Under-fives in the capital who miss out on nursery during the Covid-19 pandemic are at risk of falling behind unless work is done to ensure they can bridge the gap in their education, a new report by London Councils warns.
London boroughs are concerned about the damaging impact that missing out on early years education could have on children’s personal, social and emotional development and wellbeing.
London Councils’ report describes how early years providers such as nursery schools and childminders accelerate learning for infants and give them experience of independence and social interaction, ensuring they are on track to start primary school.
This is especially important for children from more disadvantaged backgrounds, who are more likely to start school without key early learning skills.
There is a further worry – early years providers have been affected by Covid-19 too, experiencing lower attendance and income which have put their businesses in jeopardy.
London Councils’ report found that in 20 London boroughs, many providers are concerned for the future of their business, particularly smaller providers serving more disadvantaged communities.
London Councils is determined to work with Government and providers to ensure young Londoners continue to receive the best possible start – an early years education that boosts their development, ensures they realise their full potential at school and improves their life chances overall.
The umbrella group has created a Five Point Plan with recommended actions for national and local government:
1. Central government to ensure there is sufficient interim funding to protect the sector from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic
2. Central government to devolve unspent allowances for disadvantaged 2 year olds to local authorities to increase take up
3. Central government to allocate unspent allowances for tax-free childcare to local authorities to support local early years provision and home learning
4. Central government to guarantee long term funding for Maintained Nursery Schools
5. London local government to promote the benefits of early years education to families
Cllr Elizabeth Campbell, London Councils’ Executive member for Schools and Children’s Services, said:
“London’s children are facing massive disruption to their early education because of the Covid-19 pandemic. If we do not act now, this could have serious consequences when they start primary school and beyond, especially for children from more deprived communities. Nobody wants to see children not being ‘school ready’ and failing to catch-up as they get older.
“London Councils’ new report outlines a five point plan for local and national government that will reduce the impact of the turbulence of the past year on these children.
“We have recommended protecting existing nursery budgets by using last year’s headcount figures, as well as announcing long-term funding plans for maintained nursery schools to give them future certainty.
“Devolving unspent allowances to local government would also ensure money already committed to early years is not lost when it is most needed. We propose investing this funding in local initiatives to reach out to families with young children and improve attendance, as well as further supporting childcare and nursery providers at this challenging time.”