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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

This event happened on Wednesday 21 September 2022. You can watch the recording below.

There are proven, lifelong benefits of a good early childhood education. But despite this, the early years sector faces more challenges than ever before. Early childhood education and care vacancies are at record levels and the rising costs of living mean that more and more early years settings are struggling to stay open.

A recent government proposal to change childcare ratios, requiring practitioners to care for larger groups of children, could put further pressure on a struggling industry. With this huge challenge ahead, longterm, sustainable solutions are needed. How can we improve working practices for early years professionals? And what is the future of the early years sector?

June O’Sullivan joined us for a special online event to help us understand the scale of the challenge. She is CEO of the London Early Years Foundation, the UK's leading voluntary sector nursery provider, working across London to provide access to high-quality, affordable early years education and care. June campaigns for policy changes and advises governments, organisations and academics on how to improve outcomes for children. She joined us in conversation with Fionnuala O’Reilly, Principal Advisor at The Behavioural Insights Team, to discuss the challenges the sector faces and the road to recovery.

Why you should watch the recording 

This event was for anyone interested or working in the early years sector: practitioners, educators, those working in policy and in local authorities. 

June shared her extensive experience in the industry, why early years care is more important than ever, and how we can overcome the challenges facing the sector.

The opinions expressed in this event recording are those of the speaker. For more information, view our full statement on external contributors.


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June O'Sullivan


June is CEO and creator of the UK's leading childcare social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation. She remains a tireless campaigner, looking for new ways to influence policy and make society a better place for all children and families. She continues to advise Governments as well as a range of organisations, academics and services at home and overseas about how best to implement a social enterprise vision for Early Years. June is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Director of Social Enterprise UK, Trustee of The Book Trust, and Member of the London Mayor’s Child Obesity Taskforce. June was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 2013, for her services to London’s children. In 2017 she received the Most Influential Person In Early Years Award and joined the top 10 of the WISE100.


Fionnuala O’Reilly


Fionnuala joined the Behavioural Insights team in 2014 and has led research in several areas of education policy including parental engagement, fostering social and emotional learning in the classroom and improving student motivation. She now leads BIT’s work in Early Years, exploring ways to improve the home learning environment and empowering early years practitioners to foster key skills in the earliest years of life. Fionnuala is seconded to the ‘A Fairer Start’ mission until Spring 2023 where she is helping to shape the mission’s strategy around Early Childhood Education and Care. e. Fionnuala holds a BSc in Economics and French from the University of Limerick, an MSc in Behavioural Science from Stirling University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford where her research focuses on the development of executive functions in preschool children.