30-hour childcare pilot in crisis

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The pilot of 30-hour childcare is in jeopardy after nursery owners and childminders in a key local authority area united against taking part in the trial.


Helen Gration, owner of York Montessori Nursery, which has two settings in the city

At a meeting today more than 30 nurseries and childminder representatives from across York voted against taking part in the early implementer pilot, because the funding rate of £3.95 is unsustainable.

The pilot in York is one of eight trials of the 30-hour offer due to run from September, ahead of the nationwide rollout of the scheme to working parents of three- and four-year-olds from 2017.

It is the largest pilot and seen as key, as it is the only local authority area that will include all eligible children in all types of childcare, including nurseries, childminders, pre-schools and schools.

Childcare minister Sam Gyimah has previously said that early years providers would be offered an average of £4.88 an hour to offer the extra hours, but as we reported last week, providers in York have been told they will be offered nearly a £1 an hour less than this to offer the extra 15 hours.

Funding for the first 15 hours will remain at £3.38 - it has been frozen for four years - giving an average funding rate of £3.66 an hour per child.

The group has indicated that they were looking for a fixed rate for all 30 hours of £4.50.

Nursery World understands that York City Council is due to meet with Department for Education officials this week to try and resolve the standoff.

Helen Gration, owner of York Montessori Nursery, who attended this afternoon's meeting, told Nursery World, ‘We asked if anyone would take part and the answer was “no” at the offer we’ve been given, because it is not viable. We’re all in agreement.’

She added, 'Surely a child is worth more than this in an experiment that will go countrywide in 2017?’

Menna Godfrey, representing providers in the Copmanthorpe area of York, including nurseries, pre-schools and childminders, said that settings wanted to ensure that the pilot would be run in a fair way for the industry and parents across the country.

Following a local meeting yesterday she said, ‘The common message from all parties was that the pilot was not do-able at this rate. We have a responsibility to make sure this scheme is fair for everyone when it gets rolled out in September 2017. What we have been offered now is not workable.'

Ken McArthur, owner of Polly Anna's, revealed in Nursery World last week that he would not be taking part in the pilot.

‘They want me to take less money per hour than I'm getting now. That is unworkable,' he said.

'Of the approximately 30 settings that were represented there, not one was prepared to commit to be involved in this pilot on the current formula and rate.

'The feeling of the group was of great sadness as they were all looking forward to being involved in this exciting pilot and believed there would be many benefits to both children and their families with 30 hours of funded early years. They feel bitterly disappointed, let down and under valued by the Government. A combined rate of £3.66 is a bit of an insult to the good and outstanding providers in York.  

Beverley Foers, owner of Daisy Chain nursery, said, 'At this rate, they're stopping us from implementing this pilot and helping our parents.'

Jon Stonehouse, director of children's services, education and skills at City of York Council, said, ‘Being one of eight pilot schemes across the country, we’re working with our local providers to gather intelligence early which we are feeding back to the Department for Education to discuss the situation further and find a realistic solution.’

Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said the pilot had been set up to be able to test how the delivery of 30 funded hours would work in practice, but that with so many providers prevented from taking part, it will not give a true reflection of how an authority-wide scheme will work across all settings.

‘It is disappointing but entirely understandable that nurseries won’t commit to the pilot because they aren’t getting paid a fair rate for their business to continue as a going concern,’ she said.

‘We warned the Government that childcare providers might find themselves having to make this decision. Early years funding has stagnated in recent years with hourly rates reducing in real terms. If the starting point for 30 funded hours is too low there is no hope these pilots will succeed.

‘But we don’t want a situation where parents cannot benefit from the additional free hours because the funding rate is too low for providers to offer it.

‘We are sure that parents will appreciate that quality learning and care does not come cheaply and that providers cannot subsidise free hours offer any further.

‘We are hopeful that a workable solution can be found before the pilot is due to start in September. It is an early warning signal that the Government must take this seriously and address the issues before the pilot starts.’

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, ‘The lessons taken from the 30-hour trials will be absolutely pivotal to the success of the scheme as a whole, and so it is incredibly concerning that the Government is risking falling at the first hurdle by continuing to offer insufficient levels of funding.

‘If the Department for Education doesn’t address these long-standing funding issues, there is every possibility that we will see what is currently happening in York happening on a national scale, with more and more providers opting not to deliver the extended entitlement.

“This is not a problem that can be ignored or dismissed. The Government must now respond to the valid concerns raised by providers, and ensure a sensible, sustainable approach to funding is applied – not only to the pilots, but to the 30-hour scheme as a whole.’

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