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.
April 20th, 2015 by Sarah Steel
There have been so many headlines over the last couple of weeks about what each political party is going to do for parents and children. The National Day Nurseries Association have done a great round up, so you can see what it might mean to you.
February 4th, 2013 by Sarah Steel
After two years of consulting on the opening of an envelope, I find it amazing that Liz Truss has announced the biggest changes to childcare for 10 years without any consultation and against a united voice of opposition from the sector.
Under these plans the ratio of children to child carers would rise from four two-year-olds for every one member of staff to six, while the ratio for children aged up to two will go up from three to four for every one member of staff.
My real frustration is the ‘smoke and mirrors’ briefing to the media which leads parents to believe that this is about making childcare more affordable. The whole plan has not been properly thought out. Reducing ratios will not make childcare more affordable, as the Government is also saying that staff must be better trained and better paid. That means any saving on ratios will be passed on to staff salaries, or used to offset the current losses nursery care providers make as a result of too low a rate for the Government-funded spaces for three and four year olds.
This is not to mention the sheer practicalities of having one member of staff looking after six children aged two – everyone in the sector has been inviting Liz Truss to come and spend a day in their two-year-old rooms to see for herself how what she is suggesting will work.
I’ll be interested to see what comes out of the promised budget announcements. In an ideal world, Ministers would be looking at a significant increase in Employer Childcare Vouchers rather than this, which really would make a difference to many working families.
There are some welcome points in the announcement: a new qualification for senior practitioners is going to come in, which is the Early Years Teacher. This should go some way to address the historical inequality between Early Years Professionals and Qualified Teacher Status; EYPs were not on a par with QTS, causing bad feeling and a significant pay gap. However, the Government does not make it clear how EYTs will be paid the higher salaries they will naturally demand; this could push fees up, unless there is some subsidy available to support the higher salaries.
As a company we introduced a requirement that our staff have the basic qualifications being set out in the report, as we felt that the rigours of delivering the Early Years Foundation Stage required a minimum level of academic qualification. Whatever your academic background, it does not give anyone more laps to sit on, more arms for hugs, or the ability to change six nappies at once!
Most of all, I am concerned that the reduction in ratios will lead to a two-tier system: discerning parents who can afford to pay higher fees or feel it is vital, will use nurseries and childminders who pin their colours to the mast by maintaining or exceeding current ratios. Those in most deprived areas, where nurseries are already struggling to survive, will have to embrace lower ratios, but this may be at the cost of quality.
I would certainly call on the Government to hold off on these changes until they have taken the time to get the full views of the sector it is proposing to change. Altogether, the current situation is not a satisfactory state of affairs. To use the alarmingly accurate parody provided by ‘Yes, Minister’ I don’t know where Liz Truss’s own Sir Humphrey was when she made these plans, but he was definitely snoozing.
October 31st, 2011 by Sarah Steel
It was encouraging last week to see that Children and Young People Now magazine ran an article which warned the Government that many working families are struggling to keep up with childcare bills.
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