‘Poor children excluded’ from nursery places

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A new report suggests vulnerable children are being pushed out of settings because of the 30 hours.


Evidence is emerging that disadvantaged children are missing out on nursery places

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) report is based on a survey of 425 people, a majority of whom work in the maintained sector – primary and infant schools with nursery classes, and nursery schools.

It finds that almost a quarter feel the 30-hour offer has ‘displaced’ more disadvantaged three- and four-year-olds entitled to only the 15 hours.

Of those surveyed, almost four-fifths (77 per cent), were delivering the 30 hours.

Separate comments from respondents also reveal the extended entitlement is impacting disadvantaged two-year-olds.

No room

Benice Jackson, head teacher of Kingswood Nursery School in Watford, said, ‘We are very concerned that because our nursery is full (due to 30-hour children taking up any spaces) we are unable to take any more vulnerable children who are on two-year-old funding – the most vulnerable group.

‘The danger is because two-year-olds are so expensive to have (staff to child ratio of one: four), some settings will not bother keeping places for them as it is easier and cheaper just to fill up spaces with 30-hour children.’

Dorking Nursery School and Children’s Centre in Surrey said it had to focus its admissions carefully so vulnerable children did not get ‘pushed’ out by a 30 hours child.

To better understand how the 30 hours is affecting children from disadvantaged backgrounds, the NAHT asked survey respondents what percentage of children accessing the 30 hours were in low-income families eligible for the Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP).

Around four-fifths (78 per cent) said that 10 per cent or fewer children were entitled to the EYPP.

The survey also reveals that for the majority of respondents, the level of funding does not cover their costs. More than two-thirds (70 per cent) are cross-subsidising from another part of the school/setting to enable them to offer the additional hours.

However, almost nine out of ten respondents said they ‘probably would’ or ‘definitely would’ be looking to continue offering the 30 hours next year.

Within its report, the NAHT makes a number of recommendations for Government. They include:

Revisiting funding rates to ensure costs borne by providers are fully covered.

Making sure providers receive funding in a timely manner so the financial stability of settings is not compromised by delays.

Carrying out a full evaluation of the impact on those children excluded from the 30 hours policy to avoid reversing the success of the 15 hours offer.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said, ‘Most of the respondents to our survey are finding that they can only make things work by borrowing money from other parts of their budget. This is unsustainable. Budgets are at breaking point. Increased costs are hitting all education settings, from nurseries to primary schools, to secondaries, special schools and colleges.

‘And perhaps most worryingly, there is some evidence that the 30 hours appears to be having a detrimental impact on children from deprived backgrounds. Help is not reaching the families that most need it, and children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds could risk being pushed aside.’

He added, ‘Ultimately, the 30 hours is a great idea imperfectly implemented.’

Commenting on the report, Labour's shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said, 'If providers do not get the funding they need from Government they will simply have no choice but to either close their doors or pass on costs to working families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

'The Government’s failure to provide free and high-quality early years education will deny children the best start in life and lock many parents out of the labour market when they can’t meet the costs themselves.

'The next Labour Government will give a fully-funded offer of 30 hours free childcare to every two-four-year-old in England, as we build a country for the many, not the few.'

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