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We cannot afford not to be ambitious

ICPN has become Start Strong!

It would be remiss to have reached this stage and not recognise the huge work and commitment that went into establishing ICPN and developing it into the organisation we now are. Much of that work was done on a voluntary basis, by people and organisations who already had a huge workload and is a reflection on both the critical importance of early care and education and the commitment of the individuals involved. We all owe you a debt of gratitude.

Children’s early years are a fantastic opportunity. High quality care and education in their early years allows children to start strong, giving them solid foundations upon which they can build their lives. If we do not give young children the care, support and opportunities they need, we are wasting the chance to lay those solid foundations. Children do not have a second chance – there is only one childhood.

If, by 2020, we are to have a comprehensive and sustainable system of early care and education that meets the needs and rights of all our children, we need a national plan that is grounded in evidence of what is best for children and that reaches the highest international standards. As a first step towards this, Start Strong has published Children 2020 outlining why we need such a plan, and the priorities which should be central to that plan. In one way we have set ourselves very ambitious goals. On the other hand it should not be ambitious to plan that every child should have access to quality early care and education as a right.

But we are not forgetting where we are at the moment. We need to prioritise early care and education, sustaining the progress we have made as well as planning for the future. Early care and education needs to be a policy priority of the Government now, more than ever. The forthcoming Budget will probably be one of the most difficult we have seen in many years. Start Strong has outlined what we believe should be priorities in Budget December 2009. A copy of our analysis is available here.

Early care and education matters because it works. It works for children, the economy and society. We cannot afford not to be ambitious.

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