Underfunding risks swaying Sector’s ‘moral compass’ Alliance chief executive warns

The chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, Neil Leitch, has delivered a strongly-worded speech at the Alliance’s 58th annual conference, warning that underfunding of the sector risked forcing providers into practices they weren’t comfortable with.

Delegates at the conference in London, which this year is celebrating and sharing best practice, were told: “This sector has always had at its core an unrivalled moral compass, ethics that go way beyond pure financial gain. We have always talked of changing lives, of parental support, of integrity, of transformation.

“But with all the pressure that is being heaped on providers, I fear we are being forced to do things that for the vast majority of us are not a comfortable fit.  And, the more we simply accept these pressures and practices, the more we play into the government’s hands.”

Mr Leitch spoke to a packed audience of early years providers about the 16,000 casualties the sector has suffered in just six years, and how those clinging on were being forced to make stark choices in order to stay afloat, with families who cannot afford to pay for additional extras or private hours on top of the funded 30 years entitlement consigned to ‘waiting lists’.

“And they never come off the waiting list. So those parents who most need the support they were promised, those children who would benefit the most from a quality early education, get pushed to the back of the queue”, said Mr Leitch.

“I know why settings have to make these tough decisions - but I’m afraid the shift of the sector in such a direction is one that simply doesn’t feel right.

“I hear the call to drop the free entitlement and let the market equalise itself, and of course I entirely understand why, but I fear for those children and families with the greatest needs because the evidence is showing we are leaving them behind.”

Mr Leitch called on the sector to support the Fair Future Funding action week, starting on 10 June, which calls on government to invest properly in its flagship childcare schemes, and review funding annually.

“We’re asking every single Early Years provider to write to their local MPs and councillors, invite them to your setting, tell them face to face about the impact that underfunding is having on you and get them to make the argument on your behalf in Parliament.”

Mr Leitch also paid tribute to Early Years Alliance founder, Belle Tutaev who passed away aged 90 earlier this year. 

Along with special guest Mary Tutaev, daughter of Belle, the conference heard from Lisa Potts, author and chief executive, Believe to Achieve; Gill Jones Gill Jones, Deputy Director, Early Childhood and Jude Sanders, Early Years Senior Inspector at Ofsted; Rachel Buckler, co-founder of the Early Years Hub and MD of Safeguarding Training Ltd; Alex Grady, Education Development officer, Nasen (National association of Special Educational Needs). Graham McMillan and Chair of Trustees, Sophie Ross, also joined the line-up.




About the Alliance

  • The Early Years Alliance is the largest and most representative early years membership organisation in England. A registered educational charity, it also provides high-quality affordable childcare and education to support children and families in areas of deprivation throughout the country.
  • The Alliance represents 14,000 member settings and supports them to deliver care and learning to more than 800,000 families every year. We deliver family learning projects, offer information and advice, produce specialist publications, run acclaimed training programmes and campaign to influence early years policy and practice.

The Alliance website is www.eyalliance.org.uk