This week, the NurseryBook team joined the exhibitors, delegates and presenters at the annual Nursery World Business Summit. From the hugely varied agenda to the fantastic delegate turn-out, the summit buzzed from the moment it opened until the last round of applause.
The political and social landscape
First up was Sam Gyimah MP, who was billed to update progress on the implementation of the 30 hours free childcare pledge. He discussed how early implementers were testing capacity, flexibility and innovation, which were all key to the programme’s success, and gave a quick update on the Childcare Bill’s progress through parliament.
Key takeaways from his presentation included the Government’s recognition that childcare is a key issue for parents and its commitment to supporting the delivery of a quality service that also acts as a work incentive. He pledged to support the early years sector in funding, regulation and workforce to deliver for parents and thrive as sector. He also stated his view that, though he was absolutely committed to current ratios, he felt that some providers had been able to maximise ratios to invest more in their business. The Minister challenged delegates to talk to him about how to maximise the sector’s key asset – its people.
After his presentation there was an energetic Q&A session, focused in particular on funding and recruitment challenges. The MP revealed the outcomes of the recent 6 month funding review are due to be announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on 25th November. He explained the rate would be increased and that he was confident it would be sustainable for providers, though it’s fair to say the audience remained sceptical. On recruitment, the major concern was the new requirement for staff to have A-C in Maths and English, which many providers felt was a crisis waiting to happen – a theme that was dealt with in more detail later in the day.
Next, Giselle Cory of the IPPR zoomed out to look at social and economic issues facing the sector, from upward trends in dual parent (where relevant) working and maternal breadwinning – driving demand for the early years childcare sector – to the impact public spending cuts would have on the poorest families – creating bigger challenges in supporting the children that need it most.
Funding – from your business’s growth ambitions to supporting those children that need it most
After a short coffee break, during which we loved chatting to lots of you about NurseryBook’s benefits and sampling the retro biscuit selection, Ian Murchie of Barclays Corporate looked in detail at what banks wanted to see in funding applications for acquisitions, new developments or improvements to existing provisions.
Beatrice Merrick and Caroline Eaton of Early Education UK then covered the “Learning together about Learning” project, focused on effective investment of the Early Years Pupil Premium. Beatrice started by saying how pleased she was that early years is receiving Pupil Premium funding now, given that primary and secondary schools have been receiving it for years. But she continued by saying this welcome policy development was somewhat overshadowed by the 30 hours free childcare pledge and – especially given the funding challenges around that – it remained to be seen whether the EYPP would continue.
Caroline then shared a number of observations and recommendations relating to accessing the funding itself. As we all know, the process differs widely across different Local Authorities – with many participants commenting that planning proves challenging when funding arrives at the end of the term or without children’s names attached to it! Other Local Authorities are recommending providers keep the funding for a whole term for planning purposes, even though it officially “follows the child”. The key advice for providers was to ask all families for the eligibility information, as part of normal processes – it’s not always the families you suspect that qualify for the funding. Finally, a show of hands demonstrated that no one had been put off applying for the funding by the widely discussed concerns and difficulties – but at the same time, not that many providers in the room were receiving it.
How children under 5 learn
We mentioned the hugely varied agenda, with Nursery World keeping delegates on their toes and fully engaged – and Usha Goswami of Cambridge University achieved just that up next, making a compelling case for play and natural conversation in support of language learning, as opposed to more structured, formal teaching for under 5s. Referring to and building on Piaget’s observations with a range of neuroscientific and linguistic studies, Goswami demonstrated how learning begins in the womb and develops through the early years.
Rising standards – the Ofsted common inspection framework and challenges in recruitment
After a lunch break that satisfied our appetites for discussions on the key issues raised so far, and a delicious rhubarb cobbler, Gill Jones of Ofsted turned our attention to the Common Inspection Framework. She gave a very positive update on the rising standards in early years – with every type of provider now having high levels of good or outstanding judgments and childminders making the most marked progress. Gill presented the common framework – highlighting both the changes and also the areas which didn’t apply in the same way to early years. She finished by sharing some personal experiences and encouraging the sector to help children learn to be successful learners.
As we mentioned earlier, challenges in recruitment were a recurring theme during the day and next up was an expert panel looking at the issue from a number of angles – from the challenge of the A-C requirement in Maths (in particular) and English, and its impact on apprenticeships, through the Early Years Teacher qualification, to continuous professional development. They outlined huge challenges, which were clearly acknowledged by the room – when asked whether the crisis in recruitment is impacting on the quality of provision there were lots of hands up.
Sneak peeks into parents’ views on the sector and the annual Nursery World league tables!
Annie O’Leary of Netmums then answered questions from the floor and gave some insights into parents’ views on the sector – a lot of it cost-focused – and committed to supporting early years in communicating to parents and the Government why quality childcare is and should be expensive.
Finally, Liz Roberts, Nursery World editor, who had expertly chaired the entire day, gave a sneak peek into the ever-popular Nursery World league tables on size and quality from Nursery World’s annual Nursery Chains supplement.
The team at NurseryBook is still talking about issues raised throughout the day – and I am sure they will continue to spark debate and innovation for a long time to come! Looking forward to next year already – thanks Nursery World!