DfE cuts red tape to pave the way for longer school day

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The Government intends to revise the EYFS in April as part of moves to simplify regulation and encourage schools to open for longer hours and provide more childcare.

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The Government want schools to open longer to offer childcare after school

The updated version of the EYFS will come into force in September 2014 and include the changes to legislation set out in the Department for Education’s response to the ‘Regulation of childcare’ consultation published today.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Resolution Foundation in London this morning, education and childcare minister Elizabeth Truss set out plans for ‘sweeping reform’ to change the perception of what a school day is by making it easier for schools to open from 8-6.

Ms Truss said that because schools were ‘smart about their sessions, their staffing and their costs’ they were able to save money.

She gave the example of the St Bede Primary Academy or Parbold Douglas Academy in the North West where a place in the school nursery costs £6,000 a year to provide compared to a the average for the North West as a whole as something like £9,000.

The minister said that she wants school nurseries to collaborate with private nurseries and childminders to raise standards.

The reforms set out today include:

  • Aligning the staffing and qualification requirements for out-of-hours care for children in Reception and five-to- seven-year-olds with those governing the school day, ie sufficient staff as for a class of 30.
  • Out-of-school providers will no longer need to meet the learning and development requirements of the EYFS for Reception class children
  • Increasing the amount of time that a child can be looked after informally from two to three hours a day before a provider needs to register
  • Allowing providers to register multiple premises in a single registration process, for example, so that a nursery group can notify Ofsted that it is opening a number of new settings in a single registration process.
  • Enable childminders to operate on non-domestic premises for part of the working week, for example provide care at a school from 3-6pm
  • Remove the requirement for local authorities to approve childminder training to open up the market to improve access to training, including from childminder agencies
  • Align the safeguarding and welfare requirements of the Early Years Register and the General Childcare Register
  • Rename the GCR as the Child Safety Register
  • Extend the 1:13 ratio for three- and four-year-olds to anytime when a teacher (or EYP or equivalent) is present. Currently this flexibility is only available between the hours of 8am and 4pm.

The childcare sector’s response to the reforms was mixed.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-School learning Alliance, said he was disappointed that the Government was ignoring the needs of the private and voluntary sector.

He said, ‘Elizabeth Truss spoke proudly about how much the Government is investing in order to support schools in delivering early years education and care.

‘But when it comes to the PVI sector, the only Governmental support she seemed to focus on was the relaxation of building regulations.

‘Do the Government really think that this counts as adequate support?

‘Do they not understand that without adequate funding, no provider will be able to make the investment needed to ensure they are actually able to deliver the two-year-old offer – a point that was, in fact, raised by schools representatives attending today’s event?’

‘The picture the minister paints of the future of early years is a deeply concerning one: a sector full of large-scale cheap, and in some cases poor-quality state provision and that they, like us, are likely to resist these proposals – unless, that is, the Government decides to make taking two-year-olds a statutory obligation for schools.’

The National Day Nurseries Association said it had strong objections to removing the ratio and qualification requirements for out-of-school care.

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said, 'We have strong objections to the removal of the current ratios and qualified staff in out of school care for five to seven-year-olds. The present ratio is 1:8 with a qualified manager, the new proposals just states ‘sufficient numbers of staff’.

'A good provider with strong management will have a real understanding of what quality means, but a weaker setting may not. While we understand DfE wants to allow some flexibility by allowing providers to use professional discretion it makes it a grey area, open to misinterpretation.

'A change such as this also leads to questions about regulation. How often is Ofsted going to go in and inspect these settings? With an already heavy workload, after school provision operating for a few hours is bound to be less of a priority.

'Parents need to know the care they choose for their young children is properly regulated and monitored and for that to happen, the balance between regulation and flexibility must be correct.'

However, the NDNA said it agreed with slimming down regulation for the EYFS safeguarding and welfare requirements for under-fives and the General Childcare Register for older children, to a single register.

'Ms Tanuku added, 'But the two must be merged in a balanced way and all the right safeguards for these young children must still be in place.

'The focus on Childcare Minister Elizabeth Truss’s speech today was very much on schools and extending the hours children spend there. It is important we recognise the benefits of all providers in the childcare sector and parents have the choice of what is right for their child. Rather than a wholesale drive to increase school hours we need to, as the Minister suggests, look at how the whole market can work together so parents have a real choice of age appropriate childcare.'

Voice, the union for education professionals, echoed the NDNA's concerns about removing the requirement for qualified staff.

Deborah Lawson, general secretary of Voice, said, ‘Voice is concerned that staff who are not trained or qualified childcare professionals or early years specialists will be deployed to effectively babysit children, and that those with training will be expected to look after larger numbers of children. 

‘The Government’s attitude seems to be childcare on the cheap – that is, more children and fewer and less qualified staff. Our children deserve better.

‘The childcare workforce is already undervalued and underpaid. Such action does not promote quality care for children and destroys the foundation on which to build a strong, qualified, professional, stable, valued childcare workforce.’

The union added that the Government was ignoring the ‘overwhelming majority of respondents’, which found that only 16 per cent of respondents to the consultation were in favour of the proposal that staff and qualification levels should be removed, in particular for providers registered on the GCR.

The report said that ‘a large number of respondents felt that removing the staff qualifications requirement would not only devalue the care provided by wraparound and holiday providers, but could also have a detrimental effect on the quality of care.’

 

Childminders

Meanwhile, the Professional Association of Childcare and Early Years said that the decision to extend the threshold for registering informal childcare would affect childminder businesses.

Liz Bayram, chief executive of (PACEY), said, ‘Plans to extend the limit for informal childcare from two to three hours will mean some childminders who just offer wraparound care are now facing a double sustainability challenge.’

She added, ‘While any additional childcare support for parents is welcome, PACEY is concerned that this will lead to an increase in the amount of time children are kept in school. This will not suit all children, especially children attending infant classes. PACEY remains keen to see how, alongside this, existing providers of out of school care, in particular childminders, are supported to contunue to offer parents the choice of a home-based environment for their children.’

But Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said the reforms for wraparound childcare would make a real difference to working parents and that schools should seize the opportunity.

‘Office hours and school days don’t match and a guarantee of wrap around childcare would make an immeasurable difference for working families right across the country. Ofsted therefore should begin to recognise the extended day as part of their assessment of schools. 

‘There is now an opportunity to make great after school opportunities a possibility for all children, less formal than the school day and led by inspirational and supportive staff. Many of these clubs are already provided by voluntary and community organisations and there is now a real opportunity for schools to forge new partnerships to provide childcare that is great for children and for parents too.  Schools must seize the opportunity to work with broader community based organisations to deliver the support that children and parents need.’