Child care is always something of a hot topic. From the expense of pre-school provision to the withdrawal of benefits associated with it, there is always something to discuss and working parents can find themselves with difficult decisions to make.
Happily, in Southend it would appear that we can at least be secure in the knowledge that our children are receiving quality care.
In its annual Early Years report the Government's education watchdog Ofsted judged 86 per cent of child care in the Borough as either 'Good' or 'Outstanding'. This covers child care delivered through child minding, pre-schools, nurseries and nursery classes within mainstream schools.
Having examined the quality of 26 day nurseries, 39 pre-schools and 164 Registered Child Minders across Southend Ofsted concluded that 86 per cent of child care providers were rates 'Good' or 'Outstanding' for meeting the needs of children at the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) against a national average of 74 per cent.
The report highlighted the strong link between the level of staff qualification and the quality of child care provision in Southend and said this demonstrated children were getting the very best start in their learning and development from highly qualified and experienced professionals.
Seventy per cent of the town's Early Years work force is qualified at Level 3 (equivalent to A-levels) or above and 60 per cent of managers are qualified at Level 4 (degree level).
Executive Councillor for Children and Learning, James Courtenay, said: "I am delighted that Southend has been rated as one of the top ten child care providers in England."
It is heartening that the efforts and achievements of Southend's early years workforce are recognised. And the Council's efforts in working with various Pre-school, childminding and educational groups to provide support, advice and guidance is clearly paying off.
The other local authorities in Ofsted's top ten were Bracknell Forest, Brighton and Hove, Bromley, Cornwall, Dudley, Kingston upon Thames, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton and Torbay.
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