School leaders demand more funding and status for early years

Early years teachers and settings should receive the same funding and status as the rest of the education sector if all children are to fulfil their full potential, the school leaders’ union NAHT says

The current funding for early years education is “insufficient” and makes it harder to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children, the NAHT union has said.

At the its annual conference in Birmingham today, the NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby called for the early years pupil premium – which is a maximum of £302 per pupil per year – to increase to reach parity with the £1,300 for primary pupils.

He also called for a greater emphasis on staff quality and qualifications in early years – such as a highly qualified graduate level manager or teacher in every nursery.

Mr Hobby said: “School leaders recognise that early years education is the critical point for intervention to improve the life chances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“But the quality of provision makes all the difference in whether that intervention is successful.”

There are a number of significant changes due to early years education this year – including the extended free hours for three and four-year-olds of working parents.

‘Vital support’

Today school leaders have announced a series of recommendations to make sure that all children are given the support they need to succeed in life.

These include calls for statutory curriculum time for PSHE and clarity on how and where £1 billion of government money for mental health will be spent.

James Bowen, director of middle leaders’ union NAHT Edge, said: “School staff are not the qualified counsellors, psychologists and therapists that these children require, and school budgets cannot stretch to fund these services to the extent that they are needed.

“The lack of quick access to specialist support means that too many vulnerable children are not getting the help they need, when they need it, and schools are being left to pick up the pieces.”

The government claimed that the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their classmates has narrowed since 2011 thanks to its reforms.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Ensuring every child, regardless of their circumstances, has an excellent education is the most effective way of improving their life chances.”

The Family and Childcare Trust, chosen as the NAHT president’s charity of the year, will focus on the role schools play in enabling parents to make positive choices about early education.

Julia Margo, chief executive at the charity, said: “This partnership comes at a crucial time for families and for schools. Schools, which already understand the importance of parental involvement, will also play a central role in providing flexible early years education.”

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