Bridget Phillipson has pledged to deliver a “sea change” in early years as she called it her “number one priority”.

The new education secretary has said the Government will recruit more early years staff through a “re-energised” recruitment campaign.

Ms Phillipson visited a school-based nursery in East Croydon, in south London, on Wednesday where she spoke to staff and children at the setting.

Ahead of the General Election, Labour said it would repurpose empty or under-used school classrooms in England’s primary schools to offer more childcare places at 3,000 new school-based nurseries.

In her first week as education secretary, Ms Phillipson said: “Early years is about more than just childcare – it’s about giving every child the best possible start in life, which is why it’s my number one priority and right at the centre of my vision for education in this country.

“We will deliver a sea change in our early years system, and that begins now.”

Bridget Phillipson visit to Croydon nursery
Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson meeting Shiraz Khan, principle, alongside Molly Devlin, headteacher, (3rd left) and Katie Oliver, Director of Ark Start, (left) during her visit to a nursery at Ark Start Oval, East Croydon (Yui Mok/PA)

As part of a staggered rollout of the Government’s childcare expansion, working parents of two-year-olds in England have been able to access 15 hours of funded childcare since April.

This is due to be extended to working parents of all children older than nine months from September this year, before the full roll out of 30 hours a week to all eligible families a year later.

Childcare leaders have been calling “more action” to ensure the sector has enough early-years staff and funding to help with the expansion.

On Wednesday, Ms Phillipson said: “I will work hand in hand with our brilliant early years professionals to roll out childcare entitlements and build a system that works for them, for our children and for parents.

“That means more places through our plan to use primary school classrooms; more staff through a re-energised recruitment campaign; and better outcomes for children through improved early language and maths support.

“The early years are pivotal to our children’s life chances – this Government will treat them that way.”