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LETTER OF THE WEEK - WE CAN'T SIGN UP

I own a London-based private full daycare setting currently rated as good with outstanding areas of provision.

What other private business offering professional, high-quality services for ten hours a day over 52 weeks a year is forced to charge almost half of their fees as a result of the new code of practice regarding the 'free' entitlement? I receive, along with other private nurseries in my area, £3.71 per hour for providing services that cost me £6.50 per hour.

Five nurseries and mine are again meeting the local authority at the end of the month to raise our concerns about signing the new provider agreements which, if we sign in their current form, would mean us agreeing to subsidise the shortfall received for offering this entitlement to our parents.

How can any private business sign a document that caps their fees and reduces their income, thus taking away their ability to remunerate their staff well and provide premises and resources at the standards we currently achieve?

We cannot sign a document that puts such restraints on our income and sustainability. At the moment, we five nurseries are trying to work out something with the local authority, but the new code of practice makes it very difficult for any local authority to help. We know they want to help because they don't want us all to leave the scheme!

The early years single funding formula will not cover our costs, so there's no point in waiting until April to make our decision, as we know any increases will be pennies rather than pounds.

Unless there is a way for us to charge our true costs within the new code of practice, what is the point of remaining in the scheme?

Shame on the Conservatives for going back on their pledges. They said they understood our plight, now to just ignore it.

The only way I can cover my costs is through the younger children in my nursery, so if you think I am going to offer two-year-olds an underfunded entitlement, you must be joking. I would be totally mad - and bankrupt!

Name and address supplied

Our letter of the week wins £30 worth of books.


OUR ROLE IN POVERTY

Melanie Defries ('Child poverty set to increase', 28 October) informs us of some disturbing trends concerning life chances for children seen in the latest Millennium Cohort Study. There seems to be many, some linked, significant reasons for differences - employment, ethnic background, behaviour and even the region where you live.

It's very unclear whether these issues are causes, symptoms or consequences, which makes an ecology of children's lived experience very hard to disentangle.

For people who work with children daily, there can be a sense of destiny and feelings of powerlessness; a worry over being able to do something about what can be seen to be pre-determined inequality of opportunity for children. Practitioners seem to be expected to be all-singing, all-dancing, identifying the more traditional 'deficits' like reading, eating, additional need, adding up, getting on with each other. Second, there's a temptation to see these as individual features rather than part of a broader context. When we add these big structural issues like child poverty, health and equality, the job can seem very daunting.

What we must remember is that it's not the child's fault; that big issues often show themselves in small ways and that we all, as individuals, have the potential to make a little (but important) difference. Why else would we do the work we do?

In my experience, education and training programmes for early years have little space and time in them to seriously think about what our roles might be. This opportunity can be squeezed out by underpinning knowledge and demonstrating competence. How can this space be reclaimed?

A colleague of mine has done some longer term work about the importance of professionalism in the sector, especially the need for a coherent, shared identity beyond a duty of care. It may well be that how and why we work with young children is a debate waiting to happen. A conversation that we can all have together?

Andrew Sanders, early years lecturer.

Send yourletters to ... The Editor, Nursery World, 174 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP letter.nw@haymarket.com 020 8267 8401.

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