Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Early years is the most crucial phase of education. If children fall behind at this stage it can prove difficult, often impossible, for them to catch up later, even with additional help. It is therefore obvious that the most cost effective way to improve educational outcomes for all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, is by investing in early years education.
“But we know that it is not just any early years experience that matters. Early years provision needs to be of high quality, led by qualified early years professionals, to have a positive and lasting impact on children’s outcomes. Children at settings without an early years teacher could be missing out, and may struggle when they start school.
“We want to see extra money for education, including early education before children start school, and renewed investment in critical services for families. Without proper investment, the youngest and most vulnerable in our society will be starting off behind, with uncertain chances of catching up.”
Judy Shaw, Headteacher of Tuel Lane Infant School and the chair of NAHT’s Early Years Council said: “The wealth of evidence is clear that early years education is the critical point for intervention to improve the life chances of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and that the quality of provision makes all the difference in whether that intervention is successful.
“Competition between qualified teachers, graduates and good practitioners to work in the early years sector should be fierce. It should be an attractive career offering good professional development and remuneration. That is certainly not the situation we find ourselves in at the moment.
“Recruitment and retention of well qualified early years staff is becoming harder and harder. High quality early years education makes a difference and changes lives. It can narrow the gaps between groups of pupils that we speak about so often. It can raise expectations and aspirations in families and communities and have a long lasting impact on life chances.”
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