Early Years Sector Update and the Response to COVID-19
- Meeting of This meeting has been re-scheduled from 2 September 2020., Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee, Wednesday, 9th September, 2020 10.00 am (Item 34.)
Report of the Director of Education
This report provides an update on how the Early Years sector has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, the report gives an update on the key activities that have taken place to support the Early Years sector and plans to support providers moving forward in the Autumn term.
The Committee received a report of the Director of Education which provided an update on how the Early Years sector had responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and gave an update on the key activities that had taken place to support the Early Years sector and plans to support providers moving forward in the Autumn term. The report also stated that education about the environment started in Early Years and a high quality Early Years sector supported this agenda. In addition, the buildings review of the Tendered Day Care Sites would enable the sites to have greater energy rating efficiency.
Officersreferred to the main points and themes within the presentation which included:
· Response and financial support to the Early Years sector during COVID-19;
· Quality assurance support for the Early Years sector during the COVID-19
· Changes to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework;
· Review of day care provision in Sure Start Children’s centres; and
· Next steps.
Some of the key points and themes that arose from the Committee’s discussions were:
· That the support the Council had provided to Early Years providers had been excellent;
· Concerns about the financial position of Early Years providers, particularly loss of income from private fee-paying families, as the funding commitment from the Government did not include this;
· That parents were concerned about sending their children back to Early Years settings due to COVID-19; and
· Reforms to the EYFS Framework.
The Senior School Quality Assurance Officer advised that his team was regularly engaging with and offering support to the Early Years sector regarding the financial challenges they were facing during the pandemic. He reported that a significant majority of Early Years settings across the city had re-opened but acknowledged that there were concerns about a loss of income from private fee-paying families and reported that his service would continue to offer support and advice to providers. He advised Members that work was taking place with the Quality Assurance Team, Outreach Workers, the Communications Team and Early Years providers to communicate to parents that measures had been taken to make settings safe for their children to return to. He informed the Committee that it was hoped that attendance would continue to increase and that attendance figures would be monitored over the next month.
The Executive Member for Children and Schools thanked staff in the Early Years sector across the city, noting that some settings had been open through the lockdown period. The Chair echoed these thanks.
The Head of School Quality Assurance and Strategic SEND advised that, due to the Early Years reforms, the baseline of children’s levels at the end of the EYFS would no longer be available as a basis for measuring progress through primary school. She also highlighted the focus on reading comprehension in the new Framework, informing the Committee that increasing numbers of children in Manchester’s Early Years settings had English as an Additional Language (EAL) and that these children usually made more progress in this area further on in primary school; however, the progress made later on would be difficult to show without the baseline data. She advised Members that previous work to improve reading levels, such as the Every Child A Reader initiative, had been very successful, with work which had taken place 10 or 11 years ago being reflected in improved attainment at high school for that cohort of children. She reported that, prior to the pandemic, it had been noticed that this approach had become diluted, that work had been started to re-focus on improving reading and comprehension at an early age and that this work would continue. She reported that there was no clear picture yet of how school readiness would be assessed under the Early Years reforms. The Chair and the Executive Member for Children and Schools both expressed their concern about the Early Years reforms.
To note the report and to continue to monitor the Early Years reforms.