Labour Announces Plans for Early Years Review
During Labour’s recent annual party conference, the shadow education secretary Bridget Philipson unveiled their plans for a comprehensive assessment of the early years sector ahead of the upcoming general election. The review will be overseen by Sir David Bell, the former chief inspector of Ofsted and ex-permanent secretary at the Department for Education.
The objective of the review, according to Labour, is to develop a robust strategy for expanding early entitlement offers, address issues related to the early years workforce, and tackle challenges associated with the limited availability of early years places. One of the party's proposals is to utilize spare capacity in primary schools, resulting from declining birth rates, to create additional early years places. Labour also aims to remove existing restrictions on local authorities regarding the establishment of nursery provisions. The review will encompass a comprehensive reform of the childcare workforce and inform Labour's plan to address the shortage of available childcare.
Policies announced at party conferences are traditionally lacking specific details, and this is no different. However, with an election looming next year, we may find out more detailed aspects of the proposals soon. The policy potentially marks a change in approach, utilising more of the public sector in early years provision, something that has not traditionally been the case in England. If the objective is extra capacity, Labour, should they gain power, will need to take care that the policy does not adversely impact the high-quality private provision that currently makes up the majority of the sector.
Whatever happens within parliament, it is essential that the early years sector is seen as a priority and that any policies ensure the long-term health of the sector.