Nurseries and childminders gain right to ask to run school site provision

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Childcare providers will be able to ask schools if they can use their premises to run before and after-school and holiday childcare when they are not using them.

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Childcare providers will be able to ask schools if they can run childcare provision from school facilities

The move draws on previously announced plans to give parents the right to request childcare before and after-school.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan has also announced a consultation calling for views from schools and childcare providers on how to make the plans work in practice, alongside draft advice for schools.

The Government wants parents to be able to work, or work longer hours should they want to, by making more childcare available during the week and in the school holidays.

Schools will be expected to respond to requests from childcare providers to use the school’s facilities.

The draft guidance sets out proposals for how the policy will work, and says that schools should take the lead in managing the ‘right to request’ process and governing bodies will take the final decision on what action to take.

Schools ‘must act reasonably in dealing with parental and childcare provider requests and should be transparent about the process’, clear about deadlines, keep parents and providers informed, and give reasons for approving or rejecting requests.

It suggests that schools should set the threshold ‘at a relatively low number of requests. Anecdotal evidence suggests that to make provision sustainable, the minimum number of filled places is 20. Therefore, for most schools the threshold should be around 20.’

It adds that this will vary depending on the type of provision and provider.

It suggests that schools could approach private and voluntary nurseries and childminders to run wraparound and holiday childcare either on or off the site; gauge demand with other local schools so that one of the schools 'hosts' the childcare; or deliver childcare themselves, using existing staff or employing more staff directly.

Ms Morgan also confirmed that more than 5,000 children would be able to use the 30-hour entitlement from next September, after 70 local authorities opted to take part in the pilot of the scheme.

The Government says the offer will be worth £5,000 per child.

Visiting the Harris Primary Academy Philip Lane in Tottenham, the education secretary said, ‘We are delivering on our promise to help parents with the cost of childcare by doubling the Government’s free childcare offer for three- and four-year-olds a whole 12 months earlier than planned for around 5,000 children.

‘We’re also offering hard-working families a new right to request that their school provides childcare before school, after school and during school holidays.

‘As a working mum myself, I am whole-heartedly determined to ensure all parents can secure a great start in life for their child while pursuing a fantastic career for themselves, should they choose to do so – and today’s announcement will help deliver just that.’

The National Day Nurseries Association welcomed the plans.

According to the National Day Nurseries Association’s own research, 43 per cent of nurseries provide wraparound care with schools, at the school site or nursery.

Chief Executive Purnima Tanuku, said, ‘It’s a win win situation.

‘High-quality early years partnerships add value to schools in delivering wraparound care. Many of our members already operate these partnerships, but some have to factor in complicated transport arrangements to bring children from schools to their nursery setting if they don’t have use of school facilities.

‘We would like this to open the door on really constructive partnerships, creating that expectation that they can work together – but it should not feel forced.

‘We are delighted that the Government recognises the economic, educational and pastoral benefits of these partnerships. We hope the results of this consultation will bring together childcare experts and schools’ facilities, making wraparound and holiday care a good quality, affordable experience for children and their parents.’

However, Voice, the union for education professionals, said it had concerns about the plans.

General secretary Deborah Lawson said,’ I remain concerned about the “right to request” schemes, whether it is parents requesting schools provide childcare or childcare providers requesting the use of school facilities. Great care is needed before this policy is implemented for it to deliver positive outcomes for children, parents and schools.

‘Schools and childcare providers must work in partnership, not compete with each other, to avoid destabilizing the local childcare market, resulting in less, not more, childcare.

‘All childcare, whatever its setting, should be provided by trained, specialist professionals with appropriate terms and conditions of employment in a suitable environment. It should not be a hasty bolt-on to an education provider that has no experience of childcare, or deny schools facilities that they might need to expand to meet increasing numbers of pupils.

‘There must be a coherent workforce strategy which recognises and understands the needs of the market, providers, the workforce and children, and which is properly funded.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said there were still 'many serious issues' to address before he roll-out of the 30 hour offer.

'The Government’s ongoing focus on encouraging more parents back to work over and above supporting children’s early learning and development has meant that little effort has been made to understand what it really means to deliver high-quality early education and care – and crucially, what this quality costs,' he said.

'With 5,000 children set to gain access to the scheme next year, it is vital that lack of understanding is addressed as soon as possible, and that early years providers are adequately supported to deliver the extended offer in a way that ensures that no child experiences a drop in the quality of care they receive.'

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