Press release

Government sets out vision to support parents and families

Children's Minister Sarah Teather's reforms to early years education.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
  • Review of early years qualifications announced
  • Nine local areas to trial payment by results in children’s centres

Early years qualifications are to be reviewed to make sure they are sufficiently rigorous and high quality, Children’s Minister Sarah Teather announced today as part of wider reforms to early education.

A highly skilled, graduate-led workforce is crucial to making sure children develop well and are ready for school. The government wants to raise the status of the professionals working with young children to make sure they have the skills they need.

The government has also today confirmed that nine local authorities will be the first to trial payment by results for children’s centres. They will test rewards for reaching the most vulnerable families, improving family health and wellbeing, and raising attainment of children at age five.

Today’s announcements are included in a new vision set out by the government for families in the foundation years. Families can access a parent-friendly version by the charity 4Children, Families in the Foundation Years: From Pregnancy to Five, which sets out what mothers and fathers can expect from pregnancy until their child reaches the age of five.

Sarah Teather said:

Parents are the most important influence in a child’s early life. The experiences of children in their earliest years, good or bad, can shape their future life chances for years to come. That’s why we want to support families to bring up their children and raise the status of the foundation years.

Today, with 4Children, we have set out in one place what every mother and father should expect from pregnancy right through to when their child is five. This brings together everything parents need to know to help their child develop well, stay healthy and be ready for school.

Alongside parents, well-qualified and motivated professionals working in the early years can make a real difference to children’s early development. I am today announcing a review of early years qualifications, led by Professor Cathy Nutbrown, to make sure the people working with our youngest children have the skills they need. I also want to encourage more talented people to work in the foundation years and make sure the qualifications they take are rigorous and offer opportunities to progress, as there are in school teaching.

The government has today set out plans to strengthen the early years workforce, including:

  • An independent review of early years qualifications. The review will consider the content of current early years qualifications and how they could be strengthened.
  • 10 new ‘Early Years Teaching Centres’ to be developed by Pen Green Research Base. Based on the teaching schools model, the centres will help to raise standards across the early years workforce. The 10 centres are being selected over the summer.
  • Looking at how the specialist leader of education (SLE) role could be adapted to the foundation years for qualified teachers and early years professionals.
  • Funding for the National College to provide 800 places on the National Professional Qualification in Integrated Centre Leadership course over the next two years. The government expects all existing and aspiring children’s centre leaders to take this qualification in due course.

The Government has asked Professor Cathy Nutbrown to do an independent review of early years qualifications to consider how to strengthen current qualifications and look at career progression of people working in the foundation years. It will consider how to ensure that new entry qualifications are of a high standard and meet the needs of employers, and offer scope for progression. It will run alongside a review of the standards for awarding the Early Years Professional Status being conducted by the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC).

Earlier this month the government published a revised Early Years Foundation Stage for consultation and set out a new core purpose for children’s centres - more focused on supporting outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable families. The Government wants local authorities and children’s centres to think more about how they reach and support the most vulnerable families in their areas, and how they can involve parents more actively in running centres.

Nine local authorities, announced today, will become the first to trial payment by results in children’s centres - with up to 21 further trials to be announced early in the autumn. The experience of the trial areas will help the government and local authorities develop a final set of measures so payment by results can be rolled out nationally from 2013-14. The measures to be tested by the trial areas include:

  1. Early Years Foundation Stage Profile assessments - to narrow the gap in attainment at age five so more children start school achieving the expected level.
  2. Breastfeeding prevalence at 6-8 weeks - to be developed in partnership with the Department of Health’s plan for a Health Premium for public health outcomes.
  3. Parenting/home learning environment - for example, completion of evidence based parenting programmes by vulnerable families.
  4. Sustained contact with families in greatest need - so that children’s centres are targeting families most in need of their services effectively.

The Government has also announced that it will be creating a new role to help support outreach with vulnerable families through children’s centres. The appointed outreach system leader will act as an advocate for evidence based outreach and family support programmes.

Independent reviews conducted by Graham Allen, Frank Field and Dame Clare Tickell have all highlighted just how important pregnancy and the first five years of a child’s life are in providing children with the foundations they need to thrive and succeed in life. Evidence suggests there are five critical factors in the foundation years:

  • Children’s health in early life
  • Good maternal mental health
  • Quality of parenting and parent-child relationships
  • Learning activities
  • High-quality early education

The 4Children’s website, part-funded by the government, has been developed with experts in the early years sector. Parents will be able to find information on ante-natal classes, flexible working and childcare in their area. Designed with mums and dads in mind, it is a useful reference point for parents to help them make decisions to balance their work and family lives more easily.

Anne Longfield OBE, Chief Executive of 4Children said:

Whether you are a mum or a dad, whether you have just seen the positive result on a pregnancy test or are looking for your child’s first school, this new website from early years experts is spelling out the A to Z of all your unanswered questions. Parents-to-be suddenly face a million decisions that will affect the life of their child: they find themselves having to navigate their way through a maze of conflicting facts and figures from blogs and personal websites offering advice.

Getting the information and advice you need into one easy to find place is important because it helps you to give your child the best future. Parents tell us that good information is almost as important as good housing or the community where they live, and most tell us that they don’t know where to find it. And the more information a parent has, the more they feel they are in the driving seat of their child’s future.

Professor Nutbrown said:

I am delighted to be invited to lead this review. High-quality provision for young children means that we need skilled and knowledgeable people in the workforce. I will be looking at ways in which we can strengthen qualifications and improve pathways to support career progression in the sector, to the benefit of young children, their families, and those who work in the early childhood sector. I look forward to working with the wide range of colleagues who have an interest in this crucial issue.

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:

All the evidence indicates that the early years play a significant and formative role in shaping your health, wealth and happiness for the rest of your life. That is why we need to focus on this.

By increasing numbers of health visitors and extending the Family Nurse Partnership we want to offer the support that families need right through pregnancy and the early months and years of life.

The new national Health Visitor Taskforce will provide strong leadership and ensure the new health visiting service model is universally adopted by 2015.

I am delighted former health visitor Dame Elizabeth Fradd has agreed to chair the taskforce.

Notes to editors

This press notice applies to England only.

  1. The Families in the Foundation Years document for parents is published today on the Department for Education’s website. The Department’s strategic partner 4Children has produced a parent-friendly version. The new site, Families in the Foundation Years: From Pregnancy to Age five, is the result of a partnership between the government and charities that work with families with young children and aims to provide the best advice and information to parents.

  2. The Department for Education has also published today a document for the sector which sets out in more detail the policy proposals for reforming early years education and the workforce.

  3. The government announced on the 6 July that it was providing up to £3million for up to 30 local areas to trial payment by results in children’s centres. The first wave of local areas has been announced today. They are: * Southampton * Oxfordshire * Oldham * Gloucestershire * Devon * Croydon * Blackpool * Barnsley * Barking and Dagenham The government is not proposing to undertake payment by results directly with individual children’s centres, although we expect trial local authorities to explore this in their local areas. We are intending that payment by results is trialled at two levels: National= DfE to local authority Local = Local authority to individual children’s centre providers

  4. The government announced on 6 July plans to make the free entitlement more flexible for parents, reform to children’s centres, and a new EYFS framework.

  5. Cathy Nutbrown is Professor of Education and Director for Research at the School of Education, University of Sheffield. She is Editor in Chief of the Journal of Early Childhood Research.

DfE enquiries

Central newsdesk - for journalists 020 7783 8300

General enquiries - for members of the public 0370 000 2288


Published 18 July 2011