provide more members of staff than are necessary with older age groups. This was evident to Estelle Morris and her colleagues and she never spoke about the costs of early year education, she and her colleagues instead understood that what was needed was investment. My Father recently died in an Intensive Care Unit of a Hospital in Liverpool, having fallen in another part of the same Hospital. Had the same levels of staff been available in the ward in which he was being accommodated, his fall would have been seen immediately and almost certainly would not have led to his untimely death. However there is a good reason why well run ICU wards and Early Years settings depend on high numbers of trained staff. The people who are cared for in such settings are only present for a short time, but they are some of the most vulnerable in society. The cost of running an ICU ward is never complained about by Politicians, primarily because people like me know how vital it is to maintain high standards of care. However few of us have the opportunity to observe how a well-run Pre-School or Nursery operates because most parents are happy to walk away once they are sure their children are settled into the environment. It is no surprise to anyone who has links to early years education that the Government plan to provide even more free childcare is at risk as this study has identified. If ICU wards paid their staff the same rates of pay that most Nurseries and Pre-Schools do, there would be very few ICU wards in the country capable of operating. As the study points out, unless staff are paid more competitively, far too few people will be willing to work in these environments. Over the Summer no doubt one of the things Nicky Morgan will be preparing for will be her speech to the Party faithful in Manchester in October. As she stands up in front of the backdrop that says in large letters “For Hardworking People” let us hope she references the report and speaks about the need to invest in a sector that for over a decade has been treated as a Cinderella of educational provision, sadly history suggests it is more likely that she will denigrate the hard working people who her policies depend on, by telling them yet again they are part of a sector that costs the nation too much. Not a great message for people who are on the minimum wage, or earning far less than they could in a School.


About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
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