Early Years Podcast

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Exploring Funding for Early Years Education

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Dive into the topic of Funding for Early Years Education, in collaboration with our expert podcast guest, Neil Leitch. Learnings, tips, resource recommendations and more, all included.  

Funding for Early Years education is a crucial topic that greatly impacts the future of children in the UK today. Adequate funding means better quality education, well-supported teachers, and the ability to meet the diverse needs of children everywhere 

Here at TTS, we recently had the privilege of hosting 4 podcast episodes with Neil Leitch (Series 5, Episodes 1 – 4), CEO of the Early Years Alliance, to talk all things Early Years funding. Neil shared his expert insights into what’s happening with funding right now, ways we can support Early Years education, and why speaking up about these issues is so important.  

In this blog, we’ll share highlights from our episodes with Neil, takeaways to help understand and tackle the challenges involved, and recommend resources to help you in your own practice.  

Neil’s episodes are also CPD accredited. If you want to take your learning further, you can complete the equivalent of 1 hour of CPD training after listening. And it’s completely free too.  

Episode Highlights 

Refocusing on Children’s Needs and Well-Being 

Neil emphasised the need to refocus on what children truly need for their well-being, particularly as the Early Years are critical for their development. This includes the importance of creating environments that nurture children’s physical, emotional and cognitive growth 

Workforce Challenges: Underpaid, Undervalued, and Exhausted  

The top 3 reasons why people are leaving the Early Years sector were addressed: being underpaid, feeling undervalued, and experiencing exhaustion. Neil called for better recognition of staff, and support for Early Years practitioners to ensure they’re able to provide high-quality care and education.  

Changing Perceptions of Early Years Staff 

Previously, the perception of Early Years practitioners was limited to settings merely “looking after children” and practitioners being seen as “babysitters”. Recent years have seen this perception start to shift, with the media now showing more appreciation for the vital role Early Years practitioners play. Neil highlighted the importance of this shift, and the role of a supportive work environment in retaining staff and improving the overall quality of Early Years education  

Raising Future Leaders: Kind and Empathetic Children  

Neil spoke passionately about the Early Years educator role in raising kind and empathetic children who will become future leaders. He underscored the importance of Early Years education in honing the social and emotional skills needed for leadership for years to come.  

children sat in a circle on the floor

SEN Children and the Staffing Crisis  

A significant issue discussed was how SEN children are being impacted by the staffing crisis, with many even being rejected from schools who simply don’t have the staff levels to cope. Neil highlighted the urgent need for more funding and resources to ensure SEN children get the support they need.  
The recruitment and retention crisis also leads to instability and inconsistency for both staff and children, which can be detrimental to children’s learning and development.  

Essential 1-2-1 Support 

Following on from the issues with staff levels, Neil pointed out the lack of 1-2-1 support for children who need it. Individualised attention is essential for the development and well-being of many children, particularly those with additional needs. Without the funding to support this, essential 1-2-1 support unfortunately falls to the wayside.  

Communication and Language Skills Development  

Many children are now entering Early Years settings with delays in their communication and language development. The pandemic was a key proponent of this, isolating children during vital years when they would have been engaging with other children and adults. This puts further strain on staff through the need of targeted support and interventions to help children catch up and develop these essential skills 

These highlights give an overview of the key challenges and potential solutions in funding for Early Years education. For more in-depth insights, be sure to listen to the full episodes with Neil (Series 5, Episodes 1 – 4).  

Key Takeaways

Resources We’d Recommend

Our in-house expert, Olivia Haslam, suggests related resources to help you in your own Early Years setting. All available on the TTS website 

In relation to the language and communication gap that now exists for many children, The Early Soundplay Bundle is great for language development. This is because it includes a collection of resources aimed at boosting speech, language, and literacy.  
Each story bundle comes packed with resources. Key components include an Early Soundplay book with corresponding wooden figures depicting story animals, fostering hands-on engagement. A USB stick is loaded with a comprehensive activity pack offering speech and language activities, puppet templates, and colouring sheets to print, alongside targeted guidance for educators.  
Sophie Thompson lends her voice to a captivating digital MP3 audio book, designed to improve speech sound awareness. This, together with a read-along audio version, assists emergent and reluctant readers by promoting focused listening and participation. This thoughtful compilation of interactive and digital resources supports a vibrant and inclusive learning experience. 

I have recommended TTS developed mini mobile phones, as this is a great resource to get children talking, being confident and independent in communicating collaboratively or independently. Children can imaginatively create role play scenarios where they can build on characters and real-life experiences, such as making a doctor’s appointment or ordering a takeaway. These make a great addition to any role play, home corner or communication area within the environment.  

Think about the different conversations children hear at home, whether their carers are working from home or talking with family and friends, children learn about different vocabulary and different ways of life all through talking and speaking together. This set of 4 rechargeable, tactile mobile phones that enable children to call each phone, featuring touch activated number buttons. Each coloured phone has 3 buttons that match the devices. Children can press the button to hear the matching phone ring. The phones enable children to explore developmentally appropriate technology. 

To support children’s personal, social and emotional development, TTS developed Calming Kittens & Activity Cards are perfect as they offer young children in early years and KS1 a toolkit to understand and manage their emotions. 

Through engaging strategies, children learn to calm themselves and gain better emotional self-control. The activity cards assist practitioners, teachers, and parents in discussing emotions with children. Designed with young learners in mind, these compact cat figures offer an engaging way for children to explore their feelings. Each colour-coded kitten represents a specific calming activity that aids in teaching children about their emotions and provides methods for effectively dealing with them. Designed for younger children, these smaller cat versions are easier to handle. The activities maintain the same impactful benefits as those in the original Calming Cat set – Calming Cat | Feelings & Emotions | TTS (tts-group.co.uk) 

To support all children, but especially those with SEND, I would recommend the above starter kit for creating a sensory retreat, promoting calm and exploration for children. 

Designed to provide a safe place or cool down spot for children who feel overwhelmed, this set offers a space for calming and transition ease. This kit incorporates sensory glow lights and resources, making it an ideal addition to a sensory diet. It can help with regulation and serves as a relaxation tool. The kit equips users with everything they need to create a light sensory room experience, enabling a mindful and soothing sensory journey. 

Central to the Calming Sensory Pod Starter Collection is the Mini Pop-Up Sensory Pod, offering a tranquil space for children who benefit from a quiet escape. Designed for flexibility and ease of set-up, it allows for the swift creation of a calming spot in various environments.  

Included in this collection are carefully chosen elements such as the Rechargeable Fibre Optic Sparkle Rug, and Light-Up Bolster Cushions, providing a blend of tactile and visual stimuli to engage the senses deeply. Additionally, Glow Construction Blocks and the Sensory Illuminated Writing Board, complemented by Chalk Marker Pens, encourage creative exploration and cognitive development within a comforting sensory context. The Vibrating Weighted Lap Buddy is specially included to offer soothing tactile input, ideal for children experiencing sensory overloads. This collection thoughtfully combines diverse sensory items to support a wide range of sensory needs, serving as a comprehensive tool for creating individualised sensory diets and serene environments geared towards exploration, comfort, and growth. 

Get your CPD Certificate  

The topic of Funding for Early Years is a critical one for practitioners to understand. That’s why our episodes with Neil Leitch are CPD accredited. Simply watch or listen to the 4 episodes, and complete your free CPD assessment 

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