Recently, a joint inquiry by the House of Commons Education select committee and the Work and Pensions select committee into "Foundation years and the UK’s Government’s life chances strategy" heard from a panel of experts and providers. Witnesses included Professor Michael Thomas, Director of the Centre for Educational Neuroscience, and representatives of children’s charities, including several that run children’s centres.
Professor Thomas highlighted the impact of deprivation and the home environment on the development of children’s brains in the early years, saying that evidence supports targeting resources at the less well off before they begin their formal education.
Throughout the session there was an emphasis on the importance of developing a strong workforce of early years teachers to ensure high quality provision is available – the government is expected to say more on this in its forthcoming early years workforce strategy. The challenge of providing places accessible to disadvantaged pupils, especially in rural areas, was also raised.
Engaging with families was also a key theme, with representatives of Barnardos, 4 Children, and Action for Children sharing their charities’ experiences of using their children’s centres to support parents and develop parenting skills. The government’s life chances strategy was identified as an opportunity to bring together services including early years education, assistance with work and benefits, health, and social care.