Posts Tagged ‘parents’

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.


Why it’s good to share a joke with your child

September 11th, 2015 by Sarah Steel

It’s always good to have some positive news in early years, so thanks to Morton Michel (our insurance company) who wrote a great article this week about some recently published research, which showed that parents who joke and pretend with their children are teaching them valuable life skills. As they went on to explain:

‘Play is crucial to a child’s development with children as young as 16 months old naturally learning the difference between joking and pretending by picking up on their parents’ cues. The study by Sheffield University showed understanding the difference between joking and pretending allows children the opportunity to learn, imagine, bond, and think in abstract ways.
Dr Elena Hoicka, from the Department of Psychology, said: “The study shows just how important play is to children’s development. Parents who pretend and joke with their children offer cues to distinguish the difference between the two and toddlers take advantage of these cues to perform.

“For example, if a parent said something like, ‘That’s not really a hat!’ children would realise it was a joke, and not real, and would avoid putting the toy chicken on their head. “But if parents were pretending that, for example, a block was a horse, they might repeatedly make the block gallop, which would encourage children to do the same, and understand that the block really was a horse in their imagination.” She added: “The research reveals the process in which toddlers learn to distinguish joking and pretending.”

Researchers from the University’s Department of Psychology carried out two studies; one involved parents being asked to joke and pretend with their 16 to 20 month old children using actions. Jokes involved misusing objects like putting food on their heads and pretend play included activities like washing hands without soap or water. In the second study, parents of 20 to 24 month olds were asked to joke and pretend verbally with their toddlers. Pretend play included parents telling their children a round block was a horse and jokes included mismatching items like saying that a toy chicken was a hat.
The research, which was published in Cognitive Science, found parents can offer explicit cues to help distinguish between joke and pretend intention contexts and children, even as young as 16 months old, pick up on those cues.
In both studies parents showed more disbelief and less belief through their language and actions when joking in comparison to pretending. In response their children showed less belief through their actions and the older children showed less belief through their language.

“Knowing how to joke is good for maintaining relationships, thinking outside the box, and enjoying life. Pretending helps children to practice new skills and learn new information. “So while parents may feel a bit daft putting a toy chicken on their head they can at least console themselves with the knowledge that they are helping their children develop important skills for life,” added Dr Hoicka.

So, next time  you find yourself doing something rather silly in the line of playing with your children, relax and remember you’re helping their learning skills, as well as having fun and building strong and secure attachments!
The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
– See more at:

So, how will 30 hours of EYE work?

May 15th, 2015 by Sarah Steel

Well, the general election is finally over and we have a new all-Conservative government, who made the manifesto pledge to increase the number of funded hours for ‘working parents’ of 3 and 4 year olds to 30 hours per week. Childcare has already been mentioned in David Cameron’s outline plan for the next Queen’s Speech, so it seems likely that this will be high on the agenda of ‘family friendly’ policies and their drive to ‘make work pay’. The whole Early Years sector has been very nervous about the various pledges to extend the number of funded hours, as the system is currently totally unsustainable. Although the childcare minister, Sam Gyimah (staying in post in the new administration) said back last year that he thought there was ‘no problem’ with the funding system, David Cameron and Boris Johnson did announce in the last week of the election campaign that there would be a review of the funding for early years entitlement.

Sector representative, like the NDNA, will be campaigning hard to be involved in shaping any reform of the funding system, to ensure that nurseries do not continue to subsidise government policy and that a minimum rate per hour is guaranteed to providers. Do follow the debate and join the conversation – there is more information about the NDNA’s childcare challenge on their website IMG_3967

Where do your nursery fees go?

April 1st, 2015 by Sarah Steel

Now that we have gone into pre-election Purdah, we are expecting to hear more than ever from our politicians about childcare as they launch their manifestos. To date both Labour and the Lib Dems are promising to expand the ‘free entitlement’, which is great for parents but a disaster for nursery providers as none of them have indicated an interest in sorting out the mess that is nursery funding already, never mind an increase. We’ve just heard from Oxfordshire County Council that our funding for 3 year olds will increase by a whole 6p from £3.90 to £3.96 and in Gloucestershire from £3.25 to £3.50 per hour. The fact that our fees for an hour for a 3 year old would be between £4 and £5 per hour depending on location, is totally irrelevant. So, inevitably, working parents buying additional sessions for 3 year olds, or those with under-3s, end up paying higher fees, to allow us to balance our books.

This article in The Guardian explains very clearly where childcare fees goes and is a very familiar story.

I will be waiting to see what all the parties say about childcare funding before placing my vote on 7th May. The All party select committee report last week couldn’t have been clearer; funding needs reform and the parties have no excuse any more in saying they don’t know it is a problem. Let’s hope someone out there is listening……

Thinking about communication friendly spaces

July 24th, 2014 by Sarah Steel

I went on a really excellent training course last night, with Elizabeth Jarman who specialises in promoting environments that help children to develop to the best of their ability. She shared with us several pieces of research which showed how our environments affect brain development in children. Some of it really made us think – for example, how we can reduce noise in our environments to help children to focus better. Often our homes are very noisy with radios, music and televisions on, yet we expect young children to pick up on new words and sounds, against a background of noise. In nursery we need to think about how we can find quiet spaces at times and reduce background noise during talking and reading activities.

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We came away full of ideas and will also be thinking about transitions from home to nursery and how we can ease these, as well as transitions between age groups. For now, do have a look at as the page is designed for parents and practitioners alike. Over the next few weeks we hope to be sharing our learning with our nursery teams, so keep an eye out for a focus on communication friendly spaces around our settings.


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