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Labour promise of free breakfasts ‘first step on the road to rebuilding childcare’ | Early years education

Shadow Education Minister Bridget Phillipson said Labor will rebuild a new childcare system to ease pressure on parents from “the end of parental leave to the end of primary school,” beginning with a pledge to introduce free breakfast clubs.

Phillipson will announce on Wednesday that the fully funded breakfast clubs for every primary school in England will be funded from revenue collected by returning the highest income tax rate to 45 pence, if Labor is elected.

But in an interview with The Guardian, Phillipson said breakfast clubs are only the “first step on the way” in what will be a comprehensive offer of childcare ahead of the next election, and that childcare will be one of the issues on the party’s pledge card.

There is a new understanding of how underinvestment in child care stunts growth, as well as how it will benefit a child’s development and parents’ careers and well-being, Phillipson said.

“The cost of living crisis in particular has exposed the really difficult choices that parents face at the moment. It’s usually women, unfortunately, who end up giving up work because the childcare they need is not available, and that has to change.”

Phillipson said showing the party by election time would mean “to think very differently about childcare…it’s a really important part of the support we give families and how to grow the economy. This is the first step toward the modern childcare system that we need to see.”

Speaking after spending the morning with children at Holy Cross Primary School in central Liverpool, Phillipson said breakfast clubs could be introduced “quickly and straightforwardly” but that parents either had to pay to get to them or were supported by school budgets, which were shrinking.

New data from the Labor Organization shows that at least 800,000 children do not have access to health services early in the morning – a fifth of school children in England – and those who often face barriers due to costs or restrictions on the numbers able to access breakfast clubs .

The shadow education minister said Labor’s childcare package will include a plan to support those who work in childcare. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty

There are still significant gaps in childcare provision in the early years, Phillipson said, with parents only able to access very limited taxpayer support before children reach age 2. The cost-of-living crisis has exacerbated that problem, Phillipson said. “In the last year we’ve seen a huge drop in the number of women going back to work after having their first child,” she said.

“This is a personal tragedy for those women who desperately want to get back to work, but that means, as an economy, we’re losing brilliant and talented people. And that comes at an economic cost as well.”

“You can’t grow your economy unless you invest and have the right support around childcare.”

Phillipson, who has been the shadow education secretary since November last year, will face two major challenges over the coming months in her briefing – Liz Truss’ push to increase child-to-staff ratios in early years childcare and moves by tacitly backed No. 10 Conservatives, to allow Opening new grammar schools.

She said Labor would oppose both measures, saying that changing the ratios “will lower quality, not lower costs for parents, which is not what parents want.”

She said Labor’s childcare package over the next year will include a plan for the workforce in the sector. “Those who work in our childcare settings often do not receive adequate support, do not have access to professional development and are among the lowest paid workers in our community,” she said. “But they do the most important jobs in terms of giving our children the best possible start in life.

“Teachers cannot do their job without the amazing school support team who provide this and they will be a huge part of making sure we can offer these breakfast clubs in every school.”

Over the next year, Phillipson will focus on honing Labor’s plan for primary and secondary schools including a more rounded curriculum, which Phillipson previously talked about when developing the party’s post-Covid strategy.

“The syllabus in particular has become very narrow. We have seen the music, sports and drama completely fade away. This means that especially for children whose parents cannot afford clubs and extra activities, they do not have access to those enriching activities that are part of what makes childhood a time Great for kids, but also absolutely essential in terms of kids development.”

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