Editor’s view - The cupboard was bare

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The Budget has come and gone. To no-one’s great surprise, despite several heartfelt and well-argued open letters from sector representatives about early years funding, the Chancellor had nothing to say or offer on this front.

liz-roberts

Liz Roberts

Indeed, there was precious little for education in general, bar more maths and science teachers, and nothing to help struggling children’s services.

The national living wage will be rising, of course, the Chancellor announced in his speech, which will hit nursery finances further, and could have the unintended consequence of driving more recruitment of young, unqualified staff and worsening ratios.

A small increase in duty on strong cider was never going to raise enough money to give the early years sector what it wants and needs!

Meanwhile, local authority 30-hour funding rates for 2018/19 have been released. As we knew, there is no more money to increase rates across the board, so most areas stay the same with a bit of shuffling up and down for a small proportion of councils.

This situation is not sustainable. The 30 hours offer is increasingly becoming one that only better-off parents who can afford to pay for substantial ‘extras’ can access, as this is the only way that nurseries can manage to participate.

Some settings will go out of business – voluntarily or otherwise – although the Observer’s recent headline that 1,000 nurseries have been lost since 2015 according to Ofsted figures is misleading. The number of nurseries has remained pretty stable; it is childminders who have been exiting the sector in droves for some years, and while the exact reasons may vary, this is not because of the 30 hours policy. The effects of that will take a little longer to show up.

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