WE WELCOME the Child Commissioner calling for a new early years guarantee and that expert’s voices are being heard.

With 45 per cent of five-year olds on free school meals not at the expected level of development by the time they start school, it’s essential to see reforms that give all children access to the education and development opportunities they deserve. But this must be a substantive approach which, at present, it is not.

The current scheme doesn’t work because of inadequate funding.

Many nurseries have to opt out of the free childcare scheme because they simply can’t afford it.

Providers get as little as £3.98 per hour per child – much less than it costs the provider per child.

This overwhelmingly affects children in disadvantaged areas, as nurseries are forced into the devastating choice between making a loss and caring for those children who need it most.

The commissioner joins the chorus of voices appealing to the Government for emergency support packages. 80% of Montessori nurseries are at risk of closure following Covid-19.

This is sadly part of a greater national picture where, despite being linchpins to economic recovery and enabling working parents to get back to work, a third of nurseries in the most disadvantaged areas may be forced to permanently close.

Once again, hitting those at the fringes of society hardest.

The Government needs to act fast to put children at the heart of recovery and save our early years sector.

Leonor Stjepic

CEO of the Montessori Group UK