Manifesto 2019:Rebuild our Public Services - National Education Service - Early Years

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Early Years

Early years education is vital to children’s development. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds start falling behind their peers before they even start school. Early years education also helps parents – usually mothers – by providing a bridge between maternity/parental leave and school.

But the current system falls far short of what is needed. One thousand Sure Start centres have closed since 2010, while the Tories’ so-called free childcare offer is desperately underfunded and excludes many of the most disadvantaged children.

We will reverse cuts to Sure Start and create a new service, Sure Start Plus, with enough centres to provide a genuinely universal service, available in all communities, focused on the under-2s.

Labour will radically reform early years provision, with a two-term vision to make high-quality early years education available for every child. We will also extend paid maternity leave to 12 months.

Within five years, all 2, 3 and 4-year- olds will be entitled to 30 hours of free preschool education per week and access to additional hours at affordable, subsidised rates staggered with incomes. Labour will also work to extend childcare provision for 1-year-olds and to ensure that childcare provision accommodates the working patterns of all parents.

We will improve child development by transitioning to a qualified, graduate- led workforce. We value the experience of current early years workers, and will offer free training to the workforce to attain these qualifications on the job.

Achieving this vision will require significant investment. We will increase funding and end the fragmentation of the current system by funding providers directly, making things simpler and more sustainable for both parents and providers.

We will recruit nearly 150,000 additional early years staff, including Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators, and introduce a national pay scale, driving up pay for the overwhelmingly female workforce.

Maintained nursery schools provide a proven, high-quality service but they are under threat from Tory cuts. We will provide sustainable, long-term funding to secure their future.