Early Years

The page for Early Years Education in Brighton and Hove

Save our Children’s Centres
The years from birth to school entry are crucial. Later inequalities in educational and health outcomes are rooted in the inequalities in the lives of children at this stage, including in family income, housing, physical and mental health, family and social support, and family needs and experiences.

Children’s Centres play a vital role in reducing health and educational inequalities in the early years by providing support for the physical and mental health of children, including those with special needs, and by providing practical and social support for all parent and carers, which is of special importance to those on low incomes, who have limited access to other services; to parents and carers who have limited family and community support, and to parents and carers who have specific need for additional parenting support.

Any reduction in the provision made by children’s centres, will be especially detrimental to the most vulnerable children and families.  Claims to safeguard provision for the “most needy” obscure the difficulties in determining need and wherever the line is drawn, those just the other side of it will lose out and inevitably, as a society we all lose.

As well as raising social justice concerns, cutting services to young children is financially illiterate. Costs to physical and mental health services and the criminal justice system, caused by failing to address inequalities in early childhood, are far higher than investing in services for young children.

Despite the appalling disregard for public services, social inequality and pre school care and education shown by this government, even some Tories claim to recognise the importance of Children’s Centres.  Andrea Leadsom MP chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sure Start is quoted as saying: “I have spent the last few years learning about the vitally important work of children’s centres. I have heard testimonies […] which have convinced me of the huge public value children’s centres can bring to both communities and individuals. […] where children’s centres work well they have the ability to transform the lives of families for the better and improve outcomes for the future” (reference available here)

These words belie the fact that the government is pushing through austerity which, in Brighton and Hove, is  undermining local democracy and forcing the local council to propose massive cuts to local children’s services (as well as other essential services).

So what is being proposed for Children’s Centres?

  1. The Children’s Centre budget cut by 1/3 in 2015/16
  2. The subsidy to children’s centre nurseries cut by nearly half in next few years
  3. A shift from universal to targeted provision for those “most in need” (who will determine what a high enough level of need is?)
  4. A merger of Children’s centres resulting in fewer council funded services and groups in some areas.
  5. A shift from on-going baby groups to 8 week courses for parents by invitation
  6. A shift from on-going toddler groups to time limited (1 term only) for under 2s.
  7. The council will no longer fund or run drop in groups in libraries or other community venues
  8. A reduction in level of home visiting
  9. A reduction of funding for places for children with high levels of need given free child care for 2 year olds in families on low incomes (but what about those who’s low income isn’t quite low enough? what about the over 2s?)
  10. Review of Children’s Centre run referral and targeted groups to make sure they are effective and reach those that need them (but it is not clear what will happen as a consequence of this review).

Act Now!! Time is running out to have your say on Children’s Services in Brighton and Hove. Make sure you respond to the consultation by the 2nd Feb here
Concerned parents and supporters have set up a facebook group here
and organised an event  here
and a petition here

Please support and spread the word and join the Campaign for Education in Brighton and Hove to defend local public education from early to adult years.

The cuts proposed are in the context of a proposed 2% council tax rise. There is the possibility of a council tax rise to 5.9% which would require the Council to run a referendum.  If the council tax ends up being 5.9%, cuts though smaller, would still be required.  The Green Party locally has voted that it will not support any further cuts in services by Brighton and Hove City Council and has insisted a 5.9% increase in council tax – proposed by its own councillors – is “not viable” (reference available here)

The government’s claim is that “the market will provide” but if local councils cannot provide a service because their funds have been cut, private companies will move in and provide them (only if they can do so profitably). Local councils have been told that by 2020 they will receive NO government funding at all!!  To safeguard public education we must join local and national campaigns to fight this anti-democratic policy.

Say No to Baseline Assessment.

The Campaign for Education in Brighton and Hove fully supports the TACTYC ( Association for the Professional Development of Early Years) campaign to lobby against the proposed baseline assessment.

Baseline assessment of reception aged children will not support teachers to gather rich, formative data about the individual needs and abilities of young children. Testing young children in the first weeks of school, against a set of narrowly defined criteria, will not provide reliable or useful data about children’s abilities.
At best the tests will be a waste of precious teacher time, at a point in the year when teachers should focus their energies on developing respectful, trusting relationships with children and families. At worst the tests will label children ‘failures’ and contribute to the existing deterministic model of setting and labelling children. This approach is detrimental to children’s self belief and perpetuates unhelpful attitudes around fixed ability.

What can we do to voice our concerns about this harmful test?

1. Visit TACTYC and read their response to the proposed baseline assessment:
(TACTYC Baseline Assessment Position Paper) here
2. Read Professor Cathy Nutbrown’s analysis of baseline assessment here
3. Lobby against baseline assessment (find out how here)
4. Join the petition against baseline assessment here

A Manifesto for the Early Years

All early years policy must recognise that poverty and social inequality are key issues in children’s development, well being and learning and an effective system of early years provision is undermined by high and growing social inequality.

We want an Early Years Care and Education System that aims to:

  • nurture and enable the whole child to flourish
  • balance the notions of ‘care’ and ‘education’ in provision for all children
  • include, involve and support parents/carers /families
  • contribute to equalising life chances

We want Early Years provision which:

  • acknowledges the importance of developmental readiness for formal schooling and doesn’t inforce ‘school readiness’ inappropriately
  • is responsive to individuality and diversity in children and recognises that learning is not a linear process
  • recognises the importance of play in children’s development and learning
  • is devised by educators in collaboration with children, their families and local communities, not politicians
  • sees assessment used to enhance learning rather than label children (or settings).
  • is informed by the international evidence base of what constitutes best practice in the early years

We want a system of Early Years provision in which early years teachers and practitioners:

  • have professional status, qualifications and remuneration which are truly equivalent with other education professionals
  • are empowered and trusted to adapt curriculum and assessment to the benefit of the children in their care

We want a system of Early Years in which:

  • public funding recognises Early Years Care and Education as a public good from which the whole of society benefits
  • quality of care is not compromised by inadequate funding and rates of pay or the intrusion of the profit motive.
  • Providers are encouraged to collaborate rather than be in competition.

If you support this Early Years Manifesto and/or would like to make suggestions on how we can improve it please sign and comment (scroll to the bottom of this page) or email campaignforeducation.wordpress.com and please spread the word!

Rumblings in Brighton’s Grass Roots: The Shape of Dissent to Come?  by Richard House

One of the guest speakers at our recent early years event Richard House wrote his latest ‘Critical Corner’ column forTeach Nursery magazine, December 2014, all about the local campaign!  Loved the bit about our campaign “sending shivers down the spines of Whitehall mandarins and DfE ministers alike!” The full text is reproduced below.

This column can at times lapse into doom and gloom (after all, there’s lots of it about); so I’m delighted to be writing this month about something really positive on the Early Years landscape. The Campaign for Education in Brighton & Hove is a new educational initiative,1 and its EY arm may be unique in the history of England’s early years sector – even becoming a model for future direct action in the field that will send shivers down the spines of Whitehall mandarins and DfE ministers alike.

The campaign is organised by a group of concerned parents, governors and education professionals who are by no means alone in believing that progressive education in England is currently under concerted attack from a ‘neo-liberal’ economic system whose ‘marketising’ approaches and ways of thinking about learning and education profoundly contradict the core pedagogical principles and practices that educators know work best – examples being the march of standardised testing (even for early years – see baseline assessment), rote learning, larger class sizes, a fragmented and divisive education system, top-down legislative prescription about how to teach, worsening conditions of employment, unreliable  performance assessments, creeping privatisation-by-stealth, and a devaluing/side-lining of professional expertise. Baseline assessment is of particular concern, and no doubt the campaign will engage with the new opinion poll on baseline assessment and non-compliance on the Day Nurseries website, which is being launched as I write.2

The campaign is drawing attention to the ways in which the influence of large commercial organisations is growing within education, and their local response is ‘to build alliances between all those working in education and their unions, children, students and parents, and with other related campaigns to fight for education as a public good rather than a business opportunity’. They support a system which avoids damaging notions of fixed ability and harmful labeing, and offers a public-interest education system managed through local collaboration rather than competition, that’s democratically accountable to communities, students and staff, and in which qualified staff have professional autonomy over curricula and assessment, working in learners’ interests. 

I was recently honoured to speak at their EY focussed public meeting, at which around 60 local people came to learn about this new initiative; and it was very heartening that a significant number of concerned parents came along. Films of all four keynote talks are viewable on the web.3

The early years subgroup of the Brighton Campaign is currently using responses from the 16 October discussion event to create a Manifesto for Early Years Education for Brighton, collaborating with the NUT’s Charter for Primary Education in developing the manifesto. You can contribute your ideas by emailing the campaign at: brightonedqt@gmail.com

I’m reminded here of the famed Italian Reggio Emila approach. Reggio are the first to emphasise (and rightly so) that their model shouldn’t be robotically transplanted into different cultures and contexts; but what we can learn from Reggio is that local areas (parents, professionals, citizens) know best what’s good for local children and families, with the empowerment of all concerned being of inestimable value as all take ownership of, and shape, local educational landscapes.

This initiative is one that’s at least implicitly against one-size-fits-all, top-down pronouncements from central government about how we should support young children on their developmental and learning journeys, and it cannot but disrupt the standardising and disciplining intentions of central-state impositions. For that reason alone, I think it deserves our full support – and will hopefully become a model that we can all draw upon in our local communities.

I recently heard a report from a DfE meeting that suggests that civil servants and government are terrified of these kinds of actions – not least because they disrupt and subvert the standardising (à la Weber), disciplining (à la Foucault) agenda of the government (and so threaten to subvert the neo-liberal agenda in the process). So – all power to these local, grass-roots initiatives in all their rich diversity – and may they start springing up all across the land! For as Henryk Skolimowski wrote in his seminal (and implicitly anti-neoliberal) book The Participatory Mind,To encourage and maintain diversity is a part of the ethical imperative of participating in the riches of creation’.

 

Charter for Primary Education: Developing a National Manifesto for Early Years

Erica Evans, from the Campaign for Education in Brighton Hove, attended a Charter for Primary Education( http://primarycharter.wordpress.com/ )steering group meeting on the 8th November  called to discuss the development of a national manifesto for early years and primary education. Representatives from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Lambeth, Haringey, Cambridge, and Nottinghamshire attended as well as  Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary of the NUT. There were also members from a Cambridge film company interested in the possibility of creating a film to explore the importance of play in children’s learning.

The Charter for Primary Education is part of a growing movement which seeks to highlight the vital importance of early years and primary education and with others ( for example; http://www.toomuchtoosoon.org/ , http://www.savechildhood.net/ , http://tactyc.org.uk/category/news/  ) challenges current government education policy for undermining the ability of teachers and early years practitioners to support young children in developmentally appropriate ways.

Representatives from across the country spoke about local campaigns to raise awareness about the detrimental impact on children’s learning and development of education policies such as the proposed baseline assessment. All attendees agreed that local campaigns should seek to join together, particularly in the run up to the general election.

Discussions about a national manifesto for early years and primary education highlighted key elements to be included:

  • The role of national, standardized assessment. A rejection of narrowly defined tests such as the year one phonics test and the proposed baseline assessment which do not contribute to children’s learning and development.
  • The important role of play in children’s learning and development.
  • A broad and balanced curriculum that is not solely dominated by literacy and numeracy.
  • A curriculum that supports child development, including the importance of opportunities for outdoor play/forest school
  • The need for qualified staff working with the youngest children. Awarding graduates with Early Years Teacher Status the same status, pay and conditions as QTS.
  • The importance of working in partnership with parents and local communities and valuing their input in children’s learning and development.
  • Funding – to ensure early years education is properly funded
  • To end child poverty.

The early years subgroup of the Campaign for Education in Brighton and Hove is currently using responses from our early years discussion event (16 Oct 2014) see report below, to create a manifesto for early years education for our city and we will work in collaboration with the Charter for Primary Education to develop a national manifesto. If you would like to contribute your ideas to our manifesto please email the campaign at: brightonedqt@gmail.com

What is the future for Early Years Education Video: Four speakers at the Early Years event, 16:10:14

(See below for our report on the event)

Richard House, Too Much Too Soon campaign

Emma Cook, One World Nursery, Brighton

Jess Edwards, Co-ordinator, A Charter for Primary Education

Simon Boxley, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Winchester

Discussion

Report: What is the future for Early Years Education?

Public meeting presented by The Campaign for Education in Brighton and Hove on 16.10.14

Targets:

  • To involve a diverse audience of parents, Early Years and Key Stage 1 professionals and anyone else interested in what is happening to early years
  • To discuss the way forward to provide a meaningful life experience and education for young children!
Achieved:

  • Over 60 people, parents, EY practitioners and others took part.
  • There was an extensive participative discussion informed by four speakers
Assessment criteria:

  • The audience participate in the debate, asking pertinent questions and making valuable observations and contributions. Panel and organisers respond to questions and issues raised.
Outcome:

  • Everyone had the opportunity to contribute ideas and suggestions for a Brighton Manifesto for the Early Years to put before all those standing for parliament or the local council in 2015.

Whoops! Sorry, we were forgetting that this isn’t a lesson plan for OFSTED – just as well as they might not like the content!

Yes! We had a successful and well attended meeting which gave everyone the opportunity to consider the new Early Years Framework- which means:

  • the nature of the current government imposed curriculum
  • government imposed teaching strategies
  • government imposed targets and
  • a government imposed assessment process

We heard from the panel that putting very young children into a formal, assessed process, which values, almost exclusively, literacy and numeracy targets and achievements is pointless educationally. It does not achieve the stated desire of raising achievement, and far from helping to close the achievement gap between more and less advantaged children, it may disadvantage children from challenging (read ‘poor’) backgrounds further. The resulting stress is also potentially a threat to young children’s well being and mental health.

We heard from parents, all of whom had huge misgivings about putting their children through the current Early Years framework (including key stage one) and are concerned that all schools must implement government policy and that ‘opting out’ of the state system (through home education for example) was their only option. There was sympathy for parents in this position but a consensus that we must campaign ever harder to ensure quality provision for all in the state system.

We heard also from those at the chalk face (interactive whiteboard!) trying to create a meaningful experience for children as young as two years. We heard that they often work in deep despair, being forced to manage children’s development in ways that they know to be, not only ineffective, but detrimental to learning and well- being, and unmanageable – even in a 50 hour working week! Here the call was for respect and status for early years practitioners – it is shocking that as a result of cuts Early Years teachers are being threatened with losing their teaching terms and conditions as we heard is the case in East Sussex.

Many were sceptical of the government’s motivation and suspicious of their disregard for evidence about child development, the experience of practitioners and the concerns of parents. Maybe there is an agenda beyond “raising standards” -which has more to do with meeting the needs of employers, being “school ready” at 4 is about being “work ready” at 18 and the role of education is being reduced to creating a docile, unquestioning workforce.

Everyone in the room was convinced that education is about so much more and that this richer view of education is worth fighting for. Thank you to all who participated. The Campaign for Education in Brighton and Hove will collate all the written contributions to produce a Brighton Manifesto for the Early Years. We look forward to feeding this into the national initiative “creating a manifesto for early years and primary education” on the 8th November. (https://eepurl.com/6aNjb )

We are grateful to the University of Brighton UCU for organising the venue, to our panel members for giving up their time and in most cases travelling long distances to be with us, to the audience for all their contributions and to Kevin Reynolds for filming the event and enabling us to put the recordings on our website https://campaignforeducation.wordpress.com

Report by Valerie Knight and Nadia Edmond, The Campaign for Education in Brighton and Hove

If you support our Early Years Manifesto please leave a reply below

8 thoughts on “Early Years

  1. Erica Evans says:

    I fully suppoprt this manifesto and hope that it can be used to put pressure on our politicians to consider EY policy in the run up to the general election.

    Like

  2. Simeon Eliott says:

    As a pre-school special educational needs teacher (area SENCo), working for a local authority in maintained, private, voluntary and independent pre-school settings, I thoroughly endorse this manifesto, as its emphasis on flourishing, the importance of developmental readiness, and the centrality of addressing poverty and inequality, are essential to providing high quality inclusive pre-school provision for all.

    Like

  3. Annie Richardson says:

    I fully support this comprehensive early years manifesto because young children deserve good quality care and education that respects who they are and what they bring.

    Like

  4. Kath Tayler says:

    I fully support this manifesto and greatly fear that things could become even worse under the new tory government.

    Like

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