UK Central government Reforms on Early Education Sector
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Table of Contents
TOC o “1-3” h z u HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393778” Table of Contents PAGEREF _Toc389393778 h 2
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393779” 1.0 Introduction PAGEREF _Toc389393779 h 2
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393780” 2.0 Meeting the Childcare Challenge Green Paper (1998) PAGEREF _Toc389393780 h 3
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393781” 3.0 Every Child Matters (2003 / 04) PAGEREF _Toc389393781 h 4
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393782” 4.0 Choice for Parents: The Best Start for Children (2004) PAGEREF _Toc389393782 h 5
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393783” 5.0 Children’s Workforce Strategy (2005) PAGEREF _Toc389393783 h 6
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393784” 5.0 Childcare Act 2006 / EYFS PAGEREF _Toc389393784 h 7
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393785” 6.0 Children’s Plan (2007) PAGEREF _Toc389393785 h 8
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393786” 8.0 Supporting Families in the Foundation Years (2011) PAGEREF _Toc389393786 h 11
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393787” 9.0 New EYFS (2012) & Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements PAGEREF _Toc389393787 h 12
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393788” 10. Government’s Response to Nutbrown Report PAGEREF _Toc389393788 h 13
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393789” 11.0 Children & Families Bill 2013 PAGEREF _Toc389393789 h 14
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393790” 12.0 Conclusion PAGEREF _Toc389393790 h 14
HYPERLINK l “_Toc389393791” 13.0 References PAGEREF _Toc389393791 h 15
1.0 IntroductionThe road to effective reforms in the early education sector in the UK started in 1998, with the establishment of policies that were outlined in the Green Paper. Prior to the establishment of the reforms, childcare services in the UK were not affordable to many families. As well, parents did not have adequate access to information about childcare services. On top of that, the quality of the services that were available was poor (Daly, Byers & Taylor, 2004, p. 212). Consequently, the initial reforms focused on improving the quality, affordability and accessibility of early education services in the UK. After the implementation of the initial reforms, the government recognized gaps in the early education system that affected equality in the access to quality and affordable childcare services by all families in the UK. As a result, the central government has formulated different policies, with unique objects, over the last one and half decades. The major reforms that followed the initial reforms in the childcare sector took place in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Some of the reforms have been initiated in response to researches and survey reports that point out the need for the reforms (Daly, Byers & Taylor, 2004, p. 212). The paper presents a critical evaluation of the major reforms by the central government of the UK, which have led to significant changes in the provision of early education services in the UK.
2.0 Meeting the Childcare Challenge Green Paper (1998)The central government of the UK published the Meeting the Childcare Challenge (the Green Paper) policy in 1998. Although the policy was designed for England, it has been relevant for the whole of the UK. The Green Paper outlines the government programs that would be launched to provide support for families and to improve quality and access to childcare services (Daly, Byers & Taylor, 2004, p. 212). The government came up with the policy after recognising that children did not have adequate access to childcare services. In addition, the government realised that the childcare services that were available in the UK were not affordable to many families. As well, it was difficult for parents to gain access to information regarding childcare services available in UK. Consequently, the green paper laid out strategies for improving the quality, affordability and equal access to childcare services for children aged between 0 and 14 years. In particular, the green paper laid out the strategy for the government to invest more in childminders, out-of-school clubs and playgroups. Apart from investing in formal services, the government decided to provide financial and other forms of support to relatives and friends taking care of children (Daly, Byers & Taylor, 2004, p. 212).
One of the most significant initiatives by the government was the establishment of 250 Sure Start Local Programs across the UK. The government invested £540m between 1999 and 2002 to establish the programs. The programs targeted to reach up to 150,000 children from poverty-stricken areas. The programs were meant to reduce inequality in access to childcare services. Although the programs helped to initiate changes to the childcares service system in the UK, A national longitudinal evaluation conducted by National Evaluation of Sure Start between 2001 and 2005 did not show the programs to be effective (National Evaluation of Sure Start, 2010, p. 27). As Eisenstadt (2011, p. 115) explains the government had pledged to support the Sure Start Programs for 10 years. However, by 2003, the government started shifting focus from the Sure Start programs and started focusing on the childcare centres. According to Eisenstadt (2011, p. 115), the shift of focus may have led to the ineffectiveness of the programs. Despite not being effective, Sure Start programs were not terminated. More recent study conducted by the National Evaluation of Sure Start between 2008 and 2010 found the programs to be have attained some achievements. For instance, the results of the national longitudinal evaluation conducted in 2010 indicated eight out of 21 positive outcomes for children and families.
Other programs that were proposed by the Green Paper performed well. For instance, the policies outlined in the Green Paper led to the establishment of quality assurance schemes that define the criteria to be met by the childcare service providers. The childcare service workers are trained in order to meet the criteria stated by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). By 2004, the government had provided training to more than 50,000 workers (Daly, (Sylva, 2004, p. 12). To enhance affordability, the government provided financial support to parents through giving them Childcare Tax Credit. Although the implementation of the policy outlined in the green paper helped to improve quality, affordability and accessibility of child of childcare services, it did not solve the problem of accountability by the Local Authority officers. As a result, the government came up with a policy outlined in the Every Child Matters (2003 / 04) to solve the problem.
3.0 Every Child Matters (2003 / 04)The main purpose for the Every Child Matters was to raise the accountability of the officers at the Local Authority level, with regard to the provision of childcare services. The government recognised that there are five major outcomes that influence the wellbeing of an individual during childhood and later during adulthood. They include achieving economic well-being, being healthy, enjoying and achieving and staying safe (Chambers & Licence, 2004, p. 73). Although the central government focused on achieving those goals, the Local Authorities was not effective in implementing the policy, mainly due to lack of accountability. Consequently, the central government set up to 150 local programs that would facilitate change at the Local Authorities level and other government agencies for implementing the policies on childcare services. The programs helped to improve information sharing, early intervention and integrated frontline services and to enhance shared sense of responsibility in the UK. In addition, the programs have enhanced corroboration between government agencies, the private sector, the voluntary organizations sports organizations and schools (Chambers & Licence, 2004, p. 74). The central government supported the strategy for enhancing accountability but the efforts started reducing in 2010 after the creation of the Cameron Ministry. Instead of funding the programs, the government has been focusing on enhancing accountability by the childcare service providers (Eisenstadt, 2011, p. 115).
4.0 Choice for Parents: The Best Start for Children (2004)The Choice for Parents: The Best Start for Children published in 2004 outlined the government’s vision to support children during the early years and to enhance the ability for parents to balance between family and work life (Kingdon, & Gourd, 2013, p. 137). One of the key initiatives outlined in the document is that women are entitled to a paid maternity leave of twelve months. In addition, the policy indicates that the mothers have a right to transfer part of the leave to fathers. Secondly, the government decided to establish 2,500 Children Centres across the country in order to improve access to childcare services. The Children Centres were established have been providing childcare, health, family support, information and other services. In order to enhance availability, the government passed legislation to allow the Local Authorities to increase their duty collection in order to get sufficient funds to support the childcare services. As a result of the policy, children aged between 3 and 4 years are entitled to free quality care for 20 hours a week and at least 38 weeks per years (Kingdon, & Gourd, 2013, p. 137). In addition, children aged between 3 and 14 years are entitled to out of school childcare services that are provided during weekdays between 8am and 6pm. In order to enhance quality, the policy indicated that all childcare services provided in fulltime day care settings would be led by professionals. Currently, all childcare services are led by professionals. The government announced that it would invest £125 each years starting from 2006 to enhance quality, affordability and sustainability (Kingdon, & Gourd, 2013, p. 138). As well, the government decided enhance the training programs for childcare workers and to improve the inspection and regulation regime. To enhance affordability, the government increased the childcare the Childcare Tax Credit. Despite enhancing accountability, the government the reforms did not lead to effectiveness in the performance of the workforce. Consequently, the government came up with reforms that would address the issue in 2005.
5.0 Children’s Workforce Strategy (2005)As mentioned, the frameworks laid in the previous policies on how to improve childcare services did not establish an effective strategy for overcoming restrictions that organizational and professional boundaries can have to the staff performance (Brownhill, 2014, p. 30). Consequently, the government outlined a clear strategy to attain that objective in the Children’s Workforce Strategy that was published in 2005. The government recognised that in order to enhance the effectiveness of the childcare services, the childcare workfare must have good communication skills, respect for young people and children, clear boundaries and roles and understanding of the needs of children. In order to achieve the aforementioned goals, the government decided to implement effective staff recruitment, training and retention programs. As well, the government started promoting for a culture that fosters learning in childcare settings. Further, the policy required the establishment of effective procedures and processes for staff management (Brownhill, 2014, p. 30). However, the reforms proposed so far did not address the importance of childcare during the foundation years (early phases of growth, between birth and 5 years). A study conducted by Sylva (2008, p. 5) showed that effective childcare services during the early phases influences the physical and mental well being of individuals during childhood and in the future, during adulthood. The government recognised the gap and decided to come up with a policy that would help to improve childcare services for children who are below five years.
5.0 Childcare Act 2006 / EYFSThe Childcare Act 2006 / EYFS focused exclusively on enhancing childcare services during the early years. The legislation requires the Jobcentre Plus, the National Health Service and the Local Authorities to collaborate to improve the childcare services for children aged between 0 and 5 years and to minimize inequalities between them (McAuliffe, Linse & Fowler, 2008, p. 1). Secondly, it requires the Local Authorities to work with the independent, voluntary and private sectors to provide the childcare services. As well, the law requires the Local Authority to establish sufficient childcare services that are sufficient to work with the parents. A sufficient childcare service is one that meets the overall needs of the community and that addresses the needs of families with low income and those with disabled children. In addition, the Act requires the Local Authorities to ensure that parents have access to information regarding childcare services. Further, the Act introduced the Early Years Foundation Stage which brought together the national standards and Foundation Stage for childminding and day care (McAuliffe, Linse & Fowler, 2008, p. 2). The main purpose for the Early Years Foundation Stage was to enhance improvement in childcare services offered to children aged between 0 and 5 years. The Act laid down a strategy for reform of the childcare regulation in order to reduce bureaucracy and focus on enhancing quality. Lastly, the Act allowed for the collection of information that would inform strategies for funding and supporting the childcare services.
6.0 Children’s Plan (2007)The central government came up with Children’s Plan (2007) to support the early education through providing support to the parents. The government developed the plan in response to the pleas by parents, children, professionals and teachers, to provide support to parents (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 126). In addition, the government recognised that, although children were performing better than during the previous years, some of them were unable to perform optimally due to financial difficulties. Consequently, the government decided to add reforms to the early education in with the aim to provide equal learning opportunities for all children. In order to do so, the central government decided to involve the parents more in the process of policy making.
To make sure the parents give the best for their children, the government allocated 34 billion pounds of money for two experts in every local authority to give advisory services to the parents. The funds were allocated over a period of tree years (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 126). Further, the government decided to expand the support services that were already available for parents in schools. In addition, the government came up with an initiative to develop a progress record that would track the performance of each child. The record was meant for parents so that they could understand the progress of their children. In addition, a new Parents Advice panel was set up to provide the government with advice on the impact of the policies and the changes that should be made (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 127).
The government realised that not all parents are equal; some required more assistance than others. In order to support the parents who needed more help, the government decided to expand and improve overreach services. In doing so, the government ensured that the Sure Start Children Centers would be accessible to all parents and all families would benefit from the centers. Further, the government came up with a key worker approach that would help to provide intensive support to the families that needed more support (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 127). The government established a strategy to provide special support to the families where children provide care for others. As well, the government recognized the need to provide more support to the disabled children. In response, the government invested £90 in improving the special facilities for the disabled children over period of three years. Also, the plan helped in extending Family Fund, a kitty that is meant for families with disabled children (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 127).
Prior to the establishment of the policy, the parents raised concerns that their children did not have safe places for playing outside schools. At the same time, the evidence provided by the experts in early education indicated that play has numerous benefits on both physical and mental development of children. In response, the government invested in renewing or building playgrounds nationally. The government provided funding to every local authority in the UK that allowed for renewing or building up to 3500 playgrounds nationally (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 128). Immediately after implementation of the plan, the process of renewing or building playgrounds started. Every playground that is completed is made accessible to the children. In order to enhance equal access to playgrounds by all children, the government createed adventure playgrounds for children in the disadvantaged areas. A plan for establishment of 30 new playgrounds was laid out, targeting children aged between 8 and 13 years (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 128). The process of adventure playgrounds, started after the implementation of the plan and every new adventure playground is supervised by trained staff.
The central government of the UK recognized that, without good health, children would not realize their full potential. Consequently, the government decided to come up with a strategy to promote good health among the children. As laid out in the plan, the government published Child Health Strategy in 2008 that promoted lifelong health and wellbeing. The strategy was developed jointly by the department of health, families and schools, and the department of children (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 128). Secondly, the government reviewed the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in order to see how health services for children could be improved to meet the comprehensive needs of all children.
Further, the government recognized that poverty may hinder the ability of children to perform optimally. Consequently, it came up with a plan to tackle overcrowding in poverty-stricken areas. As well, the government put as one of the major priorities, the housing needs of children from the poor families (Baldock, Fitzgerald, & Kay, 2013, p. 128).
7.0 Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare (2009)
The Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare published in 2009 responded to pressure by the public to improve childcare services, as well as the concerns of slow progress in the process of reforming childcare services (Pugh & Duffy, 2009, p. 75). The economic recession that occurred as a result of the global financial crisis that peaked in 2008 affected the ability for the government to meet its previous plans for reforms on childcare services. The Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare was meant to reaffirm government’s commitment to its plans for reforms. Among the major government initiatives contained in the document was to provide free nursery education for children aged two years living in poverty-stricken areas. Consequently, children aged 2 years and below from poverty stricken areas are entitled to free education for 10 hours a week. The children are entitled to the free education for at least 38 weeks per year (Pugh & Duffy, 2009, p. 75). The central government required the local authorities to come up with ‘sufficiency action plans’ indicating how they would sustain the provision of childcare services during the period of recession, using crisis funds. Another agenda in the document was to provide additional financial support to parents through promises of increases in tax-credit payments for the low-income earners and parents with disabled children. Another key agenda in the document was to provide financial support to grandparents who gave up their work to provide care for children.
8.0 Supporting Families in the Foundation Years (2011)The central government of the UK published the Supporting Families in the Foundation Years in 2011 in response to previous reviews on the effectiveness of childcare services, including the ‘early intervention report’ by Graham Allen and ‘Review of Poverty and Life Chances’ by Frank Fields (Kingdon & Gourd, 2013, p. 112). The document was developed jointly by the Department of Health and the Department of Education. The document included a timetable of the childcare support activities that would be carried out over a period of 3 years. The key agenda in the document was to support childcare services during the foundation years. In the document, foundation years are defined to cover the first five years of child’s development after birth. The policy suggests that effectiveness in childcare services can be achieved when more focus is given to the foundation stages. The policy indicates that the government will continue to provide support for parents with children five years and below (Kingdon & Gourd, 2013, p. 112).
As well, the policy emphasizes on the need for collaboration between the government and the private sector to enhance the childcare services in the UK. As well, it recognizes the importance of gender equality in enhancing the effectiveness of the childcare services. Among the key initiatives laid out in the document was to establish a new way of funding the children’s centres. As a result of the new policy, children’s centres are currently funded according to their performances. Those that achieve higher performances are given priority. Another major initiative was to set up a website for parents and other practitioners. The website was established and named ‘one-stop-shop’ and is meant to provide information about services that are available in the UK for children in their foundation years (The House of Commons, 2013, p. 13). As well, the policy proposed for a review of the quality and content of the training courses for individuals who provide services to children during the foundation years. Based on the review, the document indicated that there were plans by the government to improve the standards of the quality and content of the training courses.
9.0 New EYFS (2012) and Safeguarding and Welfare RequirementsThe central government came up with the New EYFS and Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements in 2012 in order to reduce burden or overload on children. In particular, the purpose of the policy was to minimize the number of learning outcomes for children (Soni & Bristow, 2013. P. 15). The government recognised the need to acknowledge that each child is unique, and that children learn in different ways. As well, the government recognised the need for establishment of enabling environment and enhancing positive relationships with children. The document points out three prime areas of learning for children, namely, emotional, social and personal development, physical development and communication and language. As well, the document points four specific areas, namely, mathematics, literacy, expressive arts and design and understanding the world. The assessment for children under the policy is divided into the progress check at the age of two years, ongoing assessment and EYFS profile (Soni & Bristow, 2013. P. 15).
The ‘New EYFS and Safeguarding & Welfare Requirements’ also outlines procedures for safeguarding children from abuse and neglect (Soni & Bristow, 2013. P. 16). For instance, the document states that criminal records must be obtained for adults who work directly with children and those who work in places where children care is provided. Further, the document states that workers that provide childcare services should be provided with opportunities for training and should be given any other support that would help to enhance their skills. As well the document outlines the suitable ratios for staff and children that would facilitate effectiveness in service provision. Further, the document states that service providers must always asses any risks involved and come up with ways of removing or managing them. They should also write down the risks where necessary (Soni & Bristow, 2013. P. 15). The service providers are also required to support children during play.
10. Government’s Response to Nutbrown ReportThe response to Nutbrown Report was published by the Department of Health in January 2013. It outlines changes to qualification to early years, in response to a previous report produced by Nutbrown. The policy indicates that there will be new qualifications for ‘Early Years Educators’ at level three that will take effect from September 2014.The full criteria for qualification will be published after some consultations by the Teaching Agency (Kingdon & Jan Gourd, 2013, p. 92). The policy indicates that for one to qualify into the ‘Early Years Educators’ he/she must attain grade C in GCSE English and Mathematics. The service providers are required to incorporate practical work in the Early Years Educator courses. Government bursaries for the Students undertaking the Early Years Educator courses will be only available to those who attaint at least grade C in GCSE English and Mathematics. Further, the document states that the government would recruit Early Years Teachers who will have adequate training to work with children aged between 0 and 5 years (Kingdon & Jan Gourd, 2013, p. 92).
11.0 Children & Families Bill 2013More recently, in 2013, the government introduced a policy meant to provide support to improve services for disadvantaged families and the children who are vulnerable (Joint Committee on Human Rights, 2013, p. 7). One of the initiatives in the bill is to provide financial support to families who adopt children. In addition, the policy stipulates that a child can be adopted even at an age below two years, unlike before. Secondly, the policy explains the reforms that should be made to the family justice system so that courts can deliver good judgements on separation cases that affect children. For instance, the policy stipulates that courts should take a maximum of 26 weeks when delivering judgement on whether a child should remain with the mother or father after separation or whether the child should be taken to a childcare centre. Further, the policy indicates that the government will be supporting the special education needs for young persons with disabilities until they reach 25 years (Joint Committee on Human Rights, 2013, p. 7). In addition, the policy explains the reforms that should be adopted in order to improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of child care services. As well, the policy enhances the ability of Children’s Commissioner to promote and to protect the rights of children. Lastly, the policy enhances the involvement of both parents in childcare during and after pregnancy. For instance, the policy promotes a system that will enhance shared parental leave (Joint Committee on Human Rights, 2013, p. 7).
12.0 ConclusionIn conclusion, the central government policy on early education has taken great steps since the initial reforms that were implemented in 1998. The first sets of reforms were outlined in the Meeting the Childcare Challenge Green Paper that was published in 1998. The first set of reforms did not enhance accountability and thus, another set of reforms published in the Every Child Matters in 2003 enhanced accountability. Although the Green Paper proposed for establishment of Sure Start programs that needed support, their effectiveness were affected when the government shifted focus to childcare centres proposed by Every Child Matters in 2003. The Choice for Parents: The Best Start for Children established in 2004 outlined reforms that would enable parents to balance between family and work life. The Children’s Workforce Strategy was established in order to enhance the performance of childcare workers. The Childcare Act 2006 / EYFS exclusively focused on the improvement of childcare services for children during the early years (from birth to 5 years). Children’s Plan (2007) helped to improve support for parents. Next Steps for Early Learning and Childcare (2009) was meant to reaffirm government’s commitment to reforms in the early education sector, irrespective of the negative impacts of the global recession. Supporting Families in the Foundation Years (2011) outlined reforms that would enhance childcare services during foundation years. The New EYFS and Safeguarding and Welfare Requirements focused on reducing bureaucracy and reducing the number of learning outcomes for childcare services. Government’s Response to Nutbrown Report outlines qualifications to early year’s education. Lastly, the Children and Families Bill 2013 introduced reforms meant to provide support to improve services for disadvantaged families and the children who are vulnerable.
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