Critical importance of the early years for children and the vital role of early years workforce must be recognised.

Two new campaigns have recently been launched in England. First, the Early Years Alliance launched its campaign – #WeAreEducators – to recognise those working in the early years as educators. Secondly, the National Day Nursery Association is promoting its #FirstFiveYearsCount campaign to highlight how valuable the sector is to families, employers and the economy, as well as to the future of young children.

#WeAreEducators campaign

The #WeAreEducators campaign aims to highlight that those working in the early years and childcare play a key role in educating children, helping to give them the best start in life. It calls for those working in childcare settings to be recognised and valued as education professionals.

Launching the campaign, Neil Leitch, Chief Executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “For far too long, hardworking, talented and knowledgeable early years professionals have been treated as “babysitters” by policymakers, rather than valued as the educators that they are. Anyone who has ever worked in our sector knows that play is learning and that the early years is education. It is our hope that through this campaign, parents, local communities and – crucially – policymakers will come to understand this too.”

we are educators

You can find out more about the campaign here.

#FirstFiveYearsCount campaign

The First Five Years Count campaign will run for a year, promoting the work that goes on across early years settings to support children’s early development. It is hoped that the campaign will promote the sector as a rewarding career choice, and increase parental understanding of the learning and development that their children benefit from.

Launching the campaign, Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, said “Our practitioners instil wonder, curiosity and a lifelong desire to learn which is so important for all children to thrive and reach their full potential. They offer them learning opportunities which open up a world of possibilities. This is a campaign to promote the sector, by the sector. We really hope it will hit home and influence families, policy makers and anyone considering a career in early years. This is the most important time for our youngest children, and shaping their lives is the best job in the world.”

first five years count

You can find out more about the campaign here.

Early education and childcare critical to giving children the best start in life

Research is clear on the importance of the first 1,000 days in a child’s life, and early investment in early education and childcare has been shown to deliver long-term benefits for society. Professor James Heckman’s analysis shows that skills developed through quality early childhood education last for a lifetime. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has also reported that children who attend high-quality early education and childcare settings are likely to earn more across their lifetime than those who do not.

This is a critical sector, that is staffed by skilled, experienced, dedicated and highly professional people. And yet, it is a sector that is dominated by low pay, lack of investment from Government and challenges to its sustainability. Many working in the sector have expressed that they can feel undervalued, unappreciated and in a struggle for sustainability.

There is an opportunity for a new Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland to ensure that the early education and childcare sector here is properly valued for the vital role it plays. That means investing in it to support the delivery of high quality services and ensure its sustainability. It also means ensuring that those working in the sector can benefit from pay, terms and conditions that are commensurate with the vital work they do.

These campaigns from the National Day Nursery Association and Early Years Alliance can provide important learning to inform work on the development of the new Childcare Strategy for Northern Ireland. But that learning must translate into action. We’re calling for a timeline to be set out for the publication of a new Childcare Strategy, and for the new Strategy to include clear recognition and promotion of the sector, and those who work in it.