The early year’s sector in the UK was not developed by government policy with specific aims but came about in response to families’ requirements which were based on changing economical and social factors. As a diverse country our families have different needs for the care of their children and as a result of this the early years sector consists of various forms of provision to meet the needs of the children and families in a variety of ways. Families requirements for their children vary, some parents want care for their children so that they can return to work, some parents want to stay with their children while they socialise, some parents want their children in setting which offer services aimed at learning, some parents want their children to be in a home based environment and some families cannot afford to pay fees for provision. This is why the early year’s sector has various forms of provision to meet the needs of families. Provision includes – Nurseries (state run/private, free for 3-4,) childminders (in their own home,) pre-schools (community run, free for 3-4,) crèches (some free,) children’s centres (free) and parent and toddler groups (local community facilities, minimal costs.)
In England the framework used in early year setting is Early Year Foundation Stage (EYFS) , Common assessment framework (CAF) and Every Child Matter (ECM). In Wales the framework used in early year setting is known as Foundation Phase. In Scotland the framework used in early year setting is known as Curriculum for Excellence. In Northern Ireland there is no specific curriculum but they will use the Foundation Stage. Working with early years is influenced by international documents such as the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCR), or by other bodies such as ‘The European Court of Human Rights, as well as the legal system of our home nation. Also ‘Work patterns and financial constraints, safeguarding children policy, Children’s Act (1989), Every Child Matters’ Act (2010). As well as being the core document for all professionals working in the foundation years, the ‘EYFS Framework’ gives parents confidence that regardless of where they choose for their child’s early education, they can be assured that the same statutory commitments and principals will underpin their child’s learning and development experience. Sometimes early years care needs to respond to social influences. It is now less common for family members to live close to each other and as a result fewer parents are able to call on family members to assist with childcare. The early years are also influenced by financial issues. More and more families, whether they consist of one parent or two, are finding that they are struggling with their financial responsibilities. This leads to a need for childcare while the parent(s) are working. Some parents choose to solve their financial problem by caring for children of others. Childminders must be regulated and meet strict standards, but for many this is an ideal solution for both the childminder and the parents of the children they are subsequently able to care for. The rise of specialist settings (e.g. Reggio, Montessori or Steiner) may be seen to be the preserve of the more well-off. For some parents the choice of early years setting for their child will not be influenced by the lack of money but rather the opposite.
The impact of current policies, frameworks and influences on the Early Years sector is that it is bringing everyone together as a whole. The Welfare and Rights of the children are now taken more seriously. Children are now able to play, engage in and express themselves freely and are being heard. With all groups linked together, working with the same child will mean that the child will learn more effectively. Information is encouraged to be shared with the children and families. Whatever their backgrounds, all children and families are now given the access to affordable