• The Key

Early Years is More Than Childcare

Updated: Mar 26

I’m not normally one for pandering to the occasional ill-informed, sensationalised and misaligned news report. Ordinarily I let it go over my head, safe in the knowledge that I know the early years sector well and that in our work here at The Key Leadership we are making a difference to the children and families who value the services offered by amazing leaders.

However, I read an article this week that truly made my blood boil and I felt absolutely needed a counter response. You will have to bear with me on this article, because I am writing this with the passion of a mama bear protecting her cubs.

I won’t add a link to the disgraceful article as, quite frankly, I don’t want it to receive any more attention than it needs. However, I do want to address some of the distorted points raised and offer a more balanced and realistic view of the sector, from someone who is down and dirty in the middle of the action.

The article, in its opening paragraph, demonstrates its total lack of knowledge of the sector and the needs of parents, suggesting that nannies are in high demand in the current pandemic. Where is the data to support this? If we look to the official joiners and leavers data from the Government, we can see that in January 2021 alone 1,097 home child carers left the sector, a net overall change of -910 since April 2020. Not exactly a great outlook for these early years professionals who care for children in their own homes. Perhaps the loss of jobs, furlough and parents trying their best to cope has had much to do with this, but it certainly isn’t as described in the article as ‘The need for nannies grows up’, .....does that even make grammatical sense? !

The article continues with its negative subterfuge, proposing a new label for childminders – ‘carebnb’s’. **shakes head and has a little vomit in mouth**. Apparently, this is what childminders are now being labelled……by whom? I have yet to meet anyone who would be so arrogant and insulting as to refer to qualified and experienced early years professionals in such an offensive manner. Childminders work tirelessly to educate the children in their care. The service offered by childminders is inspected by Ofsted; individuals are required to follow the EYFS in the same way teachers do, all while offering their own homes and family as a place of love, security and care.

Just like childminders, early years settings have kept their doors and arms wide open across the pandemic to care for children of Keyworkers, enabling our NHS, schools, and shops to remain open. So please forgive me when I find myself appalled at the comment, ‘Reputations have been ravaged by the pandemic’. I beg to differ.

Leaders across our sector have shown nothing but professionalism, love, and support for parents, receiving praise for the way they have adapted their practice and procedures to ensure children are kept safe. Moreover, early years professionals have hugged, cared for, and wiped the noses of these children, with no priority for testing or vaccines for the majority of the pandemic. They do it because they care greatly for the children they are responsible for as well as the sector they have trained for years to be a part of. Notwithstanding this, nursery practitioners across the country have had to make informed decisions about the risks to their own health, based on evolving risk assessments, with limited PPE. The article will have us believe that there is a ban on singing, that stories have been read through face shields and there are no hugs or wiping way of tears? I would be very interested to know which settings this journalist has visited because I am yet to meet an early years leader or practitioner who hasn’t hugged a child, wiped a scraped knee or wholeheartedly joined in with a rendition of ‘Wind The Bobbin Up’. However, what the sector has done is pulled together and adapted its practice to make it as safe as possible, rotating resources, changing and improving cleaning methods and managing staff shifts, determinedly ensuring children have a magical time in their settings.

The only honest and realistic viewpoint throughout the whole article comes from Clare Roberts, chief executive of the Kids Planet nursery chain, as she states: “For many nurseries, the pandemic has raised their profile as early years educators not babysitters,”. Clare goes on to highlight the concerns of all early years leaders about the lack of visibility of vulnerable children. Early years isn’t just about providing care and education for our youngest children. Professionals across the sector engage with speech and language professionals, work with children with complex and additional needs, support families through challenges, participate in safeguarding reviews and so much more. And whilst many of these services are being offered remotely during this pandemic, it is our sector professionals who are the hands-on providers of so much more than just childcare.

It’s unusual for me to be so heavily opinionated and climb on my soap box in this way, but we have to make a stand. We have to counter these poorly informed articles and stand up for the sector. Our industry is one which will always be needed, always be provided and should be recognised for the professional educational service it provides. The first 5 years of a child’s life is the most important in terms of future life chances and it’s time for this to be fully acknowledged.

I would love to hear your views and opinions, please do comment below and let me know what you think.