Alliance chief executive calls for renewed focus on the needs of the child at annual conference

5th June 2015

Current early years policy is failing to prioritise the needs of the child, Pre-school Learning Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch warned in a speech at the organisation’s annual conference on Friday 5 June.

Speaking at the event, entitled: Every child still matters: supporting development in the early years, Neil argued that current early years policy in England is incompatible with Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

He said:

“When the government is pushing two year olds into potentially unsuitable school environments because it’s cheaper than having to fund the PVI sector properly, are the best interests of the child being made a primary consideration? When the government is forcing four-year-olds to endure inappropriate tests just to make it easier to rank and compare schools, are the best interests of the child being made a primary consideration? When discussions about early years focus solely on the economic benefits of getting mums back to work, are the best interests of the child being made a primary consideration?

“Today I look forward to changing the conversation. To listening to what the experts have to say about child development. To hearing your views on good practice and the kind of difference it can make to the lives of children.”

he event was held at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham and will feature Dr Richard House, educational consultant and campaigner, former senior lecturer at Roehampton University’s Research Centre for Therapeutic Education and author of Too much, too soon, and Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, honorary fellow at the University of Dundee, School of Psychology, as keynote speakers alongside Neil.

Neil’s warning follows the recent publication of the Alliance’s Early Years Agenda post-election manifesto, which calls on the new government to:

  • implement measures to monitor school-based provision for two-year-olds and ensure it delivers age-appropriate care and learning opportunities to the children attending
  • focus investment on the development of the existing network of experienced PVI providers (as opposed to the current emphasis on developing provision in schools) scrap the proposed baseline assessment and reinstate the EYFS Profile’s statutory status.

For further information or to interview, Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance please contact:
Shannon Hawthorne
Pre-school Learning Alliance
T: 020 7697 2503
E: Shannon Hawthorne


Notes for editors

  1. The Pre-school Learning Alliance is the largest voluntary sector provider of quality affordable childcare and education in England.
  2. Through direct provision and its membership of 14,000 nurseries, sessional pre-schools and parent and toddler groups, the Alliance supports over 800,000 children and their families in England. The Alliance also develops and runs family learning programmes, offers information and advice, runs acclaimed training and accreditation programmes and campaigns to influence early years policy and practice.
  3. For information about the Pre-school Learning Alliance, visit our website:

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