Giving evidence at today’s Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill Committee, the chief executive of leading early years charity, National Day Nurseries Association, said the welfare of children goes hand in hand with the drive to more two-year-old places.
Purnima Tanuku OBE, was invited to represent the early years sector giving evidence on the bill which includes a move to allow schools to open for two-year-olds without having to be registered with Ofsted as early years providers.
Ms Tanuku, who has also given evidence to the Childcare Payments Bill Committee this week on Tax Free Childcare, said there were strong objections to proposals which would mean light touch oversight of schools providing two-year-old places.
She argued the bill will mean childcare and early education in schools for two-year-olds is not subjected to the specific early years registration inspection process. This provision, which will include the most disadvantaged children, could be established and operate without the quality assurance of expert early years scrutiny by Ofsted. She stressed that very young children have specific needs which early years staff are trained to deliver. It cannot be assumed a school performing well in primary education will provide good or outstanding care and education for very young children.
Ms Tanuku told the committee that if schools willing to offer two-year-old places find testing themselves against registration and inspection requirements specific to those children’s needs too much of a burden then they should not take on the responsibility of providing those places.
Deregulation for schools will also tilt the already unlevel playing field further away from private and voluntary nurseries as well as childminders. Schools providing childcare do not have to shoulder the heavy overheads such as Business Rates and VAT, other small providers face.
There is however, one aspect of the Bill Ms Tanuku welcomed and that was the proposal to introduce a Small Business Appeals Champion, described as a Reviewer. As there is currently no independent body involved in the Ofsted appeals process incorrect decisions can only be overturned by Ofsted itself. NDNA would like to see the Reviewer’s powers go further than just reviewing the complaints and appeals processes of regulators to scrutinising and overturning flawed regulatory decisions.