We would like your feedback on the Council’s new Early Years Strategy. This sets out the Council’s vision, priorities and principles that underpin all the services it provides for young children and their families. It also outlines how it will protect those services into the future.
The strategy has been developed following engagement with parents, carers and professionals.
The new strategy includes proposed changes to how we deliver children’s centre services across the borough. Please tell us what you think about the proposals and how you think they’ll affect you and your families.
Please read the information about our proposals and provide feedback by 16 November 2021.
Background and context
Happy, healthy and ready to learn. Those are Hackney Council’s ambitions for every child in our borough, whatever their background or start in life, as they grow and learn from birth to five years.
Early education, childcare, play opportunities and support for families is at the core of what we offer during this critical time of development and foundation in a child’s life, which we call the ‘early years’. We are proud that 94% of our Early Years settings and childminders are judged good or better by Ofsted; that 77% of reception pupils in Hackney schools are achieving a good level of development by the end of their first school year; and that our services that support children, young people and families were recognised by Ofsted as being ‘well-developed and effective’.
In order to build on these successes and so we can continue to improve outcomes for our children, we have developed a new Early Years Strategy. This sets out our vision, priorities and principles that underpin all the work we do and all the services we provide for young children and their families.
Over the past two years, we’ve listened to hundreds of residents – parents, carers, those who would like to become mothers and fathers in the future, as well as other professionals who work with families – to ensure this strategy reflects what is most important to them.
They told us the services we provide are invaluable to them; and they are positive about the support they receive from us. Parents with younger children said nurseries, ‘stay and play’ and music activities are what they care about most; and parents with older children and young people said they really value being able to access a range of different opportunities that work for them. Our Early Years Strategy protects those services into the future.
We also know that families appreciated some of the digital resources we developed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we will be looking at how we can cater for more of Hackney’s communities in an increasingly digital world. The Council is committed to Rebuilding a Better Hackney out of the pandemic. That includes better supporting our communities who need extra help. That’s why our new strategy focuses on ensuring we provide more holistic help to families by working more closely with partner organisations, including health teams; and reviewing the services we deliver to children and families on the ground.
At the same time, this is also an opportunity to ensure our services, such as children’s centres, remain fit and sustainable into the future, both operationally and financially. A children’s centre is a place where local families with young children can go to enjoy facilities, and receive the support that they need, including free parenting support. Eleven of these offer childcare places, subsidised by us. All of our children’s centres have been judged good or outstanding by Ofsted; and 97% of people we talked to were positive about the centres they used.
We want to use this strategy to build on that accomplishment. However, the strategy is also a means to address some of the challenges ahead of us. The Council must make many millions of pounds of savings in order to meet our severe budget deficit – a legacy of more than a decade of sustained core Government cuts combined with the more recent, extreme, financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Early Years Service has a £1 million savings target for 2022/23.
We have 20 children’s centres across the borough. There is currently a 23% childcare vacancy rate across the borough, which reflects a London-wide trend of falling reception class rolls. This means some children’s centres are no longer viable in the current financial climate. We now must ensure that we are doing the best we can, with the resources available, and continue to support Hackney’s children to achieve the best possible start in life.