Editor’s view - Using sharp elbows

Last week, the jostling between the early years sector and the Government about the introduction of the 30-hour free childcare policy turned rather rougher.

The National Day Nurseries Association released the results of its annual survey (see story on this website), which included the rather incendiary finding that more than half of nurseries questioned said that they were ‘very unlikely’, ‘unlikely’ or ‘unsure’ about offering the 30 hours - the last thing that the Government wanted to hear and a finding inevitably picked up and run by TV, radio and newspapers.

These statistics have almost no chance of becoming reality, of course. It is relatively easy to tick a box in a survey, but much more difficult to carry this through. The consequences of not providing the 30-hour offer, such as losing half your parents to the large chain down the street, are just too great.

It is, of course, a symptom of the concern that providers are feeling. And they might feel even more concerned that the Government is hitting back with the message that providers are putting profits ahead of children and families. At least, this was the quote in the Sun from ‘a source close to Mr Gyimah’ (a journalist’s turn of phrase that can mean several things!), calling providers ‘duplicitous - focusing more on profit margins than helping families’, telling them to stop ‘demanding ever more money’, and warning ‘the taxpayer won’t be taken hostage’.

The comment written by Mr Gyimah himself for Nursery World’s story is much more measured, although he does tell the sector to ‘stop manufacturing outcry’. The next stage in all this will need careful handling by the sector if parents are not to be alienated.

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