Get started today.

Labour government’s policies for the early years sector 2024

7 min of reading
05 July 2024
Labour Leader Kier Starmer reaching forward to pat the head of a baby held by a woman, in some sort of classroom or nursery setting

With Labour winning the 2024 general election by a ‘landslide’ victory, you’ll be thinking ahead to see what the next four years may look like for your nursery setting and the whole early years sector.  

In this article, we share the current Labour policies and promises for the education and early years sector and have cherry-picked those that will impact you the most.  

In this article:

    A critical time for early years 

    Neil Leitch OBE, CEO of Early Years Alliance (EYA), recently shared their own Early Years Manifesto, highlighting nine recommendations they feel are necessary for the early years sector to emerge from crisis.  

    There is no denying the fact that [the new government] start their tenure at a critical time for the early years, with providers facing significant underfunding and staffing key challenges.

    We are two months away from the next phase of increased funding changes for 2024, which will widen access to working parents with children nine months and above for 15 funded hours. Yet, staffing and underfunding remain unchanged and unmanageable for nurseries.  

    Labour’s policies highlight its mission to tackle unaffordable and unachievable childcare places. The sector hopes these changes will be made with the child’s individual needs at the heart of it all. The push to get women back into the workplace is suggested to generate £28.2 billion for the economy—these plans hinge on access to high-quality childcare.  

    Let’s look at Labour’s promises to the early years sector. It is important to note that these policies were accurate as of 4th July 2024, and plans can change as we have experienced with all previous governments.  

    Labour’s policies for the early years sector 

    The overarching aim of the Labour Party is to break the pernicious link between background and success. Their mission is to move away from success relying on ‘who your parents are and how much money they make’.  

    There are five broad actions for how they plan to break down the barriers to opportunity 

    • Expansion of the childcare and early years system
    • Driving up standards
    • Modernisation of the school curriculum
    • Reform assessment
    • Creation of higher quality training and employment paths

    How does the Labour Party plan to achieve its educational and childcare reforms? In short, in lots of different ways. In this article, we’ll explore those specific to early years settings only.  

    It is recommended that you read through all of Labour’s educational reform suggestions to be aware of what may come into place in primary schools and how it may affect the services you offer in your own setting. Plus, it’s always useful to be informed! 

    Kier Starmer and aide in nursery setting, with child close to camera

    Expansion of available nursery places 

    There is a shortage of available nursery places across England, with the expansion of the latest government funding entitlement for working parents predicting a large number nursery places needed to meet the demand.  

    The Labour Party plans to make space for 100,000 more nursery spaces by utilising unused primary school classrooms (empty due to falling birth rates) and creating 3,334 new nursery provisions in the areas highlighted as ‘childcare deserts’. 

    The EYA’s manifesto recognises the need for additional spaces because of the current crisis many nursery owners face. Between March 2022 and March 2023, over 5,000 early years provisions closed, reducing sector-wide nursery place capacity by 24,500. These closures stem from underfunding and understaffing paired with the unsustainable cost of running the nurseries versus generating a profit.   

    Extended childcare funding plans to be delivered 

    The Labour Party plans to continue the expansion of childcare funding entitlement for working parents. An initiative introduced by the previous Conservative government, the Party is in agreement when prioritising women returning to work with the support of early years provision that is accessible and affordable.  

    The EYA’s CEO, Neil Leitch OBE, notes the importance of keeping quality childcare at the forefront of future decisions. With the EYA’s manifesto suggesting the reversal of the ratio changes implemented in the last 12 months, from the new 1:5 ratio back to the original 1:4.  

    Early years numeracy drive 

    The last Labour government pushed the progression of phonics in the early years. This time around, the focus has transferred to numeracy. Their intention is to ensure that high-quality numeracy provision is championed across all early years providers.  

    Additional funding for early-language interventions

    Although currently suggested for primary schools, the Labour Party is keen to boost early language skills. They aim to utilise evidence-based early language interventions in primary schools, giving all children, especially those from a disadvantaged background, their confidence, creativity, and voice.  

    An Institute for Fiscal Studies report recognised early intervention as being most cost-effective: ‘Beginning earlier is often cheaper than closing the gaps later on.’ It is hoped this funding may also impact early years provisions.  

    Ofsted structure changing from single-word judgements 

    The future of Ofsted inspections will likely change under a Labour government, as their most recent manifesto explains. Moving away from single-word judgements (outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate) to report cards that will share more information about the school’s current position and improvement plans.

    Schools will also receive guidance from school improvement support to ensure high standards 

    Community approach to SEND support 

    The Labour Party’s manifesto highlights the need for support for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), proposing a community-wide approach to effective SEND support. This will include additional educational support for mainstream schools, and ensuring specialist provisions meet the needs of their most complex learners.  

    Although another one aimed at primary schools and beyond, early years settings may be able to benefit from the community-wide approach through your local authority – one to be aware of!  

    Improved recruitment and retention of early years staff 

    In their proposals, the Labour Party has recognised the limited uptake in apprenticeships across all sectors, including childcare. Clear strategy plans must be drawn up to improve the recruitment and retention of staff.

    Labour plans to increase the number of teachers in England by 6,500, focusing on subjects experiencing subject specialist shortages (like Physics). There is no further information available if this will extend into the early years—we can but hope! 

    The EYA’s manifesto supports recruitment strategies, highlighting the pay gap for early years professionals in comparison to other teaching roles in primary schools and the like.

    It suggests the need for clear and adequate pay scales for nursery staff, alongside a financial rescue package for early years settings to attempt to overcome the underfunding in the short term.  

    Labour’s policies champion the focus that children and young people will get access to the opportunities they deserve.

    The early years sector is a vital cog in the success of the Labour Party’s plans, investment and appreciation for the skilled service offered by nurseries and other early years providers are essential to achieving these goals.  

    Blossom has heaps of fantastic content just like this all across our blog. Want to read more? Sign up to our monthly newsletter to get it sent straight to your inbox!

    Sign up to our newsletter for more great content insights like this!

    Header Photo courtesy of the Labour Party June 2024, some rights reserved.

    Inline Photo courtesy of the Labour Party June 2024, some rights reserved.

    The Labour Party is in no way affiliated with Blossom and use of these photos is non-commercial in accordance with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

    a 30min session
    no strings attached