New Minister for Schools and Childhood must give early years and schools equal priority

Kelly Tolhurst, MP for Rochester and Strood, has been appointed Minister for Schools and Childhood at the Department for Education with the early years brief.

She will be responsible for a child’s learning from early years all the way through their school years.

Kelly who was elected in 2015 has previously been Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

She takes over the Childcare brief from the previous Children and Families Minister Brendan Clarke-Smith and Will Quince before him.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: “We welcome the newly appointed Minister for Schools and Childhood, Kelly Tolhurst, to the early years brief.

“We have a meeting set up with her in which we will be discussing urgent issues facing the early years sector.

“We know that high quality early education and care plays an important role in children’s long term educational outcomes and life chances; it also supports parental employment. Therefore, it’s good to see that early years education is being joined with school education at ministerial level. Early years must be given equal priority to schools.

“The Minister has her own experience of running a business so I hope that would help her to understand the pressures on childcare providers who are trying to remain sustainable in very difficult circumstances. We have more children than ever before needing additional support, energy bills and other costs are skyrocketing and a workforce crisis with nurseries struggling to fill vacancies.

“Our early years sector is a cornerstone of the economy. Without nurseries, millions of parents would not be able to work or train and children would miss out on high quality learning opportunities at a crucial stage of their development. Working parents could add over £10 billion to our economy if we address the failures of the current childcare policy.

“But if they cannot remain sustainable, we expect to see more and more nursery closures, meaning fewer places especially in areas of deprivation where children gain the most from early education.

“The new Minister and her team must take control of this situation and put measures in place to reverse this downward spiral. The first five years count when it comes to our children and government policy and investment needs to reflect this.”

The new Minister’s brief includes:

  • early years and childcare
  • disadvantaged and vulnerable children
  • families, including family hubs and early childhood support
  • special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), including high needs funding
  • alternative provision
  • school food, including free school meals
  • children and young people’s mental health, online safety and preventing bullying in schools
  • England
  • Childhood
  • DfE
  • early years
  • Kelly Tolhurst

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