Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It’s great to be here today (10 March 2015), and to see such a great turnout.
I’ve become very familiar with 4Children and all your fantastic work. I know that whenever I spot your logo, there’ll be something innovative and exciting going on - even if it’s criticizing the work of the DfE!
I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate, and welcome, Imelda Redman to her post.
It is an exciting challenge after Anne Longfield, and as a department we look forward to continuing our strategic partnership with 4Children - and working to give every child the best start in life.
And I wanted to congratulate Ted’s Meluish’s new work on evaluating children’s development and the quality of early years provision. This is shaping our understanding of what children should be achieving and when - and highlighting the good value for money that early years investment offers.
All of us here know it, but we need everyone else, outside of the sector, to realise it too. But as a new parent, going through it all for the first time, I know just how important the right knowledge and support is in building your confidence and supporting your child as best as you can.
But with the right helping hand, and access to the best services, getting through those early years becomes a little bit easier in today’s time-pressured world.
I am proud that this government has put parents at the heart of all our early years work. We’ve helped them not just understand their child’s progress, but how to best meet their early development needs.
In this context, the ground-breaking early years pupil premium (EYPP) will, as I’m sure you all know, be introduced across England from the beginning of April.
It is a substantial - and essential - pool of money to help every child fulfil their potential.
I want to thank 4Childen for working so closely with the rest of the sector to identify good practice, and how the premium should be used.
The launch of the Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) toolkit will become an invaluable resource for providers that want to get the most out of the premium. This money is the first step in making sure that all disadvantaged children achieve just much as their peers - and in giving children the best possible start in life.
But I believe we have to go even further than the premium in making sure that the impact of the early year’s workforce - those delivering life-changing services to families day in day out - is more influential than ever before.
That is why we have focused on teaching schools.
By channelling £5 million of government funding into partnering teaching schools with local nurseries, we will improve both the quality of the workforce and sharing of best practice. These are 2-way relationships, with the schools learning from early years settings and vice versa, and making those short years of early learning really count.
Sheringham Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Newham has just been granted national teaching school status - a fantastic achievement for staff there. It demonstrates the important role early years settings have in making improvements across the sector. And young people in Newham now stand even an greater chance of fulfilling their potential.
We want to see teaching schools, nursery schools, children’s centres and outstanding early years providers working with weaker settings to support their improvement. When it comes to spreading best practice - and I genuinely think there is best practice in every part of the sector - children’s centres, nurseries and teaching schools are all doing excellent work - and we want all of them to share and lead the sector in improvement.
Of course, to deliver improvement one of the most important partnerships for those crucial early years is between health and education - and making sure these 2 sectors talk to one another.
The health visiting programme has invested in more health visitors to improve outcomes for children and families. So, in providing that all important update to parents on their child’s progress, we piloted the integrated review, bringing together health check and EYFS progress check.
This is a big development.
The pilots were a success, demonstrating to the authorities that took part the money, time and effort they could save with these checks - as well as a positive response from parents, who preferred the new streamlined approach and the advice provided.
So, if, for example, your child is a little behind in language development, this can be identified as early as possible, and where necessary, support put in place for them.
One of things I realised when I joined the department is that, although the government thinks in silos:
- parents don’t think in terms of how government departments work
- parents think about the solution to helping their children
Speaking to a close friend about government support, I said you can claim something from education, something else from the treasury.
And he said, “Why do I have to think that way?”
That is something the integrated review will do - break down the barriers and respond to parents in a way that is more solution-focused.
Equally, though, parents will learn about their child’s strengths, and how well they are progressing in all areas of social, emotional and physical development.
We recently announced, with the Department for Health, that we want these rolled out everywhere from September this year.
I am pleased to say today that over £2 million of funding is being made available to help local authorities meet this deadline and work more closely with their partners. So, to those who say we are not investing in the early years, we are continuing to invest in the early years. Local authorities should look to their children’s centres - non-stigmatising hubs of trusted information and support - as accessible local venues.
The most innovative centres already offer birth registrations, health visitor appointments and breast feeding support. They will be excellently placed to offer the review.
For example, in Bristol I have heard about the way that children’s centres are at the centre of delivering and hosting integrated reviews for disadvantaged children. We want every parent to get a rounded picture of their child’s development, with input from professionals at the relevant stage to guide them towards a happy and thriving school life.
But if your 2-year-old is not in a formal childcare place, you stand, at the moment, to miss out on getting valuable input from an early years practitioner. To even out the interactions that all parents have, we have put £300k of funding, in addition to the £2 million, towards developing a joined-up review for children who aren’t in formal settings.
That those young people who are cared for by grandma, other family members or their nanny, will also get the integrated check.
These new pilots will test and evaluate how this will work best for parents and strike a fair balance for children in formal and non-formal settings. There will be multiple ways to access the review, because no two families are the same.
Even if that is not the same lengthy review as a formal childcare setting, it is better than no review at all.
Our ultimate ambition is to offer a snapshot of every 2-year-old child, everywhere, because regardless of their childcare setting, every family wants the best for their child as they progress.
New parents guide
Of course, these reviews are voluntary, but by utilising the expertise of the sector, and evening out parents’ access to it, we are going even further in ensuring that no parent is left in the dark over their child’s progress.
With that in mind, we have developed, with 4Children, a ‘what to expect when’ guide - walking parents through the sometimes overwhelming journey of child development.
One of the things I appreciated most when my wife was expecting were the emails and texts at different stages of pregnancy in terms of what to expect.
And there are lots of apps telling you what you should expect your 10-month-old to be doing - but couched in careful language so not to make parents paranoid if their child isn’t there yet.
The parents guide provides you, as a parent, with the empowering knowledge of how your child is developing.
The accessible information plots where your child is likely to be against the early years foundation stage early learning goals - which feedback from parents tells us has been a great help.
Crucially, with the funding and the guidance, published by great organisations like 4Children and the Education Endowment Foundation, I think we can safely say that we have the ingredients needed for innovation to flourish.
But, the most important ingredient is you - the people in this room.
The childcare providers, nursery owners, early years educators and health professionals - all of whom know their jobs inside out, and get out of bed every morning with the sole motivation of improving life for the children in their care.
That innovation we need - in joining teaching schools with nurseries, utilising the expertise in children’s centres, and widening access to crucial checks - will come from all of you.
Our ambition, for a properly integrated review, easily accessed by all parents, no matter their childcare or early education choices won’t work if you’re not involved every step of the way.
So, tell us your ideas, opinions or concerns. I want to hear from you. And I’ll always listen - that’s something I’ve said since I became a minister, and I hope I’ve stuck to it so far.
On that note, I look forward to seeing your continued success, to see our plans for the integrated review become a reality, and celebrating what I’m sure will be a great deal of future success in the sector.