In ‘The Big Ask’, the largest-ever survey of children, I heard from children about how critical and important families were to their lives. That is why I was pleased to begin work earlier this year on the Independent Family Review, which was commissioned by Government to understand more about family life across the UK. I went out across the country and spoke to communities, families, parents and children from all areas, backgrounds, and income groups to find out what family meant to them. It was an honour to hear from all these families and at the end of the summer I published ‘Family and its protective effect: Part 1 of the Independent Family Review’.
One of the clear things that came out of this comprehensive research-led Review was how important childcare was to families. They told me they wanted high-quality and affordable childcare which suited their needs. The Family Review showed that families, where they could, firstly chose to draw on support from their own family and friends. When family networks were not available, they wanted childcare which had a familial feeling, which was trusted, reliable and affordable. The Family Review also showed that we need to understand more about childcare and that families wanted solutions to some of the challenges they were facing.
That is why I have conducted unique research in this Report. I outline the opportunities, challenges, and solutions to providing childcare and early education. I have looked at the share of local authorities that are meeting the statutory guidance that they should provide up to date and comprehensive information about local childcare to families through the Family Information Service. I found that for 27% of local authorities it was difficult to find a local childminder on their Family Information Service and for 60% of local authorities, the childcare directory didn’t contain all of the information recommended in the statutory guidance. And I have conducted new analysis, linking data between the School Census and the Early Year Census, to look at take-up of the universal childcare offer. What I found is take up is varied across the country by local authority, ethnicity, English as an additional language and Special Education Need Status.
By shining a light on what families want from childcare and outlining some of the challenges and proposed solutions to these I am confident that we can deliver change for these families. I am optimistic that we can implement solutions to provide childcare and early education that is trusted, affordable, accessible, and nurturing for families. Some of the solutions I have proposed are ones that I myself have implemented first-hand and seen the positive results of when I was running schools as a headteacher. Now is the moment that we can rollout these solutions further to benefit more children and more families.
By providing high-quality, affordable, and accessible childcare and early education I believe that we are laying the foundation for children’s future happiness, health, and educational achievements. We are also giving parents and families across the country the support they want, need, and deserve.