A letter from Val Smith, Senior Manager, Early Years and Childcare Service


Firstly, I would like to introduce myself, my name is Val Smith and I am the new senior manager for the Early Years and Childcare Service. I say new but I have worked for Devon’s Early Years and Childcare service for 26 years and have had a job share with Claire Rockliffe for the past three years. Some of you will know me through my work developing our Children’s Centre programme and those with very long memories as a District Co-ordinator in Teignbridge.

At the same time as my recruitment to the full time post we also recruited a deputy to cover for me during any absences and Sue Bolt was the successful candidate, many of you know will know Sue as the Early Years and Childcare manager for South and West.

Before we get to the end of the first half of the term, I wanted to say a big thank you for the tremendous work you have all undertaken in encouraging all children back into your settings. You have worked incredibly hard to prepare and adapt to the changes you have had to put in place to ensure that your settings are as safe as they possibly can be for children.

It is a great testament to your close working relationships with families that they trust you to risk assess the situation daily and subsequently 97.1% of three and four-year-olds and 86.4% of two-year-olds who are entitled to the funding are taking up their entitlement.

Devon, overall, still has comparatively low numbers of positive cases – seven of our eight District areas remain lower than the national average.  However, the number of positive cases across the county has risen in line with the national increase.

Unfortunately, as you are aware, we are seeing more positive COVID -19 test results in our schools and early years and childcare settings. Over the past few weeks, we have tried to update you as best we can on Public Health England guidance on the different reporting systems.

However, just as a reminder in addition to following the DfE/PHE flow chart , all settings must notify the local authority of all confirmed cases using the online form. This is particularly important as the LA is not routinely receiving information relating to single confirmed cases from PHE or the DfE. This enables our team to follow and offer support to you all and helps manage local communication.

I would also like to thank all of you, who are completing the daily attendance register, the information as you know is passed to the DfE on a weekly basis and helps inform them about our overall sufficiency status in Devon.

We have been very fortunate in Devon to be able to access additional funding from a central COVID-19 pandemic fund for our settings. Approximately £500 000 of this funding has been allocated to providers across the county. This was on top of the Early years entitlement funding you received for your 2,3- and 4-year olds. This enabled us to offer additional financial support to settings that remained open for vulnerable children and children of critical workers during the lockdown period.   That all seems a very long time ago, but I don’t want to underestimate the challenges that staying open brought and want to thank you for being so responsive to the needs of children and families in your area.

Lastly, thank you for your ongoing support and commitment. For those of you who are off over half term, have a good break. We look forward to working with you during the second half of term in the run up to Christmas!

Yours sincerely,

Val Smith, Senior Manager Early Years and Childcare Service