Dec 15

APPG for Education meeting on “Does early years provision prepare children for school?”

Speakers Ellen Broome from the Family and Childcare Trust and Dr Helen Stephenson from the Department for Education were joined by Nick Dakin MP, Baroness Tyler, Baroness Armstrong and a range of stakeholders for a round table discussion of early years education provision.

Speakers Ellen Broome from the Family and Childcare Trust and Dr Helen Stephenson from the Department for Education were joined by Nick Dakin MP, Baroness Tyler, Baroness Armstrong and a range of stakeholders for a round table discussion of early years education provision.

The APPG for Education was delighted to host a meeting on the question of whether current early years provision prepares children for schools. The Group was addressed by Ellen Broome, Director of Policy, Research and Communications at the Family and Childcare Trust, and Dr Helen Stephenson, Director – Early Years and Childcare at the Department for Education.

Ellen provided a summary of current early years provision in schools, explaining that the vast majority of childcare takes place outside of the school setting, mostly provided by the private sector. Not enough children receive quality childcare and one way of improving it is to increase the amount of provision in schools. However, the limited hours during which school based childcare operates is a barrier, as it makes it hard for working parents to access. Schools need to demystify childcare for low income parents.

Ellen welcomed the introduction of a baseline assessment as it will improve accountability of primary schools. Ellen also welcomed the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP), with the caveat that it is a mini-step as it is a small amount of money compared to the Pupil Premium Grant. She also expressed concern that the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector may not be able to use the EYPP effectively.

Ellen questioned if the purpose of early years provision is to prepare children for school. For most disadvantaged children, she argued, there are more important skills that we would like them to gain than just being ready to be students. Finally Ellen raised the issues of workforce development and pay in the childcare sector.

Helen began by stating that the answer to the meeting’s question is, yes, early years provision does prepare children for school. But, crucially, it also prepares them for life with skills such as the ability to work in a group and interact with others. There is a direct academic benefit of early years education, including at GCSE but also throughout life.

Helen agreed that it would be beneficial to have more provision in school, but stressed the importance of having a range of providers and settings, including good quality PVI providers, and ensuring that enough time is spent in childcare.

Helen described the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers as stubborn, but said that EYPP was a good step forward. She believes that PVI providers will be read to administer the extra money and her team are currently preparing case studies of best practice and guidance. She highlighted the tension in the relationship between quality of childcare and affordability; attempts to alter one aspect can distort the other. She concluded that the pillars for good early years provision are in place and all evidence suggests that the government is right to be investing in this area.

The presentations were followed by points and discussion from the floor.

Ellen began the discussion by responding to some of Helen’s points, stressing the need to prioritise putting children in the right setting for their personal development. Helen noted that only 15% of providers are rated as requiring improvement or worse by Ofsted. However, Martin Huleatt noted that this still translates into thousands of children.

There was discussion of whether or not Local Authorities were the most appropriate bodies to control EYPP funding. It was also noted that some LAs have found it difficult to maintain investment in early years provision because of cuts to their budgets. The question was posed that, if childcare is a national priority, how can it be devolved down to the local level?

Ellen made the point that childcare does not exist in a bubble; if other aspects of family support are not in place, early years provision wills struggle. She posed the question of how early years provision can be placed at the top of the government’s agenda, considering the evidence shows that it makes the biggest difference to a child’s life chances.

Several people stressed the importance of organisations, such as Homestart, which help parents rather than the state lecturing them. Cooperation between the Department of Health and Department for Education was highlighted as being particularly vital; for example, the introduction of Community Nursery Nurses. But central government edicts are not particularly helpful.

Baroness Tyler described her work with the APPG for Social Mobility, which has confirmed the importance of parental involvement. She too stressed the importance of joining up the work of the health and education departments.

Ellen raised the issue of childcare for disabled children, which she said has failed very badly. She also noted that the quasi-free market nature of childcare provision means that some companies choose not to provide services in disadvantaged areas, meaning that those who need the most support, actually receive the least.

Baroness Armstrong stressed the need for firm, properly enforced policies on childcare. She cited Wales, where funding for training was only given for certain schemes which were accepted as best practice and results were far better than in England which has several options. She stressed the benefit of providers in, for example, Sure Start Centres, having health backgrounds.

There was discussion of the take up of childcare amongst disadvantaged children. Baroness Tyler explained that evidence gathered from the APPG for Social Mobility’s Inquiry showed that the poorest quality provision is in the most disadvantaged areas. She said that there is a need to target funding such as the EYPP more sharply into these areas and to reach out to parents to involve them in their child’s learning. The country needs a national parenting campaign that does not seem threatening – it is the last great taboo. Baroness Armstrong agreed, saying that the state has a responsibility to tell parents what good practice is. There was general agreement in the room that more advice is needed for parents, especially after the age of three.

Nic Dakin MP thanked everyone for attending the meeting and closed the discussion at 5.15pm.  An informal discussion then continued.

Oct 30

The APPG for Education: A busy six months of events

With just over six months until the 2015 General Election, the APPG for Education has planned a programme of events exploring some of the key educational themes of this Parliament.

In December the Group will host a discussion on Early Years education, examining whether current provision properly prepares children for school. The Group will be joined by Ellen Broome, Director of Policy, Research and Communications at the Family and Childcare Trust. Ellen joined the Trust in January 2014 and leads on external communication, engagement with key policy and political audiences and campaigning for a world where all families have the support they need to thrive, including its annual childcare cost survey. Prior to joining, Ellen was the Director of Policy and Public Affairs at the Children’s Society.

In January 2015, the APPG for Education will take a closer look at Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). We hope to be joined by representatives from Dyson to discuss whether current STEM education is meeting the needs of pupils.

Finally, in March 2015 the Group will welcome Graham Stuart MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, as the keynote speaker at our Annual Lunch. Graham will share his thoughts on education policy during this Parliament.

Jul 14

APPG for Education meeting on “Do schools make the best use of the Pupil Premium?”

The APPG for Education discuss whether schools make best use of the Pupil Premium

The APPG for Education discuss whether schools make best use of the Pupil Premium

The APPG for Education was delighted to host Sir John Dunford, the Government’s Pupil Premium Champion, for a discussion on “Do schools make best use of the Pupil Premium?”. He was joined by Sue Porto, Chief Executive of the Beanstalk Charity and Abigail Shapiro, Founder of the Tutor Trust.

Sir John talked about how use of the Pupil Premium Grant (PPG) must become an integral part of the school development plan in order to succeed, quoting Roundhay School in Leeds as an excellent example of how the school has improved attainment and closed the gap by prioritising use of the PPG. He believes that there has to be someone within the school leadership team who has responsibility for PPG.  Sir John stated the importance of tracking data and using it effectively – if a change is noticed, interventions can be made speedily, and that diverse use of the PPG showed market improvements in different situations.

Sue Porto outlined how they assist schools with use of the pupil premium by going into schools to give individual additional assistance with literacy and numeracy.  Beanstalk offers a cost effective intervention. Each disadvantaged child could be supported for a year for £180 which is just 14% of the pupil premium entitlement, for looked after children this is just 9.5% of the pupil premium plus entitlement.

Abigail Shapiro explained that they are a radical and unique charity in Manchester that offers professional tuition services to schools, on a strictly not-for-profit basis.  They work through schools and alongside teachers to provide a first class tutor to all children who need some extra help.  Their model is based on recruiting high achieving university students, training them as tutors, insuring them, DBS checking them and matching them into local schools.  They are paid out of school funds.  Everyone benefits, the students are paid an attractive hourly rate, the school gets the benefit of a tutor for less than it would cost them to pay a commercial agency, and the pupils get motivated and inspired by the young talent coming to their schools.

The discussion which followed covered the continuation of the PPG after the General Election, the effective use of data to assist those in receipt of the PPG, the role of school governors in ensuring effective use of the grant and how those coming into the school must be an integrated part of the school fabric.

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