Several major surveys in recent weeks have reported that significant numbers of early years settings are saying that they will not or are not likely to offer the 30 ‘free’ hours to parents.
The Pre-school Learning Alliance’s research found only 44 per cent committing to going ahead with the offer, and the 4in10 Network’s London survey discovering the same percentage of inner London providers willing to offer 30 hours.
In this issue of Nursery World, we have an exclusive report on the NDNA’s latest Annual Nursery Survey, which also warns that less than half of respondents will definitely/are likely to offer places.
If all these findings are borne out, the Government’s 30-hour policy will be in serious trouble. Already, last week, the DfE found an extra £50m in capital funding to help providers expand in readiness for the full implementation of 30 hours in September – possibly a sign that there is some concern about sufficiency.
In the end, however, will the numbers boycotting the extended hours really be anything like these surveys suggest? If other nurseries in your area are taking part, it will be very difficult to stand firm. Venting your anger to a survey is one thing, but actually following that through is another. Champagne Nurseries members on Facebook are noticeably starting to comment along the lines of ‘I don’t want to offer the 30 hours, but I am going to have to…’
It seems likely that many will swallow hard and find ways to make up some of the shortfall. This won’t be good for nursery owners’ health (business or personal) – and sadly, some of the solutions may not be the best for quality and the experience of the child either. Underfunding will take its toll.