Alliance Annual Conference 2021

mother and child playing round a tree

We Are Educators: Putting early years at the heart of education policy

This event took place online at Tuesday 15 June 2021

6pm - 8.45pm

FREE for Alliance members; £15 for non-members 

As we head towards the beginning of the ‘new normal’, this year’s Early Years Alliance Annual Event, explored how we as a sector can take an active role in ensuring that early years is placed at the centre of education policy, and that quality early education and care is valued as it should be.

We are Educators: Putting early years at the heart of education policy, examined the need to ensure early years is valued as an integral part of the education sector in England and not just ‘childcare’, and that it lies at the centre of both education policy and government thinking.

Keynote speakers:

James Heckman James Heckman

The Noble Prize-winning economist and academic spoke about how investment in early childhood development can impact social, economic and health outcomes.


Rachel De SouzaDame Rachel de Souza

Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, discussed her new Childhood Commission, putting children at the top of the policy making agenda and why she’s determined it should transform their futures.


Guilaine Kinouani  Guilaine Kinouani 

The critical psychologist, founder of the website Race Reflections, and author of Living While Black discussed racial equality and discrimination in the early years.


The Early Years Alliance’s chief executive Neil Leitch also addressed attendees.


Following the keynotes, attendees were able to attend one of three practical seminars.


Nancy StewartImplementing the revised Early Years Foundation Stage Framework

Nancy Stewart — teacher, consultant, trainer and project lead for Birth to 5 Matters.



Dr Yinka OlusogaPrioritising play

Dr Yinka Olusoga – programme director of the University of Sheffield’s BA (Hons) Education, Culture and Childhood.


Wendy RatcliffEarly years inspection update

Wendy Ratcliff — Her Majesty’s Inspector and principal officer for early education at Ofsted.



6pm Chair’s introduction
6.10pm Neil Leitch, chief executive, Early Years Alliance
6.25pm James Heckman, Nobel Prize-winning American economist and academic
6.40pm Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England
6.55pm Guilaine Kinouani, critical psychologist, founder of Race Reflections and author of Living While Black
7.10pm Q&A
7.30pm Video presentation
7.35pm - 7.50pm Break and time to join seminar
7.50pm - 8.45pm A choice of one of the three practical seminars


“I am delighted to announce a truly stellar line up for this year’s conference. After an incredibly challenging year, there is no better time to reflect on the vital role that the early years plays in a child’s educational journey, and to explore how we can ensure that the sector receives the respect, recognition and – crucially – the investment it deserves from those in power.

“We know that in the coming months, early years settings will play a pivotal part in supporting the development of the young children who have lived through this unprecedented situation. I really look forward to hearing the contributions of our speakers and to incorporating their critical insights into our important work as we look to support the sector in its transition to the new, post-Covid normal.”

Early Years Alliance chief executive, Neil Leitch


The past year and beyond has been uniquely challenging for all those working in the early years sector.

Changes to our everyday lives have taken place on an unimaginable scale and the anxiety, fears and, in some cases, loss that many have experienced during this period will never be forgotten.

Throughout this crisis, the early years workforce has been the epitome of dedication, professionalism and selflessness: continuing to deliver vital care and education during these challenging times.

But the critical role that early years providers have played – and continue to play – during this period has not been reflected in the support and recognition given to the sector.

This is not an issue unique to the pandemic.

Despite the pivotal importance of early years for children’s learning and development, all too often education is still talked about as something that starts at the school gates.

Despite research showing that the first five years of a child’s life are critical to their long-term learning and development, government funding per child is lower in the early years than in any other part of the education sector: the Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates that in 2019-20, the government spent £3,800 per child in the early years, compared to £6,100 per school-aged child and between £4,600 and £6,100 per college-aged student.

This must change, and it must change now.

With many thanks to our event sponsors

Alliance members can enjoy exclusive freebies and discounts from our event sponsors. Please visit the Members' Area to claim.


Nurseries and Schools logoNurseries and Schools is an online search platform that lists nurseries, schools, nannies, tutors and companies that operate within the education sector, across the UK. The site lists all the services parents and carers need for their child’s education, in one place, to help compare different services and settings in their area to confidently make a decision.



appetito logoappetito

apetito is a nutritious nursery meal supplier; who during these challenging times have been able to support nurseries where costs and feeding children have become even more of a challenge. Appetito can save you time and money as a standard one-course lunch costs an average of just £1.80 per child with desserts and tea-time options also available. With apetito you choose your menu to suit your children’s specific needs, creating a tailored service and rest assured with market-leading food safety checks they can remove risk and stress from your kitchen.

To book your free tasting session email or call 0808 239 9583.


Boogie Mites logoBoogie Mites

Boogie Mites tried-and-tested Music Programmes provide the ultimate resource for giving children the opportunity to boost learning, development and wellbeing through music.


Community PlaythingsCommunity Playthings

Community Playthings designs and manufacture furniture and play equipment in the UK for primary schools and early years settings. Together with visionary educators, they have been creating beautiful learning environments for over 50 years.



Monkey WellbeingMonkey Wellbeing

Preparing, educating, reassuring and supporting children through life’s new experiences; realistic and honest books, activity guides and resources.



Muddy Faces logoMuddy Faces

Passionate about the outdoors, Muddy Faces offers Forest Schools, outdoor play and education materials and resources for children of all ages.



Scrubbingtons is a children's toiletries brand dedicated to helping kids scrub up themselves - and the planet.


Y'earn logoY'earn

Y’earn is a parent-to-parent marketplace to rent Baby & Kids items from people in your community or make some cash if you have items you don't need right now.



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