Economic prosperity and equality of opportunity are worthy goals which can only be achieved if we invest in our people. We cannot afford to waste talent nor can we afford to have unfulfilled potential. To develop talent and to fulfil potential we need excellence in education and this must begin in earnest in those crucial early years. All the research shows that education in the early years has the greatest impact yet paradoxically the Government spend on education increases with the age of the child, culminating in a maximum spend on Higher Education. There is a never to be repeated window of opportunity and by the time a child is seven years old the opportunity has passed and indeed every pound spent in those early years saves twenty in later years.
The Government is to be congratulated on its plan to introduce 30 hours of free childcare but this will all count for nothing if our nursery schools and nurseries are not adequately staffed with qualified nursery teachers and appropriately qualified childcare assistants. The current recruitment policy that pays no regard to evidenced functional skills is really unhelpful and is leading to a crisis in staffing levels. We are seeing the ridiculous situation where an accomplished English speaking, mathematics graduate with an interest in Early Years is prevented from working within the sector because he does not have a GCSE in English. The current entry requirement also discriminates against mature staff who do not have GSCE Maths and English but have other equivalent qualifications together with considerable relevant experience. The Government must act now to introduce more flexibility and to prevent a difficult situation reaching crisis levels.