As Nursery World revealed earlier this month the future of the York pilot had been in doubt after more than 30 providers pulled out of the scheme citing underfunding.
However, the immediate crisis looks to have been resolved following talks between the council and the Department for Education.
Childcare providers in York will now receive a flat rate of £4 an hour across the 30 hours for all three-and four-year-olds that are eligible for the pilot, although the rate has yet to be confirmed by the DfE.
This is a significant victory for providers who had refused to take part in the scheme at the rate offered by York City Council.
The original funding rate for the trial had been a split rate of £3.38 for the first 15 hours, and £3.95 for the second 15, giving a combined rate of £3.66 an hour.
The DfE has also confirmed that the other early implementer areas will also receive an ‘uplift’ in funding rates for the trial, which starts in September.
Officials have also now stated that local authorities in the early implementer areas will be expected to offer one flat rate for children taking up a 30-hour place.
Some other areas had also previously announced split funding rates, which sector organisations and providers had said would be problematic and unworkable.
The DfE said that as part of its preparations with early implementer areas, it had received new baseline data on what LAs allocate to early years, and that it had increased York’s funding rate to reflect this new baseline (which is higher than previous data). The early implementer rate will be funded across the full 30 hours.
The York pilot is viewed as crucial because it is the only one of the eight areas trialing the scheme that is open to all eligible parents in York and in all types of setting, from private and voluntary nurseries, to schools and childminders.
However, three- and four-year-olds who are only eligible for 15 hours will continue to receive £3.38 an hour, which settings in York consider under-funded and unsustainable.
Helen Gration, owner of York Montessori Nursery, which has two settings in the city, told Nursery World, ‘We needed to improve the offer. I believe this is an important step forward for families and I hope in the pilot year we can have a good consultation with the DfE about funding. Where we feel we have gained is a meaningful and positive dialogue with the DfE. They can’t ignore the rest of the argument. We really now have to see how this plays out.’
She said that she would continue to offer places for those children who are already registered with the nursery and only eligible for the 15 hours but that the £3.38 rate was unsustainable.
Vanessa Warn, owner of Little Green Rascals and deputy chair of the National Day Nurseries Association York Network, said, ‘I am delighted that the DfE heard our network members and have offered a rate that is better for nurseries and parents. At the end of the day we want to be a part of the 30- hour pilot to ensure its success and to learn each step of the way with valuable lessons before it is rolled out in 2017. There is more work to be done but this a positive start.’
For full roll-out in September 2017, the DfE said it would be giving local authorities the same rate for the 30-hour offer and the existing 15 hour offer.
The DfE said that more details would follow soon in the EYNFF (Early Years National Funding Formula) consultation.
A Department for Education spokesperson said, ‘York has been historically underfunded and in recognition of this we have given the local authority an additional uplift on their rate for those providers that deliver 30 hours as part of Early Implementation. As part of our preparations with our Early Implementer areas, we received new baseline data on what LAs allocate to early years and in light of this new information we had very constructive conversations with local authorities and the NDNA. These are the things we will look at as part of funding reform for 30 hours.’
Councillor Stuart Rawlings, executive member for children’s services, education and skills at City of York Council, said, ‘We’re delighted that an agreement has been reached with the Department for Education which has worked tirelessly with us towards an outcome which we understand childcare providers in York will welcome.
‘We now look forward to continuing our work to implement and deliver this pilot.
‘We look forward to all childcare providers and schools confirming their commitment to working with us and offering additional hours for eligible families.
‘This pilot will support our work to improve outcomes for children and will support parents into or to remain in work.’
'Learn from the pilot'
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, said, ‘We are very pleased that NDNA’s York network and their local authority have worked with the Department for Education to agree a rate of £4 per hour to allow the 30 free hours pilot to go ahead.
‘We must learn from the pilot, and other pilots across England, to make sure 30 free hours is achievable and sustainable for providers in the longer term.
‘We have already welcomed the Government’s commitment to increasing funding for 30 free hours.
‘Now it’s vital that funding reforms translate to a meaningful increase in the hourly rate offered to providers ahead of full roll-out of 30 free hours next year, to ensure the scheme’s success for the many thousands of families eager to take up their places.
'The nursery sector is keen to deliver 30 free hours but we must make sure it will work for parents and childcare providers.’
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said, 'Any scheme of this size and importance must be both well-planned and well-executed if it is to succeed – a "making it up as we go along" approach simply isn’t good enough. We hope that the situation in York has highlighted to Government the value of listening to providers on the frontline and that it will look to work with the sector more closely going forward to ensure that the scheme has the best possible chance of success in the long term.'
However he added that the fact that York's 15-hour rate has stayed at £3.38 'completely contradicts the DfE’s promise to address historic underfunding issues, and will put those providers whose families who don’t meet the wage criteria for the extended offer at a significant disadvantage. Such an approach is unacceptable, and we urge the department to reconsider this approach ahead of full roll-out next year.'