Later this year thousands of families are expecting to get free childcare for their 3 & 4 year old children as a result of an election promise made by the Conservative Party at the General Election in 2015. At the time the promise was challenged as being unachievable and instead of recalculating and accepting it was an unrealistic promise, the Government brought the delivery date forward by a year almost as soon as the election was over. There is now firm data from the National Day Nurseries Association based on a number of pilot schemes that those nurseries and pre-schools that have taken part have been left out of pocket to the tune of £900 per child. This is clearly unsustainable and the Government must step in or admit they cannot deliver on this promise and have been asleep at the wheel of the nation. The problem is not merely a matter of funding as there is a substantial shortage of early years teachers, calculated by the Government as 10,000 teachers lacking. This clearly means we need to hear an explanation from the Government as training teachers takes time. Finally we need to consider why this type of education is so important. According to Save the Children, children without an early years teacher are almost 10 per cent less likely to meet the expected levels of development when they start school. Based on the shortage of teachers there are likely to be some 800,000 children denied this early years education and around a quarter or as many as 200,000 of these children could still be behind by the time they start secondary school, with “potentially devastating consequences for the rest of their schooling”.
As we await the enaction of Article 50 and our departure from the EU is signalled, we need a clear commitment by this Government to invest substantial sums in the education of all of our children. Beginning with the very youngest and then extending to all ages so that our investment in our own future workforce is not in question.