£180million to improve child development in the early years

Every region of England will benefit from programs to improve the teaching of speech, language and numeracy to children, as well as professional development to develop strong leadership skills and improve understanding of child development. There will also be new opportunities for graduates wishing to embark on a career in early childhood education, as well as staff wishing to train as Early Childhood Special Educational Needs (SENCO) coordinators.

Evidence shows that access to early education is crucial to helping children thrive as adults and contribute to society. The Education Endowment Fund also showed that improving the pre-school language skills of young children could boost the economy by up to £1.2 billion over their lifetime.

Up to £180million in government funding over three years will help the sector focus on developing children in their early years and addressing existing recruitment and retention challenges. It follows government commitments to improve parents’ access to affordable and flexible childcare through ambitious reforms, on which work continues.

Minister for Schools and Children, Kelly Tolhurst, said:

The early years of a child’s life are vital, not only for learning important developmental skills, but also for developing a lifelong love of learning that will help them succeed in adult life.

I am truly proud of the quality and dedication of our early years staff. This support package is a huge investment in their skills and professional development, as improving the status of this important sector is key to its growth.

The Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) programme, which has already helped to strengthen the speech and language skills of around 90,000 children, will also continue this school year.

The Department of Education, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, has also launched a new “Better Health – Start For Lifecampaign, offering parents of children aged 0 to 4 practical advice and tips to help them develop their child’s language and literacy skills before they start school. Funding from today’s announcement will also help parents get additional guidance through new family hubs, which are expected to open in the first half of 2023.

Today’s support package, which will benefit preschoolers across England, includes:

  • Early training in mathematics, languages ​​and social development for 10,0000 professionals under the third phase of the professional development program (PDP3) – more than 1,300 professionals from 51 local authorities received tailor-made training to support the learning and development of children affected by the pandemic during the second phase of this program, which means that around 20,000 children will have benefited from better trained and more confident staff;

  • National deployment of the Experts and Mentors program to provide tailored leadership support to 7,500 childcare facilities and childminders to deal with the impact of the pandemic on the children in their care. This support is free and available nationwide for eligible settings. Around 200 schools in the North of England, Lancashire and Yorkshire received support through a pilot of the scheme this spring;

  • Higher level specialized training leading to early childhood teacher status – it is very clear that higher qualifications are consistently identified as a predictor of better quality and associated with better outcomes for children;

  • Supporting nearly 6,000 early childhood professionals to obtain the National Professional Qualification in Early Years Leadership (NPQEYL) which is designed to help early childhood leaders develop expertise in leading high-quality education and care, effective staff and organizational management, and supporting early childhood development recovery. children who have been affected by the pandemic;

  • Training for up to 5,000 Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCO) to help identify children’s needs earlier so they have the right support. A commitment reaffirmed in the SEND green paper;

  • A new network of 18 Stronger Practice Hubs support early childhood practitioners to adopt evidence-based practice improvements, build local networks to share effective practices, and cultivate system leadership;

  • A new universal online training offer on child development helping staff improve their knowledge and understanding of preschool child development, as well as training early childhood professionals to help parents and caregivers support their children’s development at home;

  • The continuation of the Nuffield Early Language Intervention (NELI) program in the 2022-23 school year – building on the two-thirds of primary schools that have already benefited from this investment, improving the speech and language skills of around 90,000 children in reception classes .

This investment builds on continued work to get children’s education and skills back on track post-pandemic. The government has set a target for 90% of primary school children to achieve the expected level of literacy and numeracy, with wider investment confirmed to help every young person leave school with a strong command of these skills.

The government is continuing to review responses to its consultation on childcare regulatory changes and will respond in due course.

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