Proposed government support to the early years sector after a challenging year

Child playing with numbered bricks

What can the early years sector expect as the country reopens?


Although it is probably too soon to be completely confident, the country appears to be ready to begin recovering from an incredibly challenging year. In the Queen’s Speech that opened Parliament in May, the government set out its agenda and gave an indication of what the childcare sector can expect as the country re-opens.

“Measures will be brought forward to ensure that children have the best start in life, prioritising their early years. My ministers will address lost learning during the pandemic and ensure every child has a high-quality education and is able to fulfil their potential” – HM the Queen

Importantly, prioritising the early years seems to recognise the enormous contribution the sector makes to the country and how important it is to reverse the consequences of last year’s lockdown.

The question of course is how the government intends to put these words into action. Of course, there is already the revised EYFS Statutory Framework that comes into effect later this year, but beyond this, other plans are in the works.

One key provision is the rolling out of the first Family Hubs later this year. This is an initiative is described as “using opportunities created by digital and data to help give local early years professionals the tools they need to collaborate more easily as a ‘team around the family’.” This approach is intended to reduce time spent on administration and improve outcomes, as well as improving access to early years provision for vulnerable and disadvantaged families. 

The government has also indicated that it intends to do more to develop the early years workforce. This comes after growing calls over, for action to improve staffing across the sector especially after the Sutton Trust’s 2019 review identified a growing recruitment crisis. While it must be acknowledged that the previous workforce strategy, launched in 2017, bore little fruit, this is clearly an area deserving of renewed attention. However, as yet no details have emerged as to the government’s plans.

Finally, the government has promised policies to tackle issues such as early childhood obesity and the transformation of children’s mental health. The latter is of critical importance in the post-Covid environment as the impact of living through a pandemic had on children becomes more clear.

One area however that was notably lacking was a commitment to new funding, which has been the sector’s principal demand for many years now. After a year in which the government spent at wartime levels to battle Covid, this is perhaps not surprising, but sector voices will inevitably question how strong the childcare sector’s recovery can be if they are still struggling to make ends meet. Responding to this, funding has been a focus of the opposition Labour Party’s “Big Conversation on the early years and will likely form part of their policy offering at the time of the next election, whenever that may be.

It has been quite some time since anything but Covid was on the policy agenda, but given the centrality of childcare to the economy, it is good news that it will now be receiving deserved attention. The early years sector played a key role in the Britain’s battle with Covid-19 and it is only right that its importance continues to be acknowledged by policy makers as the country begins its recovery. 

The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Morton Michel.