Labour launches “big conversation” on early years
By Rachel Lawler
The Labour Party is launching a series of events aiming to talk to families about childcare and early education, after data revealed that government spending on Sure Start centres and children under five has been cut by 40% since 2015.
Labour analysis of government figures also showed that 12,000 early education and childcare providers have already closed since 2015 and a further 30,000 are at risk of closure within the next year.
The party says that 345,000 women will be at risk of losing their jobs if more childcare providers close their doors for good.
A "shocking loss"
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "We absolutely need to talk, and keep talking, about the early years. We know the first five years of a child’s life are crucial to their long-term development, and yet when we talk about education, we only talk about schools, colleges and universities. We know that strong early years provision, staffed by qualified professionals, has a dramatic impact on life chances, and yet when we talk about attainment, we only talk about GCSE and A-level results.
"The shocking loss of more than 12,000 early years providers in just five years, and the potential loss of thousands more, is clearly the result of the sustained underfunding of the sector – which itself is a result of the continued failure of government to put the early years at the centre of its education agenda.
"A conversation about how we can provide the best education, care and support for our under-fives and their families is long overdue, but this simply must include an open and honest discussion about the true cost of providing these services. It is only with proper investment that we can ensure that all children, regardless of background, can continue to access the quality early education and care that they deserve."
Critical early years
Tulip Siddiq MP, Labour’s shadow minister for children and early years, said: “The early years are critical for a child’s development and childcare is a fundamental building block of our economy but, over the last decade, early years services have been neglected.
“This Conservative government has failed to listen to families who have been unable to get the childcare, early education and wellbeing support they need. As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to have a big conversation with the public about how we can rebuild this essential infrastructure.”
Children at the heart of recovery
Kate Green MP, Labour’s shadow education secretary, added: “The Conservatives have treated children as an afterthought throughout this pandemic, with had no plan to protect early years providers nor support the families who rely on their vital services. Labour wants to see children at the heart of our national recovery.”