Commenting on the Labour Party's commitment to invest in early years education, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
The fight against disadvantage begins in the early years, and Labour’s policies recognise this.
The closure of Sure Start centres under Coalition and Conservative governments was deeply damaging. Rebuilding the Sure Start programme is essential. A recent survey of NEU members showed strong support for such a move.
Free and universal provision of 30 hours of nursery education from age 2 upwards is an essential social investment. It will lift a financial burden from parents. Juggling the demands of employment and childcare will become that much easier.
Labour is right to recognise that expansion is an issue of quality as well as quantity. Making 3+ education graduate-led , is a bold, ambitious and necessary policy. Increasing staff numbers, introducing national pay scales and raising levels of staff qualification are vital to creating a system which is truly expert and inclusive. Addressing issues of inclusion by training Special Needs Co-ordinators will likewise do much to tackle issues of early intervention and support.
Expansion and quality improvement can best be achieved in a context where the public sector plays a leading role. It is essential that the next government recognises and gives full support to our world-leading local authority maintained nurseries, which have suffered greatly from government cuts, and continue to face an uncertain future.