With every step forward, we take two steps back

LFoSS volunteer Aisha Afzali reports: On the 12th of July 2016 Parliament held a debate concerning ‘Early Years Development and School Readiness’. It was interesting to witness various perceptions and ideas on the matter. Whilst this matter is quite complex to summarise I would personally split this debate into three parts; initiatives, outcomes and reflections.

What is clear from this debate is that there have been different levels of initiatives that have been implemented for the improvements in child care development, however none of these initiatives or policies have any direction or focus. The government is not effectively executing its policies, despite having a certain percentage of their budget dedicated to this issue. In matter of fact, no effective or significant progress is being made. The EU referendum has definitely had a negative impact in the process of these actions. It is somewhat prolonging the execution of policies and is making it sound like an insignificant matter.

Margaret Ritchie points out that families that have children with special needs are finding it difficult to situate their children at a suitable nursery. Unfortunately, certain issues have not been addressed but rather what is happening by the looks of it is that the government is just throwing money at the issue without any sense of direction or effective strategy.

Sam Gyimah, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, is confident that the newly implemented policies (i.e. the 30 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds or the 2013 “Big Hopes, Big Futures’ programme) will prove effective. However, a majority of the house was not convinced of his word, and rather questioned the dedication and the effectiveness of such decisions. What is clearly lacking is a sense of direction, especially since David Cameron speech on ‘Life Chances’. For most part Mr Gyimah attempted to dodge and sideline many of the question asked by the respected politicians. Yet MPs continued to bombard him with questions. The government continues to leave the matter unsettled, especially since the Brexit.

Statistically speaking, the outcomes of different research methods show that there is a strong correlation between child development and the area they are situated in. Good health and wellbeing is essential for a normal and healthy development of a child… but how is this possible when there is a lack of perception and initiative on the matter?

In this debate there was a clear sense of frustration, alongside a emphasis on the deteriorating situation. It is truly astonishing that one in three children begin primary school without meeting the Government’s recommended level for early development. It is well understood that for many children English is not their first language so then how can they expand their vocabulary when their parents cannot properly support them. This debate clearly demonstrates that there are several variables that are hindering positive results.

To reflect on the work that has been done many politicians acknowledged the discrepancies over the years. The whole reason why this issue was debated was because of the lack of progress being made. Welcoming new policies cannot guarantee the creation of a stable, secure and friendly atmosphere for these children.

On the bright side there were many references to SureStart by Sarah Champion MP and Angela Rayner MP; praising the programme’s effective support to parents and children struggling to cope. SureStart is certainly viewed as a trusted and purposeful initiative and Angela Rayner expressed that “Sure Start is one of Labour’s greatest legacies”.

My concluding thoughts are that there is a sense of frustration and anger coming from MPs who feel that there is a halt in the amount of progress being made. Whilst they are offered reassurance nobody really sounds convinced on the whole situation. New issues are being brought up whilst old issues are being sidelined. By the looks of it, with every step taken to improving child development we are taking two steps back in tackling the roots of the issue.

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