This is our last issue of 2009. The year has ended with a bang rather than a whimper, as Dawn Primarolo popped up at the Children, Schools and Families select committee to proclaim that the implementation of the Early Years Single Funding Formula would be put on hold for a year (see News, pages 4-5).
The move has prompted cheers and groans in about equal measure. Apparently, two-thirds of local authorities were not ready to go ahead with the EYSFF in April, although those who are in shape can become 'pathfinders' for the scheme. It is a fair bet that few will choose to do so. Schools forums are unlikely to vote for a course of action that is likely to cause huge problems for nursery schools and classes.
Local authorities have also struggled to collect robust data on the cost of providing the free entitlement, with some private nurseries unwilling to divulge what they see as commercially-sensitive information. They have a case, of course, but they also stand less chance of receiving a realistic rate if councils can't calculate it accurately.
The National Day Nurseries Association takes the view (see 'To the Point', opposite) that to delay could be disastrous for the sustainability of non-maintained nurseries, and believes that swift action is needed.
The problem that can't be solved by putting the EYSFF on hold is that there is just not enough funding to give all providers a fair rate. And if the early years money is not ring-fenced, it will be hard to gain a clear picture and harder still to keep the funding for the free entitlement in the face of public spending cuts.