How Can Providers Prepare to Thrive in 2023?

Guest Blog by June O’Sullivan MBE from The London Early Years Foundation

28th November 2022

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Last week I chaired a panel in readiness for the Childcare & Education Expo in March 2023. We were asked to consider leadership, quality and support and how we can thrive in 2023; tough call given the challenges driven by wider political and economic policies.

The panel included:

The preamble said we are facing unprecedent change but sadly there is nothing new in what we are dealing with.  There is a precedent, one of low funding, low status and a policy world which often fails to listen until we rise up.  Over the past 20 years, we have had 23 Ministers leading our sector and during our recording we discovered a new Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing had been appointed; Claire Coutinho, a relative newcomer, elected an MP in 2019.  I think we should have “Guess the Minister” as one of our Christmas games.

To answer the question, the panel commented on the current situation.  Let me overlay this within the concept of quality.  There are two ways of looking at quality:

1. Structural which covers funding, staff qualifications, training for staff, ratios and a strong pedagogy with a means of measuring it.

2. Delivery process such as child to staff interactions, the nursery environment, coaching colleagues and measuring the impact of the pedagogy.

What’s Happening?

The sector is now starved of funding.  Many settings have no margin to alleviate new costs, so the risk of closures is ever increasing. In the last few years, 4000 settings have closed – a high proportion of those are in areas of disadvantage where the children desperately need good quality ECEC. Neil tells us that over the last two and a half years, the Early Years Alliance has gone from 132 settings to 61 settings and this reduction was in predominantly poor neighbourhoods.

Childminder numbers have also dropped but there is an emerging positive return as new people decide this may be a useful way to balance family with work and build a new career. The challenge now is helping those interested in becoming a childminder to understand the complexity of the role and to learn about ECEC and business so the two work in tandem; balancing the pedagogical perspective with the business focus.

Ratios remain on the political agenda, despite the challenges from so many people.  It is up for debate in parliament this week – is it time for an independent review?

The staffing crisis is no longer a crisis, it is now endemic. This means we cannot grow and thrive without a pipeline of good quality staff.  Quality teaching depends on well trained and knowledgeable staff who can support the children through fantastic interactions and engagement.

Retention of staff is also a problem as more people are leaving the sector rather than joining. Much of this is due to staff feeling under-valued, low paid and low status. The failure of politicians and the public to appreciate our value means we retain a low status.

Parents are making different choices about their children’s ECEC. Cost matters more. A shorter day, a shorter week; part-granny, part-friend, part-nursery.

Nurseries now feature much more in the community network through building social capital via projects such as Food Banks, Clothes Banks and ways of providing support in families in need.

What do we need to do?

We need to rebuild our relationships with each other, so we have one strong sector voice.  Let’s see a reduction in the boundary lines and snobbery between our different setting designs, sizes and geography. One Voice!

Open up all nurseries and welcome parents back in. Help them see and understand what we do in the setting and in the community. Parents as Advocates.

Push for a National Strategy and a Minster of State to represent the sector. Political Force.

Use the language of teaching and shout about the Art, Craft and Science of Early Years. Abandon the term practitioner. Early Years Teachers Rock!

Give children time to be children and enjoy their childhood. It’s the bedrock of successful adulthood. Stop the Rush

If you want to know more about June’s work, you can follow her on Twitter or read her blogs and books on her website and on the LEYF website

Why attend Childcare & Education Expo?

Join over 2,500 like-minded individuals from the early years & primary sector who are dedicated to improving their practice and their education settings.

Attend educational seminars and panel discussions to credit your CPD

Meet the experts to have your questions answered

Receive fantastic onsite offers and discounts

Experience expert-led informative hands-on workshops

Network with peers and industry players

Pick up hundreds of new products, resources, ideas and services

And most of all, enjoy a great day out with your colleagues

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