The first ICMEC seminar in this new series took place on Monday 24 October 2011 at the Docklands Campus
Ann Gross, Director of the Early Years and Special Needs Group at the Department for Education set out the Coalition Government's vision on services and support for Families in the Foundation Years and for a revised regulatory system for early childhood education and care in England. Ann is a career civil servant with over 25 years experience, first in the Department of Health and then in DfE. Ann has worked on a wide range of children's issues, as well as social care and community health policies. Her posts have included policy on health and social care for disabled adults in DH where she led work on the Valuing People White Paper. In DfE, Ann has worked on special educational needs and disability, Early Years and childcare, where she was actively involved in setting up Sure Start Children's Centres and extended services, children's social care and local authority performance on children's services.
In her presentation, Ann Gross provided the background and context to the Coalition Government's early childhood policy statement Families in the Foundation Years, reflecting its pertinent vision, which was published last July. She also outlined how the Government has renewed its focus on families as the bedrock of society and re-emphasised the need for effective and evidence-based early intervention. She set out the principles and priorities underpinning the policy statement and the Government's plans for further reform. The plans concerning regulation and funding are due to be consulted on in autumn 2011.
To read the PowerPoint presentation used by Ann Gross follow this link: ICMEC presentation Ann Gross DFE 24 October 2011.
Helen Penn reported on her compilation of an extensive report for the European Union, mapping the regulatory frameworks and financing of early childhood systems and the role played by private sector providers in 21 EU members states. Fifteen of these countries were selected for an in-depth analysis complementing the broad mapping. The study was undertaken as part of a wider study focused on equity in EU social welfare services and the role of the private sector in their delivery. Apart from childcare, the other areas covered were elder care, social housing and unemployment benefits. This study highlighted the contrast between the UK in this area and many of its European neighbours.
Helen Penn is Professor of Early Childhood at UEL and Co-director with Eva Lloyd of the International Centre for the Study of the Mixed Economy of Childcare (ICMEC). She has had a varied background working as an infant teacher, as a daycare campaigner, and as the UK's first director of integrated children's services in Strathclyde in Scotland. Her research was initially concerned with UK policy and practice in early years. Helen still undertakes some local policy work, but has become especially interested in comparative policy work. Helen undertakes consultancies for a number of international agencies on evaluating and costing systems of early education and care. Recently Helen was rapporteur for the OECD study on early education and care in Canada and produced several major reports for the EU Commission.
To read the full paper on which Helen Penn's PowerPoint presentation at the seminar was based, follow this link: Helen Penn paper for ICMEC seminar 24 October 2011.
In the lively discussion that followed the presentations, the audience of childcare business leaders, local authority early years managers, national and international academics, journalists, national NGO and union officers questioned various aspect of the Government's proposals for change and highlighted possible risks to the quality of early years provision.