Children in England deserve the very best of our education system

What must the government do to ensure our children the leaders of tomorrowget a world-class education?

I have always been passionate about education. It was drilled into me by my parents, who always wanted the best for me and my siblings.

Something I realised when I had my first child was the importance and the difference a good education makes, even at the earliest stage of children’s lives.

Children’s early years are the most important time for their development. It’s when they learn to walk, talk, and develop relationships – the foundations for their future.

My sisters received an early education from as young as two, where I only received a proper education from the age of around six, and this significantly affected my learning.

When I became a mother, I researched carefully to find the right nursery for my daughter and made sure that her nursery employed a qualified early years teacher.

Early years teachers are trained to understand children’s development, to help them learn through play, work closely with parents and importantly identify any children who are struggling so that they can provide them with extra support to catch up.

I have seen first-hand the difference this made for my daughter, she thrived at nursery and this set her up for success when she started school.

Tell the government to keep their promise

What’s the problem with early years learning?

Not all nurseries employ an early years teacher. In fact, there are over 280,000 children in England at nursery without one.

Last year, thousands of parents campaigned for change and signed a petition asking the government to make sure all children have access to an early years teacher. Soon after the government promised to start work on making this happen.

After the election in June, the minister responsible for childcare and for making this promise changed and to make sure all this hard work wouldn’t fall away, I went to meet with the new Childcare Minister, Robert Goodwill, to discuss his plans.

Mums meet the Childcare Minister

Me and the other mums were keen to share our stories and positive experiences of the fantastic childcare support our children received. One of the mothers had four children all under the age of 8, she seemed to be ‘supermum’ personified, and had a wealth of knowledge to share.

While our children were lucky enough to benefit from good quality childcare, we wanted to know what the government was doing to make sure all children would have this experience.

I was eager to hear about the minister’s plans and was encouraged by his ability to understand where we, as parents, were coming from. He seemed to understand our concerns and having our own children there really made a difference. He was able to see the difference early education really made to the children.

Caroline Dinenage (Childcare Minster and Conservative MP) meeting with parents and children and Gareth Jenkins (Director of UK Poverty Policy).
Caroline Dinenage (Childcare Minster and Conservative MP) meeting with parents and children and Gareth Jenkins (Director of UK Poverty Policy).

What happened next?

I left the meeting feeling confident and listened to, but since then there have been more changes and for the third time in a year, the Minister has changed and another Childcare Minister has been put in position – Nadhim Zahawi.

A year since the original promise, and two ministers later, it feels like progress has stalled and we have seen no action from the government. It looks like the government is backtracking on the commitment they made to children and their families in the UK.

I want the new minister’s top priority to be ensuring all children get the best start.

Last year when parents spoke, the government listened. Now we need to make sure they deliver on their promise and make sure all children have access to an early years teacher.

What can we do?

Giving children the right start with an education is crucial.

It is the best thing for our economy, society and the legacy of the UK. Every child has the right to the best education and the government should provide this for our children the moment they start learning

I am working with Save the Children to call on the government to ensure that all children can access high-quality childcare, led by an early years teacher.

I have written a letter to the new minister to explain how important this is and I’m asking others to sign it. If the opportunity comes, I look forward to meeting with the government again to explain why this matters.

We have to keep fighting, keep hoping and keep believing children all over England deserve to have the best early years education.

Will you call on Nadhim Zahawi to keep his government’s promise?

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