Easter Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:13 pm on 29th March 2018.

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Photo of Vicky Foxcroft Vicky Foxcroft Opposition Whip (Commons) 4:13 pm, 29th March 2018

It is a pleasure to follow Bob Blackman, who has done such fantastic work on the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. I also wish him good luck for his Adjournment debate; I am sure that he will not stop until he is successful.

Before we adjourn for the Easter recess, I want to use this opportunity to raise two interlinked issues, both of which are incredibly important and close to my heart: early years support and reducing youth violence. In Lewisham, Deptford, we have several great nursery schools providing excellent early childhood education and family services. I was recently contacted by the head of one of them, Cathryn Kinsey, who spoke to me about the challenges that the school is facing as a result of funding cuts, and her worries about the services that it can provide post 2020. Clyde Nursery School is based in one of the most deprived wards in Lewisham, where child poverty is particularly high. Despite that, Clyde’s quality of teaching is consistently rated as outstanding by Ofsted.

Clyde also offers a range of vital services to the children’s families: support to survivors of domestic violence; parenting workshops; financial advice; English language classes; employment advice; and accredited training programmes. The support on offer is truly remarkable. Clyde is an asset that the local area cannot afford to lose, but its future is uncertain. The funding formula has left the nursery struggling, and cuts of nearly 40% and a projected budget deficit of £502,000 mean that it might be forced to close by 2020. Sadly, Clyde is not alone. Some 67% of nursery schools have predicted that they will no longer be financially viable by 2020.

It would be difficult to overstate the devastating impact that those closures would have. The vast majority of nursery schools serve children in deprived areas and such schools are consistently shown to be the most effective way of improving social mobility. Study after study shows that a child’s first years are critical in shaping their future health, character, success at school and future career. Nursery schools can have a genuinely transformative effect on levelling the playing field. In those early years, every experience can have a potentially profound impact on the life course of an individual, both positively and negatively.

I chair the youth violence commission, a cross-party group of MPs that seeks evidence-based policies to tackle the root causes of youth violence—it is great to see Chris Stephens, who is also a member of the commission, in the Chamber. We have been holding a series of evidence sessions as part of our research with Warwick University, and similar themes are emerging.

Over and over again, we hear about the importance of considering adverse childhood experiences or trauma in the context of youth violence. A child who grows up with four or more adverse experiences is 10 times more likely to be involved in violence by the age of 18 than a young person who has experienced none.

It is increasingly clear that early years support is just as important to tackling youth violence as it is to tackling inequality. I hope the Government have considered the importance of early intervention and early years support in their upcoming serious violence strategy, which I understand is due to be published very soon—thankfully, it has been agreed today that we will have a debate on the strategy.

We are currently at risk of seeing some of the best early years support disappear from some of our most deprived communities. The impact of that loss will be felt for years to come in a multitude of ways. If the Government are serious about reducing youth violence, and if they are serious about social mobility, their first step must be to reverse these cuts to nursery schools before it is too late.