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Under 5 the magazine of the early years alliance


October 2019

of Play e l d n u b a ugh Stuff Do hn from Jo rth o Adams w8 ÂŁ10

What’s your USP? Marketing for your setting

Cutting out waste Sustainable activities for Halloween

The return of measles? Keeping children safe

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Welcome to Under 5 4

News round up


My Under 5


Letters to the editor


What’s your USP?


Getting it right in the EYFS


Minds matter: getting to grips with paperwork

All the latest news, research and policy updates from the early years sector A chance for Alliance member settings to share news of recent events and projects Under 5 readers share their views on the early years sector Ideas for marketing your setting to families in your local area The sector responds to proposed changes to the EYFS

An update from the Alliance’s Early Years Workload project with the Department for Education and Ofsted



Record keeping checklist


A reminder of the essential records and paperwork needed in early years settings

20 My early years

A look at the daily routine of an early years practitioner

22 The return of measles?

Why the UK is seeing an increase in the number of cases of measles

24 Is Universal Credit costing childcare providers?

How the new benefits system is hurting childcare providers


26 Celebrating the festival of lights

Ideas for celebrating Diwali with children in your setting

28 Disability discrimination

A legal guide to disability discrimination for early years providers

29 Improving life-long outcomes

Helping children live healthy and happy lives

30 Cutting out pumpkin waste

Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Alliance, shares low-waste Halloween activity ideas

32 Getting their five-a-day

A guide to fruit and vegetables for under fives

33 Competition

Recent years have seen increasing concern about the environment and climate change. As this issue went to press at the end of last month, children across the world were taking part in a global climate protest. Whatever you think of the school strikes, the event served as an impressive reminder of how important children and their views are in shaping the future. Climate change is clearly a topic that many children are passionate about and we’ve been exploring ways for early years settings to reduce their impact on the environment in the past few months. This issue, we’ve got some ideas for celebrating Halloween in sustainable way (page 30). As well as Halloween, this month will also see families celebrating Diwali, a popular festival celebrated by Hindus and Jains. Leicester is home to one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India and you may find fireworks or other celebrations taking place in your local area too. If you’d like to introduce children to the festival, we’ve got some ideas for you to try in your setting (page 26). Whatever festivals and other events you are celebrating in your setting, please do keep sharing your stories and pictures with us for our My Under 5 page. You can get in touch at editor.u5@ This issue also includes several updates on the current political situation. Since September’s magazine went to press, we’ve seen Michelle Donelan named as Kemi Badenoch’s maternity leave cover and Nick Gibb’s ministerial brief expanded to include the early years as well. As ever, you can keep up-to-date between issues of the magazine via our biweekly newsletter – you can sign up on our website at In other sector-news, this issue also includes an update from the work the Alliance has been doing to reduce excessive paperwork and administrative tasks in the early years. Last year, we shared the results of the Alliance’s Minds Matter report, which revealed concerns about the amount of paperwork practitioners are required to complete. Since then we have been working with the DfE and Ofsted to try and find how this could be reduced. You can see the latest from the project, as well as a guide to what paperwork is needed in this issue (page 16). We’ve also got a timely reminder about the symptoms of measles, as the UK has lost its measles-free status in the past few months and more children are being diagnosed with the disease. We’ve got tips for looking out for symptoms and how you can help prevent its spread in your setting (page 22). In the past couple of months, we’ve heard from several providers struggling to help families in receipt of Universal Credit. We’ve taken a look at the current situation (page 24) but if you have any concerns or questions about this issue, please do get in touch and let us know. Rachel Lawler, editor UNDER 5



in brief...

BREXIT: Schools in the UK have been asked to share their plans for ensuring they have enough food stockpiled in case of a no-deal Brexit in a government survey.

Labour announces plans for “free nursery education for all”

round-up Nick Gibb takes responsibility for the early years at the DfE Nick Gibb will oversee early years education and childcare, following an expansion of his role at the Department for Education. The minister of state for school reform will be responsible for “funding, support for the early years workforce, quality and the early education entitlements” in addition to his other responsibilities. Michelle Donelan, parliamentary under secretary of state for children and families, will take on responsibility for children’s social care, special educational

needs and disabilities, disadvantage, social mobility and the home learning environment during Kemi Badenoch’s maternity leave. In addition to responsibility for the early years, Gibb has also had PE and school sport added to his remit, as well as responsibility for the pupil premium. Gibb has served as minister at the Department for Education since 2010. He has been MP for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton since 1997 and previously worked as an accountant for KPMG. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “The expansion of Nick Gibb’s role to include early years comes at an important time for the sector. While early years funding is clearly the urgent priority, the minister will also be well aware that there is a depth of concern in the sector about ‘schoolification’ of the early years. “We are keen to work with him to ensure that early years policy in a wide range of areas, including funding levels, EYFS revisions and workforce recruitment and retention are informed by robust evidence and best practice.”

“While funding is clearly the priority there is a depth of concern about ‘schoolification’ of the early years.”




Labour has announced plans to offer “free nursery education for all” at its annual conference in Brighton. Angela Rayner, shadow secretary of state for education, shared the party’s plans for education if it were to win the next election. Rayner said: “We will deliver a renewed Sure Start programme, Sure Start Plus. Alongside it we will introduce a new service: free nursery education for all two- to fouryear-olds. Not childcare on the cheap, to get parents back to work, but an early education service, led by professionals, designed to develop the whole child.” Labour has also revealed plans to abolish Ofsted and replace it with a “new inspectorate for education” as part of a “National Education Service”. It says that the current system will be replaced with regular ‘health checks’ led by local authorities and a more in-depth inspection led by trained full-time inspectors. Raynor said: “The current system is unfit for purpose, so the next Labour government will abolish Ofsted and replace it with a system that will give parents the reliable and in-depth information they need.” Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “Proposals to create more funded hours and reinvest in Sure Start would mean more children have access to a quality early education. It’s an offer could transform the lives of some of our most disadvantaged children and should be welcomed by anyone interested in social mobility. “That said, even without seeing the detail we can be confident these proposals represent an unprecedented financial commitment to early education spending. And that will concern childcare providers, especially when thousands have closed in recent years, many as a direct result of governments overpromising ‘free’ childcare in elections and underfunding in delivery. “No more ‘childcare on the cheap’ sounds like a promise to address that - but it’s very light on detail and the early years funding shortfall stands at almost two thirds of a billion pounds. Broadly speaking, these proposals represent a move in the right direction but, without a firm commitment to ensure funding matches the true cost of delivery, the sector will struggle to take them seriously.”

BASELINE: Almost 200 schools that signed up to the Baseline pilot scheme have since dropped out, according to DfE statistics released in September.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT: Parents claiming the childcare element of Universal Credit will be given an additional month to claim back their costs from 3 October onwards.

84% of providers produce more paperwork than required Early years providers are producing more paperwork than they need to do, according to a new survey. The survey was part of a project led by the Alliance, working in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted. It found that 84% of practitioners felt that they were producing more paperwork than the EYFS required them to do. 70% of survey respondents said they were producing additional paperwork in case an Ofsted inspector asked for it, while 59% were producing additional paperwork to meet their own internal standards.

Local authorities were also a source of additional administration with 35% of respondents producing extra paperwork to meet their requirements. Almost a third of practitioners were producing additional paperwork in a bid to protect themselves against parental complaints. Conflicting information was another concern, with 42% of providers saying they had received contradictory information about reporting incidents or concerns from different agencies or organisations.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “We’re pleased that Ofsted and the Department for Education have agreed that our top priorities must be to address the ‘just in case’ approach we have heard so much about from the providers who took part in our research, as well as inconsistency, duplication and complexity at local authority level.” The DfE is now working in collaboration with the Local Government Association to understand the additional paperwork requirements placed on providers and any opportunities to streamline these.

Michelle Donelan covers maternity leave Michelle Donelan has been named temporary children’s minister to cover Kemi Badenoch’s maternity leave. Donelan is MP for Chippenham and served on the Education Select Committee between 2015 and 2017 and the Education, Skills and the Economy Sub-committee between 2015 and 2017. She has also previously held the position of assistant whip. Donelan will also take on Badenoch’s role in supporting the education secretary’s work on further education,

which was handed to her after previous minister Anne Milton was not replaced. In response to the announcement, Gavin Williamson tweeted his congratulations to Donelan and wished Badenoch “all the very best” as she begins her maternity leave. The news of her appointment came shortly after the Chancellor announced an additional £66 million in funding for the early years sector. The Alliance said that the funding would not make “even the smallest inroad into bridging the £662 million funding gap in the sector”.

Alliance urges sector to take action after funding announcement The Chancellor’s spending round, announced last month, promised an additional £66 million in funding for maintained nurseries and other early years settings providing the government’s funded hours. It is not yet clear exactly how this money will be distributed or who will qualify for the additional funding. However, the Treasury has said that the funding will be used to increase the hourly rate paid to providers for its funded childcare offer. According to independent experts Ceeda, there is currently a £662 million funding deficit in the private early years

sector alone. The funding announced is due to be shared across all providers, including the maintained sector. In response, the Alliance is asking people from across the sector to get in touch with their MPs, urging them to speak with to the Treasury and the Department for Education about early years funding. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “The Chancellor’s funding announcement was not the serious response to the early years funding crisis the sector had a right to expect. In fact, it will be less than nothing to those providers who have endured

real terms cuts to funding levels in recent years and will anyway be completely meaningless once next April’s minimum wage increase kicks in. “I know many providers will be sick to the back teeth of campaigning by now - but we need the government to know that this level of increase is tokenistic and unacceptable. The best way to do that is by asking our local MPs to speak to the Treasury and the DfE about what this means in their constituencies – that is why I’m urging every provider to pick up their pens and ask their MP to speak up for them.”




Foundation stage profile results show growing inequality gap Just 160,000 families use Tax-Free Childcare as technical problems persist Just 160,000 families are benefitting from the government’s Tax-Free Childcare scheme, according to statistics revealed last month. The news comes as childcare providers have reported problems receiving payments from parents through the scheme. When Tax-Free Childcare launched, the government estimated that 415,000 families would be benefitting from the scheme by the end of December 2017. But the scheme struggled with technical issues and its full rollout was delayed until March 2018. Providers reported technical problems receiving payments, following an upgrade designed to make the system faster over the summer. The glitch has left providers unable to tell which parents had made payments using the system. When contacted by the Alliance, the HMRC could not reveal how many providers had been affected and a spokesperson said: “We apologise for the inconvenience caused by this issue with payment references. We are working hard to resolve it and if parents or childcare providers have problems, they can call us on 0300 123 4097 and we will help them.” This latest glitch will be hugely concerning to providers, some of whom receive tens of thousands of pounds of

payments via the Tax-Free Childcare portal, and will leave those affected facing a significant administrative task to reconcile these anonymised payments with parents. This is just the latest in a long line of technical issues that have dogged Tax-Free Childcare since its 2017 launch, including glitches which led to providers not being paid in November last year. Following last year’s Budget, the government revealed that poor take up of the offer had meant the policy had an underspend of £600m, money which was returned to the Treasury. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, has called for the underspend on Tax-Free Childcare to be reallocated to support the government’s funded childcare offers. He said: “We warned Tax-free childcare was a regressive policy from the outset because it meant parents with more disposable income received more financial support from government than those with less. The worryingly low take up of Tax-Free childcare seems to show these fears have now been realised. “It now seems inevitable that there will be yet another underspend on this failing government policy. It’s imperative that any Tax-free Childcare surplus finds its way to the families and providers currently subsidising the £662 million shortfall in the government’s early years funding, rather than being pocketed by the Treasury – something that simply cannot happen again.”

Childcare voucher scheme closure has “negative impact” on families The closure of the childcare voucher scheme to new parents has had a “significantly negative impact” on families, according to the Childcare Voucher Providers Association. The association surveyed 18,686 parents, 808 employers and 1,130 childcare providers about their experiences with the scheme. Almost half of the providers asked said that the closure of the scheme has created an increased administrative burden for them as they now need to help parents access the Tax-Free Childcare scheme instead. The childcare voucher scheme closed to new applications in October 2018. Parents that were already signed up to the scheme before October 2018 are still able to keep using the scheme, as long as they stay with the same employer and their employer continues to offer the vouchers. The survey also found that 98% of current




users were happy with the childcare voucher scheme, while 60% of parents who had signed up with Tax-Free Childcare found the scheme “problematic, unclear and confusing”. Jane van Zyl, chief executive of Working Families, said: “This report confirms that the closure of the childcare voucher scheme is bad for employers and bad for parents.”

Statistics from the government’s early years foundation stage profile show that the gap between all children and the lowest scoring 20% is starting to grow. The percentage inequality gap rose to 31.8% in 2018, up from 31.7% in 2017. While this is still down from 36.6%, as reported in 2013, the gap has now been growing for two years in a row, increasing from 31.4% in 2016. The report also highlights stark regional differences across England. The percentage of children reaching a “good level of development” varies from 80.5% in Richmond upon Thames to just 63.9% in Middlesbrough.

“There are warning signs that that the inequality gap is starting to widen again.” Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, said: “It is encouraging to see that the percentage of children achieving a good level of development has improved, albeit by a small amount. This is thanks to the dedicated, professional early years workforce who continue to do their best for society’s youngest children despite the lack of proper government funding. However there are warning signs that the inequality gap is beginning to widen again, with significant variations between local authorities, which show wider gaps in predominantly poorer or rural areas. “Government underfunding of early years education hits all childcare providers hard, but more so those that operate in poorer or rural areas because often parents cannot afford to pay for the private hours or voluntary extras that providers are forced to charge to make up the funding shortfall. We are in danger of damaging the life chances of our most vulnerable children at a crucial time in their development. As a society this could cost us much, much more in the future than adequately funding early years education now.”

Outstanding setting

Leading Strings Pla ygroup in London is celebrating after being graded ‘outstanding’ in its latest Ofsted inspection. Based in north London, the setting operates from a church hall and has been run ning for the last 20 years. The inspe ctor praised the setting’s effective pa rtnerships with parents and the “ex emplary behaviour and excellent socia l skills” of the children. Kirsty Even sen, manager at the setting, said: “W e are so proud of the team we have built together and the real stars are our wonderful children – who truly shone on that day in June for our inspe ction.”

ations ay celebr 18th birthd t Kids n at Brigh

childre Staff and ross have Crabbs C in ry to Nurse lebration special ce g in enjoyed a tt se the ars since mark 18 ye st te rea osting a G opened. H arty, the p d e m -the d Showman es past an med famili o lc e w g d settin y food an share part puty e D present to t. n e entertainm s u c ir c rd y enjo ine Ashfo ager Lorra n a m ry ed the e nurs jam-pack eing how It’s been a : “I love se d r. a te n ye e h m c ea com me!” develops ver the sa rows and days are e o nursery g tw o n , ars lled 18 ye and fun-fi

Runner bean


Children at Li ttle Palms nu rsery in Devon Highly Comm were awarde ended prize d the in their local beans they gr vi lla ge show for ew over the the runner summer. The of vegetables setting grew including the a se lection beans, beetro which they he ot, tomatoes lped pick an an d herbs, d wash read Nursery Man y to be cook ager Sacha B ed an d eaten. urton said: “W vegetables to e started grow support and in g our own encourage th choices. It ha e children to s also helped m ak e healthy to develop th now confide eir self-help ntly serve th skills and they eir own lunc h at the setti ng.”

New setting

for RAF

families Families serv ing in the Roya l Air Forces w new childcare ill now be able facility at Odi to use a ha m in Hampshi a new setting re as the site called RAFA opened Kidz. The setti care to familie ng will offer hi s serving in th gh -q uality e area and w marshal Chris as opened by Elliot. She sa ai r vi ce id: “Access to childcare is a affordable high key priority fo -q ua lit y r our families, the launch of so I am delig the new RAFA hted to see Kidz childcare making a huge service. It is al difference for ready families servin g at RAF Odi ham.”

Pirate play

-themed orn enjoyed a pirate ds Nursery in Runc join to Children at Ladybir d ite milies were inv on this summer. Fa stay and play sessi facethe day of fun, with nk pla painting, walk the ure as tre games, buried er in the sand and oth and fruit gs do activities. Hot offer for on o punch were als Burke, Jo . families to enjoy g ttin se manager at the good a ch su said: “We had did ff sta turn out and the h the wit ud themselves pro er ord in to nt effort they we s.” es cc to make it a su

Happy Birthday, Rhys! Children at Selston Childcare in Nottingham helped cheer up 13-year-old Rhys Williams whose mum launched a national campaign to send him birthday cards. Rhys suffers with a painful skin condition and was struggling to stay positive. The children joined in with efforts to cheer him up ahead of his birthday by making him a giant birthda y card to show him how much they care. They also enjoye d a trip to the post office to send the card to Rhys.

MP visit Staff and children at Happy Days Ch ildcare in Suffolk we paid a visit by local re MP Matt Hancock. The MP was invite to the setting to dis d cuss early years fun ding. He listened to the setting’s conc erns and took a list of key issues with him. He also read a story to some of the children. As well as serving as MP for west Suffolk, Hanc oc k has served as secretary of state for health and social ca re since 2018.

What’s been happening in your setting? Under 5 wants to know! To share your own stories, please email with the subject line ‘My Under 5’.


Letters to the editor STAR LETTER Train Your Baby Like a Dog on Channel 4 I read the article on the Channel 4 programme, Train Your Baby Like a Dog [Under 5, September 2019] with dismay. Having actually watched the programme, with interest and an open mind, I had to disagree with the comments and the call for it to not be screened. In my opinion, and my colleagues agree with me, the trainer and behaviourist Jo-Rosie Haffenden was very good at pointing out that parents need to be aware of and take notice of body language, listen to, and take notice of, their child and respond appropriately. Her methods and the reasoning behind them were directly related to what she has observed. There did not seem to be any uncalled for sanctions nor were there too many rewards. In fact, the reward used was the attention the child should have been getting in the first place. As a mum of two grown-up children and someone who has worked in childcare for more than 20 years, it is refreshing to see different methods of promoting desirable behaviour and also looking at the reasons behind the undesirable behaviour. This is what Jo-Rosie did before explaining it to the parents. I feel that if the title of this programme had not mentioned dogs then there would have been a much less negative response to the show. I have to assume that in many cases the programme wasn’t watched before an opinion was formed. The only additional point I think the show could have made was the fact that not all children will respond in the same way, so the methods used need be tailored to suit each individual child. Jill Marriott, co-manager at Newton Nursery Growing inequality I am not surprised that the gap between all children and the lowest-scoring 20% on the early years foundation stage profile is widening [see page 4, News]. In my opinion, there are several issues. Poverty can impact on a child’s wellbeing and ability to be happy, stable and ready to learn – this includes a lack of adequate food and suitable shelter. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) can effect all children, but some are more likely than others to experience ACEs due to parental mental health problems and other associated issues. The availability of childcare in areas of disadvantage also affects families. However, I think the biggest problem is the perceived need to try and ‘catch up’ with the more advantaged children. What children actually need is lots of time to experience play-based activities. Trying to skip or rush through stages just does not work. Remove age-based targets and let children develop within their own time scale. Penny Webb, via Alliance Facebook page




Nick Gibb takes charge I’m actually quite pleased that the early years has moved under the remit of a cabinet minister, rather than remaining the responsibility of a junior minister [see News page four]. With an election possibly looming, I’m also hoping this means that the early years funding disaster has been solved by the “record breaking investment in education funding” they keep mentioning. It’s all spin really isn’t it? Lacey Douglass, via Alliance Facebook page Funding failures It appears that ministers are not in the least bit concerned about early years settings, or indeed the impact of insufficient funding on children. They fail to take note of research into the early years and ignore the wealth of experience in the early years sector. Ministers continue to pay lip service but do nothing to change things – and this has been the case for many years! Ministers even fail to take notice of people like Neil Leitch and organisations such as the Early Years Alliance. The phrase “talking to a brick wall” springs to mind! Penny Webb, via Alliance Facebook page Send your letters to Under 5 magazine, Early Years Alliance, 50 Featherstone Street, London, EC1Y 8RT or email: editor. using the subject line ‘Letters’.

This month’s star letter wins a copy of the Alliance’s NEW book – Operating a Viable Early Years Provision (£13.65 for members, £19.50 for non-members). The book outlines the various elements of the sustainability jigsaw. Drawing on robust management tools, it focuses on the development of a series of processes to support leaders and managers, owners, directors and trustees. It also explains the importance of becoming a values-led organisation, improving planning and decision-making, undertaking a breakeven analysis, a shared vision of high-quality for the setting, and much, much more!


Fair future funding? We’ve taken a closer look at the promised £66 million in additional funding for the early years


he Chancellor’s spending round earlier this year announced an extra £66 million in funding for maintained nurseries and other early years settings providing the government’s funded hours of childcare. The government said that this funding would be used to increase the hourly rate paid to providers. It’s not yet clear exactly how it will be shared across the sector, but we’ve done some rough calculations based on the latest government statistics….

It’s also worth noting that the funding appears to be for both the maintained and PVI sectors.

Take action The £66 million in additional funding is less than nothing when you take into account that funding levels have been frozen for two years. That is why we need you to write again to your MP and let them know that this is simply not good enough. Visit TakeAction to download a template letter and fact sheet to send to your MP.





What’s your USP? How can you make your setting stand out from the competition? Here we explore how you can market your provision more effectively Effective marketing is an essential tool to help fill current childcare places, continue to attract new customers in the future and ultimately to support a sustainable childcare business. In this this edited extract from Operating a Viable Early Years Provision, we explore how you can let families know about your quality care. Up-to-date market research is valuable in any business, in any sector. It provides an insight into the market, trends and customers. While a good working relationship should be developed with other providers in the area, there will always be an element of competition. This is to be expected and occurs in all sectors. In order to position the setting competitively in the local market, you should research the other childcare available in your area including: services offered age ranges catered for opening times, including the number of weeks they are open fees and any special discounts capacity and vacancy rates facilities – both indoors and outdoors meals and snacks offered USPs promotional activities More broadly, you should also find information about local demographics, including the percentage of young families in the overall population in the area. This can be sought from your local authority. Understanding the main customer group, parents, should be central in your market research. Knowing what they are looking for is vital when you are looking to adapt your service to their needs.

Your USP A unique selling point, or USP, is a factor




that differentiates your service or products from competitors. A USP should be used as a promotional tool. It should offer families something that your competitors cannot, do not or will not offer. It should be attractive enough to bring in new customers. Your USP could be: lower fees improved Ofsted outcome flexible hours or sessions longer hours to support working parents inspiring premises or facilities indoors or outdoors niche offerings, such organic food innovative practice additional activities, such as music or dance classes school pick-ups/drop-offs Identifying a shared understanding with the team and a strong statement to promote a USP is an important starting point. This then needs to be linked clearly with your marketing strategy so that the wider community is aware of what makes your provision unique. There should be a focus on developing and continually improving your high quality service. This is the most effective approach to successfully marketing the provision and should underpin a marketing action plan and the basis of your brand.

Creating a brand Creating a brand for your setting is important for ensuring that it is easily recognised. It will present your setting in a professional, distinctive and consistent way. Consideration should be given to this before you develop any promotional resources, such as signage, flyers or posters. A successful brand should reassure families of the quality of your setting and communicate your values clearly.

Having worked on your vision as a team, the personality of your setting will be based on your shared values and beliefs. These in turn will shape the identity of the setting and how these values are communicated to the community. This communication includes the tone of written content and the visual images that accompany it. Whether it is your prospectus, newsletter, policies or leaflets, values can be communicated consistently through colour, language and layout, as well as imagery. These should be distinctive, relevant, memorable and flexible enough to be used in different formats. Families should also be consulted as their perception is integral to success.

Find out more New Alliance publication Operating a Viable Early Years Provision (Member price £13.65, non-member price £19.50) outlines the various elements of the sustainability jigsaw, from effective leadership and financial management to marketing and developing high quality provision. Drawing on robust management tools, it focuses on the development of a series of processes to support leaders and managers to take stock of the current position and lays out important planning steps for managers, owners, directors and trustees. Guidance is also provided on the importance of becoming a values-led organisation, improving planning and decision-making, undertaking a breakeven analysis, a shared vision of high quality for the setting, and much, much more! Order your copy online at shop., call 0300 330 0996 or email

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Getting it right in the EYFS As the Department for Education considers making changes to the EYFS, a landmark survey finds that most early years providers don’t want it changed


he Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is often considered to be one of the most well-respected curriculum frameworks currently in use in England. It sets the standard for all learning, development and care provided to children by Ofsted-registered providers. In 2018, the Department for Education (DfE) reviewed the framework’s Early Learning Goals and published a draft set of changes. Many in the sector see the new proposed goals as the basis for making




wider changes to the EYFS. In response, a coalition of 12 sector representatives, including the Alliance, PACEY, NDNA and TACTYC, have worked together to share views on pending changes to the EYFS and ensure that any changes to the framework are workable for the sector and in the best interests for children. Getting it right in the EYFS: a review of the evidence comprises a review of existing research evidence on the EYFS. It also includes recommendations for the

government agreed by the coalition of early years experts. The coalition also surveyed early years providers.

Practitioner views Most providers who responded to the survey said that the EYFS itself did not need to be changed in order to close the gap between the most and least advantaged children’s communication and language skills. 87% of those who responded said that it was already meeting children’s needs in communication and


learning either ‘well’ or ‘very well’. Practitioners also said that the EYFS did not generate excessive workloads in itself. Instead, they cited Ofsted requirements for evidence and pressure from managers, leaders and local authorities to gather excess data about children’s progress. They also felt that changing the framework may lead to further paperwork as well and called for more professional development opportunities in the early years sector as well as better access to specialist support services including speech and language therapists. Providers also asked for increased resources to allow settings more time to work with children and their parents or carers, particularly in relation to the home learning environment.

Research review The review of existing research on the EYFS, suggested that while the research into this area is of mixed quality, there is no substantiated case for the EYFS to be significantly changed. However, it argued that less advantaged children continue to under achieve and this is reflected in outcomes when they progress into primary school. The report argues: “Given this context, a closer examination of recent evidence reveals that with some modifications, particularly in relation to the guidance on communication and language development, and giving greater emphasis to the characteristics of effective teaching and learning, these children might be better served.” The report and its coalition of supporters argue that any changes to the EYFS should be made on the following key principles: Recognising the central importance of the characteristics of effective teaching and learning. Supporting the current emphasis on the prime areas within the EYFS as particularly crucial and time-sensitive in the early years. Acknowledging the premise that all areas of learning are interconnected, demonstrating

the holistic nature of children’s development. Noting that there is no evidence to support giving mathematics and literacy greater emphasis than any other area of the EYFS. Key messages and suggested modifications to the EYFS from the report include: Evidence suggests greater prominence should be given to the characteristics of effective teaching and learning, and personal, social and emotional development, to ensure the foundational skills, understandings and knowledge in these areas are secure before more advanced, challenging learning is introduced to children.

There is a need for more encouragement and support to be given to the teaching of expressive arts and design as this enhances mental health, well-being and underpins many other aspects of learning. There is strong evidence that disadvantaged children and their peers need more opportunities for play, language consolidation and extension, and opportunities to develop their wider learning dispositions and capacities. To effectively support children within diverse cultural and social norms, teaching content needs to equally recognise life experiences, including acknowledging different needs of summerborn children, and a broader span of social and behavioural competencies.

“This report shows that the current framework is doing its job.”

The characteristics of effective teaching and learning, which support the development of selfregulation and positive learning habits, should be seen as a more central aspect. The Early Learning Goals should be extended to cover a wider range of learning dispositions and capacities, including self-regulation. It is important that EYFS children have a confident grasp of oral language and communication before they are moved on to grasp the skills of written forms. There should be more focus on conceptual knowledge in mathematics and practical rehearsal of mathematical, communication and literacy skills in real-world contexts that have meaning for the child. The value of a balanced teaching approach that incorporates play-based and relational pedagogic approaches, alongside more structured learning and teaching, needs to be recognised more fully, especially when children are in transition between the EYFS and Key Stage 1.


The coalition also made it clear that any changes made to the EYFS should be judged primarily on whether or not they help get the EYFS right for children – as demonstrated by the research evidence on what promotes children’s wellbeing and how young children learn and develop. Michael Freeston, director of quality improvement at the Alliance, said: “This is a significant report which needs to be taken seriously by government. The findings show that the current framework is doing its job – practitioners are happy delivering it and children are getting the early education they need. That is the benchmark any changes to the EYFS need to meet and the best way for the government to achieve that is to ensure that proposals are informed by robust evidence before full consultation with the sector.”

Find out more You can read the full Getting it Right in the EYFS report online at




Minds Matter: getting to grips with paperwork Are you producing more paperwork than you need to? Here’s the latest update from the Alliance’s Early Years Workload project with the Department for Education and Ofsted






ast year, the Alliance’s Minds Matter report looked at the impact of working in the early years on practitioners’ mental health. More than 2,000 practitioners responded, making it our biggest ever survey, and the results were shocking. As well as identifying a real problem with staff wellbeing in the sector – 74% of respondents said they had felt stressed in the past month as a result of their job – it revealed a particular frustration with excessive paperwork and unnecessary administration. 76% of practitioners said that paperwork and administration was a regular source of stress for them. Stress in the early years sector is clearly a significant problem, with a quarter of survey respondents considering leaving the sector due to stress or mental health concerns and 66% saying that their personal relationships have been negatively affected by work-related stress or mental health difficulties. The amount of paperwork and admin required of early years staff has increased over the years with the introduction of new policies such as GDPR, funded hours and the since scrapped GCSE requirements for level 3 staff. Many providers also ask staff to help prepare written learning journeys, applications for funding or charitable grants and other additional paperwork. One survey respondent said: “The red tape and paperwork has become over the top, which means the staff spend half their time filing in paperwork, instead of what really matters which is of course the children. This leads to staff taking work home.”

Positive steps Since the launch of the Minds Matter report last year, the Alliance has been working closely with the Department for Education (DfE) and Ofsted on finding some solutions to this growing concern. Earlier this year, the Alliance has hosted a series of focus groups across England and surveyed early years staff about their views on paperwork and admin in the sector and whether they felt it was necessary. 84% of survey respondents said that they believe they are producing more paperwork than is required by the EYFS. There were a number of common

reasons why practitioners completed this additional work: Almost three-quarters of survey respondents (70%) said that they were completing some additional paperwork in case an Ofsted inspector asked for it. More than half (59%) said that their own setting’s internal processes required more paperwork than was strictly necessary in order to meet their own best practice standards or the requirements of their setting’s owners or senior management. More than a third of respondents (35%) said that the additional paperwork was needed to meet local authority requirements.

Ofsted Preparing for inspections is a key source of additional paperwork for early years settings but many are not clear on what items are and aren’t necessary. Over half of survey respondents who had experienced more than one inspection said that the expectations for paperwork were either “not really” or “not at all” consistent across inspections. With the new education inspection framework coming into place earlier this year, Ofsted says it is already taking steps to mitigate this common concern. Wendy Ratcliff HMI said: “We hear all sorts of myths about what paperwork inspectors might want to see, particularly around assessment. “We shared the important findings of this survey during our recent inspector training. Inspectors and providers involved in EIF pilot inspections said they welcome the move away from looking at assessment data. The early years inspection handbook makes clear that we’ll spend most of the inspection observing and discussing children’s experiences and learning and not looking at unnecessary paperwork. We’ll keep these survey findings under review as we introduce the new framework.”

70% of settings complete additional paperwork in case Ofsted asks for it.

Just under a third (29%) said they were producing additional paperwork to protect themselves against complaints from parents. The survey also highlighted inconsistencies in the volume and content of paperwork completed by practitioners both at a setting and local authority level.

Local authorities A fifth of practitioners said that they felt local authority paperwork was leading to duplicated administration and 37% of respondents said that the paperwork required by local authorities was not reasonable. The DfE says it is now working in collaboration with the Local Government Association to help improve understanding of what paperwork requirements are placed on early years providers – and where there might be opportunities to streamline these.

SEND While practitioners felt that the paperwork associated with children with SEND was obviously important, a third of respondents said that it was the complexity of forms and the time needed to complete them that made these tasks burdensome. SEND action plans were also said to add to practitioners’ workload, with 27% saying that these added unnecessary paperwork.

Next steps Neil Leitch, chief executive at the Alliance, said: “We’re pleased that Ofsted and the Department for Education have agreed that our top priorities must be to address the ‘just in case’ approach we have heard so much about from the providers who took part in our research, as well as inconsistency, duplication and complexity at local authority level. “No paperwork should be so burdensome that it causes stress or directs time and attention away from the learning experience of the child. This is why we are working to develop practical solutions so that providers can feel more confident during Ofsted inspections and when working with local authorities.” The DfE and Ofsted say they are committed to working together to find ways to make their guidance for practitioners clearer and are currently considering a number of options.





Record keeping checklist Confused about what records you need to keep in your setting? We’ve compiled a list of the essentials for Ofsted and other authorities


ecord keeping is essential for ensuring that your provision is run safely and efficiently. But with so much information needed, practitioners can very soon become overwhelmed with administrative tasks. While each setting will have its own preferences when it comes to record keeping, we’ve created a list of all the records needed for informing relevant authorities and meeting legislative requirements. Accidents In the unfortunate event of an accident involving a child, accurate and consistent records must be taken in order to: inform parents of any accident involving their child enable the identification of hazardous areas or repeat incidents as part of your risk assessments keep a record in case of any future insurance claims report certain accidents to the Heath and Safety Executive and/or Ofsted Records of accidents should be taken as soon as possible after the accident and steps should be taken in line with the setting’s health and safety policy.

Ofsted Policies and procedures Under the new Education Inspection Framework, inspectors are unlikely to look through all of your setting’s policies and procedures – although these are still a requirement of the EYFS. Childminders are not required to have written policies but they should make sure that they have effective procedures in place as required by the EYFS. Staff training and DBS checks Inspectors are required to check staff DBS and paediatric first-aid certificates and may wish to see details of other relevant staff training.




Safeguarding Inspectors may also wish to see a list of any referrals made to the setting’s designated safeguarding lead, with a brief summary of the outcome. You should also have a list of any children who are currently part of an open case with social care/children’s services and for whom there is a multi-agency plan. You should also have a log of any incidents of discrimination, incidents of poor behaviour and any exclusions or other incidents that have seen children taken off your setting’s roll. Complaints Providers should keep a written record of any complaints made against them, including the outcome and any relevant evidence. This applies to complaints made by parents, carers and members of the public about a childcare service, including those made directly to an inspector. This record should be made available to Ofsted or the relevant childminding agency on request and should be retained for at least three years after the incident. Register You’ll need to keep a record of all the children on your roll and document the hours they attend each week. As well as keeping your financial records up-to-date this can also help providers spot patterns of absence that may indicate a wider safeguarding concern. Fire safety and other emergencies Keep an up-to-date record of your fire safety and other emergency procedures. Ofsted and/or fire and rescue authorities may check this. Your records should include results of fire drills, staff training and testing of any equipment and warning systems. First aid Keep a record of all staff paediatric who have first aid training, including the dates of training undertaken. The Department for Education encourages providers to display

staff certificates for training in paediatric first aid or a list of staff with first aid training. Medication Providers should keep a record of any medication that is administered to children by staff. A new parental agreement is needed for each medicine, ensuring that only prescribed medicines are administered and only where permission has been obtained from the child’s parent and/or carer.

Reportable incidents You need to keep accurate records of some particular incidents, particularly if they may need to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive, your local authority, Ofsted, Children’s Social Care or your insurer. These incidents could include: break-ins, burglaries, theft intruders gaining access to your premises fire, flood, gas leaks or electrical failures attacks on practitioners or parents discriminatory incidents involving practitioners or families notifiable diseases or illnesses, or an outbreak of food poisoning affecting two or more children terrorism or threat of an attack death of a child or adult

Visitors As part of your fire safety procedures, you should have an accessible record of everyone who is on the premises. While children and practitioners can be recorded in your daily register, all other visitors must have the date and time of their visit recorded. This also offers a chance to check the identity of visitors, as required by the EYFS.

Further information The Alliance has a range of resources to help support your record-keeping available at



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Is Universal Credit costing childcare providers? Under 5 editor Rachel Lawler looks at the way the childcare element of Universal Credit is paid and the effects this is having on families and providers alike






niversal Credit started rolling out across England in 2013, with the stated aim of getting an additional 200,000 people working. But the way that working parents are paid for the childcare element of Universal Credit has been criticised by politicians and sector representatives who say that this prevents parents from returning to work and stops children from taking up valuable early education and care.

Universal credit: the rules Working families claiming Universal Credit are able to claim for up to 85% of their childcare bill, as long as they meet certain requirements. They can claim up to £646.35 per month for childcare for one child, or £1108.04 for two or more children with an Ofsted-registered provider. Childcare support is paid in arrears, which means that parents need to pay upfront for childcare costs and claim the money back. This will then be paid with their next payment of Universal Credit. Parents receive one monthly payment under Universal Credit and for first-time claimants it can take up to five weeks to get their first payment. The amount that parents earn can affect how much help they get towards their childcare costs. If they earn more than usual in one month, for example by working overtime or getting a bonus, they may have their repayments towards the cost of childcare reduced. Parents who are returning to work may be able to claim in advance for childcare costs to cover the month before they start work, through the Flexible Support Fund, but many claimants are not aware of this fund and it’s down to the discretion of individual advisors whether or not a grant is provided.

Flawed system Last month, the Department for Work and Pensions announced that the time limit on when parents can claim back the cost of childcare while on Universal Credit was being extended from one month to two, starting on 3 October. But some parents and providers say that this step does not go far enough and families will still struggle to return to work under this system. The need for parents to make payments

upfront leaves many struggling to make ends meet. Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented on the news: “Asking parents claiming Universal Credit to pay for childcare upfront before reimbursing them does not work. This is what parents and providers most want to see changed. At the moment, providers are forced to choose between allowing parents to pay in arrears or turning children away. “We’ve heard how those who have let parents build up debt in order to access a childcare place are sometimes left unpaid as parents struggle to keep on top of other Universal Credit repayments and outgoings. Childcare should not be a luxury for families, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds whose children often benefit the most from early education. Last year, the Commons Treasury Committee called the requirement for parents to pay in advance for childcare a “fundamental design flaw” and called for it to be “rectified as a matter of urgency”. Frank Field, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said last year that the government’s policy on childcare payments through Universal Credit was not working. He said: “It’s not just driving parents into despair and debt and creating problems for childcare providers – it’s also actively working to prevent the government from achieving its own aim of getting more people into work.”

Impact on providers As well as impacting the families claiming Universal Credit, this new payment system is affecting childcare providers and their businesses. One provider told Under 5 that a parent with two children attending the setting had struggled to make the payments in advance. “I’ve supported her as much as possible. She did owe us quite a bit and was struggling to pay it off. I would never have said that the children couldn’t come, seeing how hard she was working. “It’s completely stupid and unfair. How is a single parent supposed to pay an invoice [upfront] without the support of Universal Credit payments? She wouldn’t be claiming if she could afford to pay the invoice upfront. I am lucky as I run a charity setting, so the

If any families at your setting are experiencing problems claiming Universal Credit, they can contact the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644.

small profit we make goes back into the pre-school and kids club. I know that other settings would struggle to support families in this awful situation.” Another provider said the system was creating additional administrative work for the sector. They told Under 5: “We have issues when fees increase and parents inform us that they cannot pay the increase for the first month as their Universal Credit is paid a month behind. We also need to create invoices and receipts to upload onto their childcare portal, which is lots of extra administration for management to complete each time a payment is made.” Sadly, this policy can also result in children losing out on the benefits of early education. The same provider told us: “We have had issues with parents being put onto Universal Credit and having to wait four weeks minimum for their first childcare payment. This results in children leaving the setting or reducing their hours dramatically due to their parents not being able to afford the fees, which we require in advance.” This also has a knock-on effect on the setting: “This leaves the nursery with lower numbers of children, which means less income and reduced staff hours.” The Work and Pensions Committee’s report on Universal Credit recommended that payments for childcare be paid directly to providers, alleviating the problem of upfront costs for parents and giving providers more secure income. The Department for Work and Pensions responded that the current system was not set up to make direct payments and to change it would “take some time”. The Committee responded that this “does not counter the necessity or rightness of making those changes”.

What is Universal Credit? Universal Credit is a relatively new system that will eventually replace six benefits: Child and Working Tax Credits, Housing Benefits, Income Support, Jobseekers’ Allowance and Employment Support Allowance. The scheme launched in 2013 and will be fully rolled out to all claimants by 2023. The scheme is now available to new claimants across most of the UK and existing benefit claimants will gradually see their payments migrated onto the system in the next few years.




The return o Recent months have seen a rise in the number of cases of measles reported in the UK. Why is this and how can providers help prevent its return?


n August, the World Health Organisation removed the UK’s measles eradication status after a number of outbreaks in recent years. Between April and June this year, 301 people in England were diagnosed with measles. This comes just three years after the disease was officially eliminated in the UK. Measles is a highly contagious virus that is spread via coughing and sneezing. The virus can live for up to two hours on surfaces, so it can be spread by touching as well as by breathing in the droplets from a cough or sneeze. Symptoms of measles usually appear around 10 days after contact with the virus and include sneezing, coughing, sore eyes, a high temperature and spots inside the cheeks. Later, patients will develop a dark red rash across their head and neck, later spreading across their body. Measles isn’t always serious and it usually passes after about 10 days, but it can lead to some very serious complications. This includes lung and brain infections that can be life threatening in some cases. It can also affect the adults working in your setting, who are more likely than the children to suffer with complications as a result of catching measles.

Prevention not cure Thankfully, the spread of measles can be




prevented with two doses of the MMR vaccine, usually given to children at around 13 months and three years and four months old. Outbreaks of a disease are prevented when 95% of the population has been vaccinated, but currently just 87% of children in the UK are currently being given their second dose of the MMR vaccine. Rates vary across the country and some areas have a reported much lower take-up. Despite the evidence in favour of vaccination, some parents will choose not to vaccinate their children. There are a number of reasons behind this, and some people believe that some families have simply become more complacent as deadly diseases such as measles have become rare in the UK. A number of families are also concerned about the safety of vaccines. Claims that the MMR vaccine causes autism have been completely discredited and Andrew Wakefield, who first suggested a link between the two, has been struck off the medical register in the UK. Other concerns, such as the idea that vaccines contain mercury or that they overload the immune system, have also been disproven. But articles supporting these ideas still regularly circulate on social media.

How can providers help? Parents often see practitioners as a reliable source of information, particularly when it comes to their child’s health and wellbeing. While it would be unfair to routinely refuse a place at a setting to children who have not been vaccinated, parents should always be encouraged to protect their child with vaccinations where possible. This is important not only for the health of their child, but also that of the other children around them. Any parent who is concerned about having their child immunised should be encouraged to speak with their GP or health visitor. Children who have missed one or both of their MMR vaccines can have a catch-up vaccination at a later date if needed – as can adults who missed the vaccine as a child. If parents or carers are not sure if a child has been given the MMR, they can ask their GP to check their record for them.

Keeping a record It is important for providers to know the vaccination status of children in their setting. This will be helpful if there is ever an outbreak of a serious illness. You should keep this information in their personal file, alongside any other important health information.


of measles? Remember that there will be some children who will not be protected by vaccinations. This may include: children who cannot be immunised for medical reasons children who are too young to be immunised yet children who missed appointments or were too ill when they were due to be vaccinated children whose parents have decided against vaccination For some children, it may also be the case that a vaccination did not work for them so even those who have been vaccinated will not always be protected from diseases.

Preventing outbreaks When children first start attending a new early years setting, they will be introduced to a new group of young children from a range of different backgrounds. The children will spend a large amount of time together each day and young children often have a relatively low state of immunity as they have had a relatively limited exposure to germs so far. This can make children susceptible to

infections and makes common illnesses an inevitable part of daily life in the setting. Maintaining good hygiene practice and following procedures for outbreaks of illness will help. You should also make plans for what to do if there is an outbreak of a serious disease at your setting. Outbreaks or incidents are usually defined as two or more children in one setting diagnosed with a serious illness. If you suspect an outbreak in your setting, you should contact your local health protection team (HPT) as soon as possible. The HPT will keep all personal details of the case confidential and will be able to draft letters and factsheets to distribute to parents and carers to make sure you are providing them with the most up-to-date information and advice available. Outbreaks of illness that should be reported include: E coli food poisoning measles, mumps and rubella hepatitis meningitis tuberculosis typhoid whooping cough, also called pertussis

Spotting the symptoms of measles Symptoms of measles usually appear around 10 days after the initial infection and include: cold-like symptoms: runny nose, sneezing and a cough sore, red eyes that are sensitive to the light fever, which may reach up to 40ยบC small grey-white spots inside the cheeks the distinctive dark red spots will appear a few days after the initial symptoms, spreading across the body from the head/ neck downwards.





My early years: Marion Aldred Marion Aldred, early years practitioner at Goodinge Early Years Centre in Islington, London, shares a snapshot of a typical day in the setting First thing I start the day with a coffee on the bus on my way into the setting and think about the day ahead. I usually get to work at about 7.30am. The setting reception will already be busy when I arrive, with parents talking to practitioners as they drop off their children for the day. The Centre is open all year round and I work Monday to Friday, on shifts of either 7.30am to 5.00pm or 8.30am to 6.00pm. We offer care for children from six months old up to four-years-old. The only time the setting closes is for the period over Christmas each year.

Morning session… Throughout the day, I will be working with the children, making sure they are always kept safe. As an early years practitioner, it’s important to be hands-on and professional with the children. You have to learn to connect with children positively in a relatively short space of time. This is particularly true with those who have joined the nursery for the first time or those who only stay for a short morning or afternoon session. I try to encourage these children to play with the others and make some friends. I also ensure that children are being kind to one another and learning to listen to adults. Some children will be more socially active, particularly if they already have a




brother or sister who attends the setting. Other children will take a little longer to start playing confidently with the others. But all children need lots of encouragement through play, with games such as peekaboo and hide and seek. If I have any difficulty getting children engaged I use favourite stories such as the Three Bears, The Gingerbread Man or the Three Little Pigs to grab their attention. These books help support their communication skills and develop their confidence as they start guessing what will happen next in the story. Whatever I am doing in the setting, I am always committed to doing my job well.

Afternoon session… Like a lot of settings, we have a home corner where children are encouraged to role-play the things they see adults doing at home. Children instantly identify with the ideas of cooking dinner or taking care of a baby. They also love dressing up as superheroes and instantly identify with this imaginary play. These activities are a lot of fun. Throughout the day, we like to give children smiley face stickers as rewards, recognising their efforts. This might be for trying a new task, doing something well or even just for being kind and helpful. Children might be given a sticker for completing an activity with beads – they

Name: Marion Alred Role: Early years practitioner Setting: Goodinge Early Years Centre, London

will count the beads, recognise all the shapes and colours, then thread them on to a string.

Home time… At the end of sessions children know it is time to go home when we start circle time. We’ll read them a story as they start to wind down, ready for their parents to collect them. We also like to have a group discussion with them in this time. We talk about what they have done in the setting that day and what activities they particularly enjoyed doing. After the session, I go to pick up my daughter Bell from after school club and head home. In the evenings and during breaks for work, I enjoy trying EYFS activities at home with Bell. We have made a personal achievement tree, which gets a new leaf every time she tries something new or has done something well. At the end of the day, I am usually tired – the very opposite of my wide-awake self at the start of the day! But I am always grateful to be working with the EYFS and thankful to be able to see how the children are blossoming every day through the activities and play in our setting.

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Celebrating the f The festival of Diwali falls on Sunday 27 October this year. Here are some ideas for exploring the themes and joining the celebrations in your setting


iwali, also known as Divali, Deepavali or Dipavali, is celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and some Buddhists. This year, the occasion falls on 27 October and whether or not any families in your setting will be celebrating at home, you may wish to explore some of the ideas and themes surrounding the festival of lights.

Diwali celebrations The festival gets its name from the lights and oil lamps that many people use to decorate their homes at this time of year. The lights and lamps are said to help Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, find her way into homes, bringing prosperity and good fortune to families. Celebrations for Diwali usually last around five days each year, during which time many families will host parties and meals. Some families will decorate their homes with lots of lights and offer sweets and gifts to children. The event also marks the start of Hindu




New Year and the harvest season. The exact date of the Diwali festival changes each year as it is set by the phases of the moon, but it usually falls some time in October or November. It celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Diwali is also a time for new beginnings and a fresh start. Some families will clean their homes for the occasion and buy new clothes to wear. As well as decorating with lights, lots of families draw Rangoli on the floor outside the entrance to their homes. These beautiful patterns are made using coloured chalks, powders and flowers. The patterns are said to bring good luck and welcome the gods into families’ homes.

Celebrating in your setting In the UK, Leicester hosts one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside of India with the famous Golden Mile of lights and a large fireworks display. Another large celebration takes place in London’s Trafalgar Square each year, with musical performances and a

range of traditional foods and sweets for sale. Other cities and towns will be celebrating the festival – check whether an official event is taking place in your local area. Children at Jellybabies Nursery and Preschool in Rednal, Birmingham, celebrated Diwali in 2018. They acted out the story of Diwali, with the help of support staff, and made their own clay Diwali lamps. The children enjoyed making the lamps and painting them using red, gold and orange spray paints. The staff covered the floors with paper first before letting the children enjoy using the sprays themselves. The lamps were then displayed around the setting, lit with LED tea lights rather than oil or real candles to keep the children safe. Jacqueline Walker, manager at the setting, said: “The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. We feel it is very important for the children to learn about a range of cultures and festivals through fun and exciting activities.”


festival of lights How to make your own diya lamps

The story of Diwali

To celebrate Diwali, children can try making their own diya lamps. Each child will need: an egg-sized piece of salt dough (see recipe below) a tealight candle – you can use LED versions if you’d rather not light real candles in the setting paint brush and paint Children can mould the piece of dough into a shape of their choice. When they are happy with the shape of their pot, help them push the tealight candle into the centre. Remove the tealight and bake the pots in an oven on a low heat. When the pots have set, they can be decorated and the tealight replaced.

How to make salt dough Salt dough is a popular choice for settings as it is often cheaper to make and use than clay and it sets after a few hours in the oven. Remember that the dough is not edible and be careful with any children who are allergic to the flour. They may touch their faces and/ or mouths after handling it.

For one ball of dough: 250g (one cup) flour 125g (half a cup) table salt 125ml (half a cup) water

The ancient text Ramayana tells the tale of Rama, who was exiled from his kingdom for 14 years. While he was away, his wife Sita was kidnapped by a demon named Ravana. Rama and his brother Laxman fought the demon and rescued Sita. Diwali celebrates the day they triumphantly returned to their kingdom with Sita, welcomed by a trail of glowing oil lamps lit by villagers.

Method Mix the ingredients together in a large bowl until it comes together in one large lump. You can then separate it into smaller pieces to give to each child, giving them a floured surface to shape their lamp on. Turn the oven on but keep it at its lowest setting and let it heat while the children are moulding their lamps. Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. When they are happy with the shapes, place them on the tray and put them in the oven for three hours, or until the shapes have become solid. Make sure the lamps have fully cooled before the children paint and decorate them. UNDER 5




Disability discrimination The legal team behind Law-Call, a 24-hour helpline available to Alliance members explains the laws on discrimination in early years settings


arly years settings most commonly deal with discrimination law in the context of employment. It is less common that they address discrimination in the context of the services they provide to children and their families. Most of the discrimination queries that Law-Call receives relate to disabilities, but the full list of protected characteristics are included in the Equality Act 2010. The Act defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment, where that impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse affect on an individual’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities”. This includes ‘hidden’ impairments such as mental health problems or diabetes. Cancer, HIV infection and multiple sclerosis are automatically classed as disabilities for the purposes of this legislation.

Reasonable adjustments Discrimination against those with disabilities is prohibited and all service providers are under a general duty to make reasonable adjustments within their business to ensure that disabled individuals have access to the services offered. For some settings, this may include physical adjustments such as installing a ramp for ease of access. The most common topic of discussion for us at Law-Call is when a parent of a child with a disability – visible or otherwise – wishes their child to attend the setting. The parent may well argue that the setting can make reasonable adjustments to allow their child to attend and that it is discrimination for the setting to refuse them. Direct discrimination is rarely a topic of discussion. The conundrum is usually how a child can be supported within the setting.




Objective justification The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Code of Practice for the supply of services suggests a non-exhaustive list of factors which may be taken into account when considering what adjustments are reasonable. This includes whether the steps taken would effectively overcome the substantial disadvantage, whether it is practical for the setting to take these steps, the cost of implementing them and any disruption they may cause. It also includes any resources already used to make adjustments and whether there is any financial or other assistance available to the setting. When considering this, regardless of whether an adjustment has been made, the setting should document its thought process and the outcome of this process. If it is alleged that there is discrimination arising from a disability or indirect discrimination, the setting will have a defence against any complaint if it can show that its actions were a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’, alternatively known as an ‘objective justification’. Again, this is assessed on the particular circumstances of each case so advice should be sought if this dilemma arises. Occasionally, Law-Call speaks with settings that have been told by their local authority that they must take a disabled child. This has previously happened even where the setting can prove that they are unable to make reasonable adjustments and have provided an ‘objective justification’ defence. It is reasonable for settings to question the local authority’s thought process behind this stance and we would recommend that settings contact Law-Call if the matter cannot be resolved. All early years staff and management should be well informed and trained on

disability discrimination. The EHRC Code suggests that businesses should: Establish a policy to ensure equality of access to and enjoyment of their services by potential service users or customers from all groups in society. Communicate the policy to all staff, ensuring that they know that it is unlawful to discriminate when they are providing a service to the public. Train all staff, including those not providing a direct service to the public, to understand the policy, the meaning of equality in this context and their legal obligations. Monitor the implementation and effectiveness of your policy. Address acts of discrimination by staff as part of disciplinary rules and procedures. Ensure that performance management systems address equality and nondiscrimination. Maintain an easy to use and wellpublicised complaints procedure. Review practices to ensure that they do not unjustifiably disadvantage particular groups. Consult families, staff and organisations representing disabled children about the quality and equality of your provision and ask how you can be more inclusive. As you can see, this is a very complex area of law and Alliance members are urged to contact the Law-Call service to discuss any particular questions they have on an individual basis.

Find out more The number to contact Law-Call on can be found on your membership card, or in the members’ area of the Alliance website at


Improving life-long outcomes The Healthy Child Programme is the key universal public health service for improving the health and wellbeing of children. Its goals are to identify and treat problems early, help parents to care well for their children and change health behaviours. It also aims to prevent problems in child health and development and contribute to a reduction in health inequalities. All early years providers play a key role in contributing to its aims. The programme offers health and development reviews, health promotion, parenting support, screening and immunisation programmes. The Healthy Child Programme: Pregnancy and the First 5 Years of Life (HCP) (Department of Health and Social Care 2009) and the Rapid Review (Public Health England 2015) provide a framework to support the delivery of costeffective early intervention and preventative public health services to improve outcomes for children aged 0-19 years. There are seven key priorities for the HCP: 1. Tackling obesity. 2. Reducing smoking. 3. Reducing harmful drinking. 4. Best start in life. 5. Reducing dementia risk. 6. Antimicrobial risk. 7. Reducing tuberculosis.

accidents (improving health literacy) health, wellbeing and development of the child aged two: ready to learn, narrowing the word gap Providers should consider how their work supports these high impact areas. While this may at first seem somewhat removed from a provider’s day-to-day work, good groups will be positively supporting children’s development in their everyday practice through the activities they offer and the advice and support they give to families. A useful exercise is to consider the following questions and how you can support the high impact areas. A few example answers have been provided below each question: 1. Transition to parenthood - How do you make your group accessible and welcoming to new parents? Provide information leaflets on benefits and who to contact for support. Ensure that information about your group is visible to new parents i.e. in surgeries and other community groups.

2. Maternal mental health - What would give you cause for concern regarding the mental Of particular relevance to early years practitioners health and wellbeing of a new parent? is the 0-5 programme lead by health visitors. The Offer support, understanding and a listening six early years high impact areas are: ear to both parents and carers. transition to parenthood. maternal mental health. breastfeeding. healthy weight, healthy nutrition. managing minor illnesses and reducing

Provide information leaflets about the benefits of breastfeeding.

Encourage parents to talk to their health visitor. 3. Breastfeeding - How do you promote the benefits of breastfeeding to new mothers?

Make sure that your group is breastfeedingfriendly and offers a comfortable, welcoming environment for breastfeeding mothers and babies. 4. Healthy weight, healthy nutrition - Are you confident in providing advice about what constitutes a healthy diet for young children? Provide refreshments that are healthy such as fruit and vegetables. Share tips and ideas for healthy snacks and meals with families. 5. Managing minor illnesses and reducing accidents - How do you improve health literacy for children? Role model safety within the group. Play games that involve crossing the road, with books about being safe. 6. Health, wellbeing and development of the child aged 2: Ready to learn, narrowing the word gap - What activities can you provide that will help with children’s communication and language skills and encourage learning? Promote the importance of reading books and sharing stories and rhymes. Ensure that stories, songs and rhymes are included in every session.

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Cutting out p





pumpkin waste Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Alliance, explains how you can enjoy new activities and reduce waste this Halloween


arved pumpkins are a key element of Halloween celebrations. Many families will place a jack-o’-lantern on their doorstep or windowsill overnight to mark the special day. The tradition is now so popular that an estimated 10 million pumpkins were sold in the UK in 2018. But what happens to these pumpkins on 1 November, when all good witches and wizards have packed away their broomsticks and costumes for another year? There’s a good chance that a lot of those shiny orange pumpkins will sit forlornly on a doorstep or in the front garden for days, maybe even weeks. Eventually they will begin to sag, perhaps anticipating their eventual fate in the landfill. Last year, experts estimated that only 5% of pumpkins grown in the UK will be eaten. Halloween pumpkins are often grown for their size and shape, which can result in stringy flesh that’s not always suitable for cooking. The remaining 95% are thrown away with the food waste or general rubbish, creating 60-70,000 tonnes of additional waste every October. Many of these pumpkins will end up in landfill sites where they will eventually break down, producing environment-damaging methane. But there are a number of more eco-friendly options that you can try with the children.

Save the seeds There are approximately 500 seeds inside every medium pumpkin. Children will enjoy picking them out of the stringy flesh. Once washed and dried they can used in a number of ways:

on a paper towel and separate them to stop them from sticking together. Once completely dried, place them in brown paper envelopes, which you could ask the children to decorate. Offer them to parents and visitors for a small donation. This could even launch a gardening challenge for next year as you see which family can grow the biggest pumpkin using the seeds.

Life cycles If you didn’t grow your own pumpkins in the setting this year, add it to your long-term planning to get ready for April 2020. Save a handful of seeds from this year’s pulp and dry them out ready for planting in the spring. Pumpkins are easy for children to grow – you can find specific details about when and where to plant them online – and their large leaves and vibrant fruits will be fascinating to watch grow. They need constant watering, offering good lessons for young gardeners. Children can also watch the carved pumpkins start to decompose. It may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but young children will enjoy seeing the changes in colour, shape and texture.

Try some recipes Scooping out the flesh of a pumpkin takes a lot of time and effort so don’t waste it by throwing it away. If the flesh is not too stringy there are plenty of recipes to choose from. Pumpkin puree can be used as the basis for soups, pies or even houmous that will add to children’s healthy diets and use up any leftover flesh.

Create some compost

roast them to make a tasty snack dry them out and thread them onto necklaces create a collage add them to musical shakers create a pumpkin-seed number line

You could even fundraise with your seeds. Rinse and dry the seeds, making sure you put them

If your pumpkin is not suitable for cooking, cut it up into small chunks and add it to your own compost bin, if you have one. If you don’t already have one, now is a good time to start. You can build one using old pallets or garden trellis, plastic buckets or even a heavy-duty cardboard box. Have a look online for detailed instructions and of course involve the children.

Chunks of pumpkin can also be added directly to the soil in your garden area. Just dig them in. This is a nice task to warm up your budding gardeners on a chilly winter morning.

Feed the wildlife Our wildlife visitors are more likely to come into the garden if there is a source of food available to them. Squirrels, moles, mice and deer will all feast on pumpkin. Let the children look for clues to see who may have visited the garden for a snack. Look for teeth marks, or leave a light dusting of flour on a paved area to see if you can get any footprints. If you are lucky enough to have a motion-sensitive night camera, you could review the footage with the children. Dried pumpkin seeds are also a welcome addition to your bird table, especially when autumn’s bountiful trees and hedgerows start to give way to winter’s bare branches. So keep a few seeds back to add into your regular mix in the winter months.

Check your local area Some local authorities are helping to reduce landfill waste by offering a collection for post-Halloween pumpkins. In 2018, there were 40 local areas offering a scheme to stop pumpkins from being wasted – check if your local authority is running a collection or other recycling event. If not, check the hashtag #PumpkinRescue on social media for more ideas on how to recycle or reuse your pumpkin or you may even wish to consider running your own rescue event at your setting. However you decide to use this year’s pumpkins, remember that you will be making a big difference to the amount of food waste you produce. There are very few food items of such size and weight that are grown to be used for just one night of the year and then discarded. Every small change we make now will gather momentum as the next generation of children plan their future Halloween celebrations.





Getting their five-a-day Annie Denny, nutrition development manager at the Early Years Nutrition Partnership, shares ideas for helping children get their five portions of fruit and vegetables each day


e all know that children should be eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day. But it’s not always easy to know how much counts as ‘one portion’, given that children’s portion sizes vary with age, size and levels of physical activity. There’s no official guidance on children’s portions of fruit and vegetables, but experts tend to agree that around half an adult’s portion is realistic. So for children aged between one- and four-years-old, the amount a child can fit in the palm of their hand would be a good guideline. The five-a-day advice does not apply to children under one.

What counts? There is also often confusion about what can be counted as one of the five-a-day. Pulses and beans, including baked beans, can count as one portion of a child’s five-a-day, but no more than one, even if they eat more. This is because, while they are a good source of fibre, they contain fewer nutrients than other fruits and vegetables. A 15g portion of dried fruit, including currants, dates, sultanas and figs, also counts as one portion. But these should be eaten at mealtimes, and not as snacks, to help protect children’s teeth from the sugar they contain. Early years settings should avoid serving fruit juice, even if it is diluted, to help prevent tooth decay. If fruit juice is offered at home it should always be diluted – one part juice

to 10 parts water – and only offered at mealtimes. Drinks that say ‘juice drink’ are unlikely to count towards a child’s five-a-day.

Happy mealtimes Be cautious not to reinforce the idea that vegetables are unpleasant and need to be hidden within other foods. This may particularly apply to some children with autism spectrum disorder whose range of accepted foods can be impacted by hiding vegetables within familiar foods. Have fun trying lots of different fruit and vegetables and promote the idea of ‘visible veg’ to parents. Getting children involved in choosing and preparing fruit and vegetables can encourage them to eat more. Don’t forget that vegetables and fruit don’t have to be fresh to count as a children’s portion – frozen, tinned (in natural juice or water, with no added sugar or salt), dried and those cooked in soups, stews and pasta as well as some ready meals and shop-bought soups all count. Frozen fruit and vegetables can even be more nutritious than fresh ones as freezing preserves nutrients.

Packaged products Some brands are using the five-a-day message to market processed snacks and ready meals. It can be hard for parents to make a call on the nutritional value of these foods, which often include crisps, savoury snacks and fruit-gum or flake snacks. One of the key reasons for the five-a-day

recommendation is the need to eat enough fibre, vitamins and minerals, all of which are found in fresh, canned and frozen fruit and vegetables. Some packaged snack foods targeted at children don’t provide an equivalent amount. If Parents offer these packaged foods, it should be alongside fresh, frozen and canned fruit and vegetables wherever possible.

Five top five-a-day tips 1. Vegetables aren’t just for dinner. Serve canned tomatoes on toast or add frozen spinach or canned mushrooms to scrambled eggs for vegetable servings at breakfast. 2. Many parents will give children a snack for the journey home. Encourage them to offer fresh fruit or vegetables. When children are really hungry they are more likely to try foods they might otherwise refuse! 3. Try not to hide vegetables. Use them to bump-up stews, casseroles and Bolognese with grated carrots, courgette, butternut squash or cabbage. Frozen mixed vegetables can be added to stews, shepherd’s pie, pasta bakes, pies and curries. 4. Suggest parents keep the fruit bowl in the living room, rather than the kitchen. 5. Create a rainbow chart and try one fruit or vegetable for each colour or letter. Where families are worried that a new fruit or vegetable might not be liked, provide recipe suggestions for using up any leftovers in favourite dishes.

More information




For practical support with portion sizes in your setting from an expert nutritionist or dietitian, contact the Early Years Nutrition Partnership at


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Under 5 October  

This issue includes an update from the Alliance's Workload project with the DfE and Ofsted, ideas for marketing your setting, information on...

Under 5 October  

This issue includes an update from the Alliance's Workload project with the DfE and Ofsted, ideas for marketing your setting, information on...

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