Commenting on the speech by Nadhim Zahawi, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

"The Education Secretary has a great opportunity to improve the life chances of children and young people as we move through the pandemic. He will need to address the historical problems of school and college underfunding and child poverty as well as those issues that have arisen since the pandemic.

"Nadhim Zahawi is right that early years, the curriculum, and teacher recruitment are vitally important if children and young people are to get the education they deserve.

"Teachers see the impact of a system where 40 per cent of educational inequality is set by the time children are five. Levelling up must mean addressing social deprivation for young children and their families as well as ensuring a fully funded early years sector that provides every child access to good quality early years education.

"If the government fails to save high quality nursery education, it will irrevocably harm the educational outcomes and life chances of millions of children across the country. 

"None of this can be done on the cheap nor should this be done without consultation with the profession".