A 'Transformation Fund' helping islanders to study degrees in the early years sector should be set up as part of a drive to increase the quality of pre-school education, an advisory board has told Government.
The Early Years Policy Development Board - a panel of politicians previously Chaired by former Education Minister Senator Tracey Vallois - made the recommendations in a new evidence-based report, presenting their ideas and ambitions for the future of early years provision in Jersey.
It it, the board notes that “there are few graduates” in the private nursery sector, and that pay conditions for childcare workers in the private sector "contrast starkly" with Government-funded schools. To address this, they argue, would "promot[e] professionalism" in the early years sector.
They board also says it learned from an engagement day held with those working in the sector in 2019 that recruitment issues can go on to negatively impact children, and that the current system is "defined by inequality", partly due to inconsistent quality of provision across different locations.
The report therefore suggests creating a 'Transformation Fund' so that islanders can study degrees in the early years sector.
Pictured: The board wants to set up reviews which monitor children's early years across services.
They also suggest creating a registry of early years professionals.
"Through the validation of the professional and educational achievements of early years professionals, a registry would help raise the status of the profession by promoting a well-trained, educated, supported and fairly compensated workforce," the report argues.
Other proposals include setting up a 'Best Start' programme for children and families. They say that community-based hubs should be set up alongside this enabling parents and children to access support from a range of agencies. A 'Partnership Officer' with a salary of around £65,000 would be needed to help set this up, according to the report.
In addition, the Board suggested a 'Best Start Plus' offer to ensure that two to three-year-olds go to nursery and get an education, in the absence of any Government education facilities at this age. They estimate this would cost £1.9m to £2.4m each year.
The report says the board was also "particularly interested in universally improving the financial support made available to parents in the first years of a child’s life", adding: "Further policy consideration should be given to extending financial support to parents who want to rear their child at home during the first year of the child’s life."
Another key proposal was the creation for an 'integrated progress review' for pre-school children in Jersey. This would involve creating a report on each child covering everything from their health to educational progress. The report does not detail how this plan will be developed, however.
Responding to the report, the Government said that some recommendations were already being implemented. This month, the 30 hours' free education entitlement for three and four-year-olds was extended, including an increase in hourly rate of the Nursery Education Fund.
It said that the rest of the ambitions would be considered alongside its wider Education Reform Programme, which was kickstarted by Senator Vallois at the start of her term.
"The policy proposals reflect our ambition to provide all children with accessible, affordable, high-quality and enjoyable education and care provision within our community. The advice from the Board provides a good foundation for this important topic and will help to inform further policy development work," Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré said.
Education Minister Deputy Scott Wickenden added: "It is vital to tackle development gaps at the earliest opportunity, particularly the key early language and literacy skills, so that all children can begin school ready to thrive and succeed. At the heart of these proposals is the importance of children’s development and wellbeing while facilitating an acceptable work-life balance for families, recognising the valuable role of childrearing and meeting their parents’ childcare needs.”
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