This month, Judith Allen looks at what's been making the news throughout July. Childcare costs are being addressed in a government consultation that asks for ideas on how they can be improved, such as by free entitlements and holiday clubs, wrap-around care and flexibility. The number of young men interested in primary teaching has increased dramatically, school food just gets better and new research has found that watching TV is still bad for your waistline...

Childcare commission consultation

Parents, early years professionals and others with an interest in childcare are being urged to come forward with their ideas to help improve the accessibility and affordability of childcare.

The Childcare Commission is calling for evidence and ideas on how to make childcare more affordable for working families and reduce any unnecessary burdens on providers. Wrap-around care has been identified as a particular issue for working parents, and ways to improve the availability of provision before and after regular school hours and during school holidays is of utmost priority.

Under consideration are ways to encourage out-of-hours provision so that parents are able to access care for their child when they need it; identifying and removing any regulation that is not needed to ensure safety or quality; and how childcare helps to get parents into work and out of poverty.

Ofsted no longer reporting on children’s services

Ofsted will no longer be required to produce an annual assessment of each local authority’s children’s services, following the repeal of s.138 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

The local authority assessments, which were drawn from relevant findings from Ofsted’s inspection and regulation of education, care and skills, and published performance data, were abolished as part of wider changes to local authority accountability arrangements across Government. The repeal of s.138 will remove an unnecessary bureaucratic burden from both local authorities and Ofsted.

Number of male primary teachers rising

More men are becoming primary school teachers, according to latest figures from the Teaching Agency, which show that the number of male trainee primary teachers has increased by more than 50% in the last four years and has grown at five times the rate of women.

More top male graduates are being encouraged to follow suit and take advantage of the great opportunities a primary teaching career provides.

Notably, men have been encouraged that the same pay scales (starting at £23,010) apply to all teachers, regardless of whether they teach primary or secondary, and career progression opportunities are excellent. Teachers are also twice as likely to be in management positions as graduates in comparable professions after 3.5 years. Training bursaries of £5000 are available for those with a 2:1 degree applying to primary teaching, and £9000 for those with a first class degree.

Which two-year-olds get free education? You decide…

Up to 300,000 babies born this year are set to benefit from 15 hours of free early education each week when they are two years old.

A consultation has been launched calling for views on which two-year-olds should benefit. This is the second phase of the roll out of free early education to around 40% of two-year-old children to help prepare them for school and give them the best possible start in life.

In the consultation, it is reported that two-year-olds from families who meet the criteria for free school meals will continue to be eligible. In addition, the Department for Education proposes that two-year-old children should get free early education if they: are in low-income families earning no more than £16,190 each year; have special educational needs or a disability; or have been in care and been adopted.

Childcare cost increase pushes up cost of living

According to a new report, a couple with two children needs to earn a minimum of £36,800 to be able to have an adequate standard of living in the UK.

The report, A Minimum Income Standard for The UK in 2012: Keeping up in Hard Times, found that because of soaring childcare and transport costs and cuts to tax credits, the minimum amount a couple with two children needs to make for a socially acceptable standard of living has risen by almost a third since 2008.

Two parents need to earn at least £18,400 each, or £36,800 if only one parent works, to support themselves and two children in 2012.

Based on the Daycare Trust’s Childcare Costs Survey, minimum costs of childcare have risen to the extent that they are now a families’ single biggest weekly outgoing.

The report also revealed that parents agreed that public transport is expensive and not sufficiently flexible nor reliable to meet the needs of families with children.

Who looks after the children?

Two-thirds of local authorities in England do not have enough holiday childcare for working parents.

The Daycare Trust’s annual holiday childcare survey has found that over half of local authorities have had their holiday childcare budgets cut this year.

Costs have risen on average by 3% increasing to 19% in some areas, with one holiday club in London charging £400 a week.

Despite the requirement in the 2006 Childcare Act that local authorities must ensure that they have sufficient childcare for working parents, the survey reveals “significant gaps” in holiday childcare across the country, particularly for older children, disabled children and in rural areas.

School food improving

The Government has announced that it has asked the co-founders of LEON restaurant chain to examine school food across the country.

The aim is then for the LEON group to create an action plan to accelerate improvement in school food and determine the role of food more broadly in school life.

Over the last decade there has been a big change of attitude towards school food and significant improvement in many schools. This is the result of work done by a large array of people, including the School Food Trust, associated charities such as School Food Matters, and Jamie Oliver's Foundation — not to mention the individual cooks, teachers, parents, pupils, outside caterers and local authorities who have embraced the cause.

Everyone needs sunshine

A new survey has shown that over half of healthcare professionals are unaware of government advice that children under five should be given a daily supplement of vitamin D.

The research found that 66% were unfamiliar with the Chief Medical Officer’s letter in February 2012, restating government advice that children aged six months to five years should be given a daily supplement of vitamin D2 in the form of vitamin drops.

Despite this, nearly half of healthcare professionals said they always discuss the need for Vitamin D with parents of children under five and 73% talk to parents about how they can increase children’s vitamin D levels through healthy exposure to sunlight and eating a balanced diet.

Too much TV — still bad for your health

A new study has found that every hour of TV watched by a toddler increases their waistline and reduces their fitness. No surprises there!

Researchers analysed the amount of television 1,314 children watched a week at 29 and 53 months of age, and the effect this had on their muscular fitness at age six and waist circumference at age eight.

To measure children’s fitness they took part in a standing long jump test where they were asked to jump as far as possible while keeping both feet together.

The average waist circumference for all the children was 63.8cm and the average long jump was 117.31cm, with boys performing better than girls.

The findings showed that for each hour of weekly exposure to television at 29 months old, there was a 0.36cm decrease in the distance children jumped in the standing long jump test.

Last reviewed 30 July 2012