Posts Tagged ‘daycare’

What does the Spending Review mean for Early Years?

November 26th, 2015 by Sarah Steel

The key points which have emerged from yesterday’s spending review so far look like this:

  • The average rate for 3 and 4 year olds will be £4.88. The small print is yet to be clarified, but this figure included the Early Years Pupil Premium, for disadvantaged children, which DfE say is worth 5p within this calculation. Whilst this sounds positive as a headline figure, it seems likely that this figure will be what is paid to local authorities, not what will actually be paid to providers. DfE have said that the average ‘uplift’ is more likely to be 30p an hour – really not so impressive. There is no detail about the money being index linked, so bearing in mind it doesn’t even come into action until September 2017, costs will have risen significantly by then. The NMW is due to reach £9 per hour by 2015 – how will the funding rate increase to match this?
  • The average rate for 2 year olds will be £5.39. Concerns are as for the 3 year old rate.
  • The rates for 2, 3 and 4 year olds are for PVIs, childminders, primary schools and maintained nurseries. It will be interesting to see what guidance is given to local authorities about whether rates should be uniform across sectors or whether maintained settings will continue to be paid a higher rate.
  • There will be a consultation in January around how local authorities pass on funding and contract with providers.
  • DfE will be introducing a national funding formula for early years, schools and high needs from 2017-18.
  • DfE will clarify what extras providers can charge for (e.g. food, extra activities) and will look at flexibilities, efficiencies and cutting red tape. This is very welcome as it causes considerable confusion for settings and parents alike.
  • The new 30 hour childcare offer is going to be restricted to single/both parents who work 16 hours per week and earn up to £100k each. When the policy was launched in the summer, it had been promoted as applying to anyone working from 8 hours, so this reduces the number of children who are eligible.
  • The new funding rates will not come in until September 2017.

As usual, the devil will be in the detail. The initial figures sound promising for early years, but until there is clarity on how local authorities will pass on the funding, we are not really much further on. I will be continuing to work with the National Day Nurseries Association to represent the concerns of PVI nurseries.


This is an interesting article based on some recent research on outdoor play and young children. We are moving away from fixed outdoor play resources towards ‘loose parts’ and more flexible, open-ended resources which can be something different every day. Have a read and see if you agree?

Children’s teeth hit the news

July 21st, 2014 by Sarah Steel

Over the last week  there was a lot of media coverage of the number of young children having to undergo anaesthesia to have milk teeth removed, Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 11.13.33due to severe decay. I was pretty shocked to read about the scale of the problem, even though we have been members of the ‘Stop the Rot’ campaign at all our nurseries for several years. If you missed the various articles, do have a look at this one:

As usual, juice and fizzy drinks seem to be the main culprits and this should strengthen our resolve to serve milk or water as the main choice for children under 5, offering watered down juice as a treat, followed by regular tooth brushing. What it does bring home is the need to say no to fizzy drinks entirely for pre-school children and hopefully this latest flurry of publicity will help parents to see how important this is.

At nursery, we will continue to promote good dental health with the children, keeping sugar intake to a minimum and offering milk or water at snack times. If you have a challenge with a child who still likes drinking from a bottle past the one year old point, do chat to our staff, who will support you in helping to move on to a ‘sippy’ cup and then a normal cup. The experts advise that juice is never given from a bottle, as this is particularly harmful to teeth and it is in the mouth for so long, causing real damage.

If you would like to know more about our approach, do have a look at and feel free to ask for more information in your nursery.

Do we really want our 2 year olds in school?

April 15th, 2014 by Sarah Steel



Following on from last week’s announcement by Sir Micheal Wilshaw that school was the best place for 2 year olds, there has been some really interesting comment in the press.

Here is just one article that suggests that the Head of Office and our Childcare Minister are not universally supported by the experts!

Frustations with OFSTED mount

July 29th, 2013 by Sarah Steel

This has been another frustrating week to be in Early Years. It makes me sad to start another blog post with such a negative statement, but it feels as though there is always something to fight at the moment. I have some great nursery teams, with really dedicated practitioners who truly go that extra mile to make lives for the children in their care as great as possible, and who also provide a lot of support to the families who come in our doors. However, at times the system seems determined to make life as difficult as possible for those of us trying to deliver great care and education.

Within the sector there is an increasingly loud rumble of concern about OFSTED inspections and the subsequent judgements that are made. We have had the most frustrating experience at one of our nurseries in Gloucestershire, where we had an inspection in May and the inspector gave us a ‘GOOD’ with lots of positive comments, and few suggestions on where we could improve, but no actions or recommendations. She was an informed and experienced individual, who showed a really good understanding of Early Years. However, within a week she was back on the phone, and explained that as we had a compliance action in September 2012,  which resulted in a follow up visit from OFSTED, there was no way we could be graded ‘GOOD’; the only option was ‘SATISFACTORY’. So said the quality assurance team at Tribal.

I appealed the decision, as my team were devastated; since the compliance action we had taken all the necessary steps to remedy the situation (a member of staff recording a dose of mediation incorrectly) and the inspector at both the compliance visit and the full inspection had been very satisfied with these steps. The member of staff involved had been disciplined and subsequently left the company. The manager had been in her last week in post when it occurred, so there had been significant management changes since the issue. The new manager rightly felt extremely disappointed that the experience of the inspector on the day was now being downgraded due to something which happened 8 months ago, under a different manager.

Having decided to appeal the decision, I then spoke to many colleagues in the sector and discovered that we are far from alone. I asked a question to Sue Gregory, head of EY at OFSTED at the NDNA conference last month, but she just repeated that it was really important to have high quality provision in Early Years (yes, we know that, that’s why we care about OFSTED outcomes).  She really didn’t answer my question and sadly, neither did the appeal process. Needless to say, the judgement was upheld, our report was published and we are now ‘SATISFACTORY’. Frustratingly, the report alludes to the compliance issue but says how well we have addressed all the issues. The ‘reason you are not yet GOOD’ is given as ‘some children in the pre-school do not fully participate in routines’.  Unbelievable! So, having decided that we should be ‘SATISFACTORY’, it is not hard to find some statement or other that bumps us down in to that grade descriptor.

I have just asked for the second stage of the appeals process to be undertaken by OFSTED, but hold out absolutely no hope of resolution. I feel that the voice of providers is simply not being heard in this process and OFSTED will always find something to ‘hang’ the grade on that they see fit, following complaint or compliance issue.  Perhaps only when they realise that there are so many ‘SATISFACTORY’ settings out there, that they can not offer sufficient places for funded 2 year olds, will they think again. Or, the more cynical part of me thinks, will they just use these statistics to beat us all up with, decrying the poor quality of PVI settings and finding it easier to reduce funding levels?

The only bright spot on the horizon has been the excellent support we have received from our Early Years Consultant at Gloucestershire County Council. Let’s hope that they are all still around in a few months to continue with this great work. As a sector we must make our voice heard about the increasing unfairness in the OFSTED process and total lack of transparency.



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