Schools are providing “£43.5bn of unfunded welfare support to children from low income families”, according to an NAHT survey released today. Meanwhile, the only certain about next week’s General Election remains that the impact of inevitable, deeper education cuts on the country’s most vulnerable children will be grave.
Nick Clegg has described the pupil premium as the “most important lever” that the government has to improve social mobility. But the flagship education policy brought in by the coalition government faces an uncertain future with neither the Conservatives nor Labour making a commitment to fund it beyond 2016.
So, after the nationwide launch of the early years pupil premium (EYPP) last month, the pressure is on for early years providers to invest the funding in a way that makes the most immediate impact on vulnerable children’s futures and measurably closes the attainment gap before primary school.
While the extra money lasts, it is welcome. But nurseries are questioning whether the amount (just over £300 per eligible child annually) will be enough, especially at smaller settings where even pooling the EYPP may not allow managers to make practical changes.
And, just like at primary and secondary level (where the premium has been in place since 2011), nursery managers and owners are facing difficulties even to identify eligible children, which might mean missing out on funding, as well as facing a different set of challenges to caring for older children.
The good news is that we know a happy and healthy learning environment for under 5s requires positive and supportive input from adults – both carers and parents. We also know that lots of other things can get in the way of that, from paperwork to housework. For children to meet those early learning goals, consistency across the nursery setting and at home is key.
At NurseryBook, we are passionate about this topic and are already working with a number of settings to help them engage positively and regularly with all the parents and guardians of children in their care. We believe this is a simple change that can make a truly positive impact on long-term outcomes.
We have also been hugely impressed by the ingenuity shown in the primary and secondary sectors in investing the pupil premium, as shown at the Pupil Premium Awards in March this year. There is real precedent that investing this funding well can help give all children a better start in life – and that’s what we are all striving for, after all.
P.S. We’d love to hear what you think in the comments section below or feel free to share our blog on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn to continue the debate.