With election excitement high but outcomes still too close to call, the ramifications for professionals in early years remain very uncertain.
Sadly, pre-election the debates seemed to reveal a worrying lack of engagement and priority given to the early years agenda, with few moments when our collective issues really seemed to catch the limelight.
However we cannot let our issues lie and we won’t.
The current national political negotiations hold real potential quandaries for all of us. Some of the divides may be obscure but there are also very real differences:
- The Lib Dems and Tories have both demonstrated suspicion or dislike of the EYFS though their remedies remain undetailed
- Labour have driven through the EYPS programme and seem to remain committed, whereas both the other main parties have stayed silent
- Wider questions of qualifications, despite the focus within the sector itself, has been largely ignored
- The Tories have pursued a values-agenda with the proposed marriage tax break which has been rejected by both Labour and the Lib Dems
- The future of Sure Start, the number and role of Children’s Centres in the future, and the interaction of Outreach workers with health visitor numbers did feature in campaigning and in manifestos – yet the figures and likely real impacts of policies remain unclear
- Flexible working policies and extended parental leave are promoted by all parties – although as ever “details” (ie levels of pay and support) remain less clear yet are crucial in determining genuine access and uptake
- The logic that more flexible working and a focus on employment must demand more in terms of the the hours and demands on early years settings and workers seems to be entirely missed
- Basics such as pay and status seem to remain in the shadows
There’s clearly much to play for in the ongoing debates.
Across the sector we do not always agree ourselves on the way forward. However, there are some basics which few of us dispute. And maybe there is something here about focusing our attention, and our collective weight and strength, on the underlying issues that we all know must be tackled. They might be hard, and they may not lend themselves to eye-catching policies … but here are some of our suggestions for the real issues we should all be ganging together to fight:
Let’s demand higher status for the early years sector and stand up proudly for what we do.
Let’s demand the funding, support and structures that quality provision cannot do without.
Let’s demand proper pay, conditions, recognition and career structures for everyone working in early years at every level.
Let’s demand real recognition that every child has the right to the best start in life, and that this means every child having access to the very highest quality education and care.
Whoever forms the next government we are going to need to stand firmer and stronger than ever to ensure every single child has the best possible access and opportunities, every single parent and carer feels truly confident in the care and education their child receives, and every single early years worker has the respect, support and recognition of society.
So over the next few hours, days, weeks and months let’s stand together and demand that all our politicians, on this vital subject, put party politics aside and stand up for our children and our future.