The Secretary of State for Education made a speech on social mobility at the Resolution Foundation. In it, he made some key announcements in respect of Early Years.

Capital Fund

He unveiled details of a £30 million capital bidding round, part of an investment announced in the government’s social mobility action plan, to invite leading schools to come forward with projects to create new high-quality nursery places, demonstrating innovative approaches to closing the gap for disadvantaged children. This fulfils a government manifesto pledge to help primary schools develop nurseries. 

Professional Development Fund

£20million will be spent on training and professional development for early years staff in disadvantaged areas to increase their ability improve children’s early speech and language development. This work will drive up standards in the pre-school years, so more children arrive at school with the foundations in place to make the most of primary school.  Through the fund we will work with local authorities to establish 100+ early years professional development partnerships in disadvantaged areas.  A national delivery partner will be appointed to deliver high quality training and professional development support to nominated Early Years CPD champions in each of the partnerships.  We expect the procurement of the delivery partner to begin in autumn.

Early Years – Home Learning Environment

In his speech, the Secretary of State said:  ‘It is a persistent scandal that we have children starting school and struggling to communicate, to speak in full sentences. That we have children who have hardly yet opened a book, or had the chance to discover all the worlds books introduce you to.’  Damian Hinds went on to set out his ambition to halve the proportion of children who leave reception without the expected level of communication and literacy skills – from 28% to 14%. He acknowledged that to achieve this it needs to be a society-wide ambition, with businesses, the media, the voluntary sector, and the tech industry all playing their part.

To kick start this, he invited businesses, broadcasters and a broad range of other organisations to be part of this coalition and to attend a summit this autumn to explore innovative ways to boost early language development and reading in the home. DfE will be working with Public Health England and National Literacy Trust on the summit, and the Secretary of State announced that WH Smiths, British Land, KPMG have agreed to be part of this coalition. The BBC, who are already doing great work around the home learning environment, and ITV have also agreed to attend the summit.

The Secretary of State also emphasised the need to find simple solutions for busy parents to help their children’s language and literacy development. He talked about the range of apps out there aimed at helping with children’s early development that parents may not know about or know which are best.  Building on from our work with EEF to identify the best home learning programmes and offering practical advice to parents, he announced a new competition to identify high quality apps, with the aim of making these free and easily to access.

You can read the full speech here