Funding pledges will not pay for 'free' nursery places

Government funding pledges will not pay for 'free' nursery places

Nursery owners and managers in Prospect have called on education and childcare minister Sam Gyimah to listen to their concerns about the lack of funding behind government plans to offer 30 hours of free childcare to three and four-year olds.

They point to a survey by the National Day Nurseries Association, which found that fewer than half (45 per cent) of nurseries in England are likely to get involved in the government’s scheme because it is unaffordable.

The government intends to double its current offer of 15 free hours a week to three- and four-year olds, and eligible two-year olds, from September 2017, with pilots beginning this autumn.

In an article in Nursery World magazine, Sam Gyimah suggested that instead of getting behind the government, the early years sector was “manufacturing outcry”.

Claire Dent, Prospect negotiator looking after members in early years, said: “Nursery managers are already working with the government to deliver the current free childcare provision that parents who use the service demand. But many are only managing to offer the current 15 hours by plugging the shortfall in government funding themselves.

“Even with the increased funding, providers are not going to receive what it actually costs to deliver. The sector is not ‘manufacturing an outcry’, as the minister suggests.

“One nursery owner tells us that with the introduction of the national living wage to all staff in October, and the need to enrol eligible staff on the workplace pension scheme, the wages bill has increased by 20% but the funding rate has only gone up by 5%. Clearly this does not add up.”

“Our members are in favour of more support for parents and children, but the reality will be a shortage of places unless the government provides the funding needed.”

Prospect welcomed the minister’s acknowledgement of the need for a skilled workforce, when he said that “parents and providers alike let us know that it was vital to keep the quality of the workforce high”.

But, Dent added: “We would remind him that although many nursery staff have trained as early years professionals and early years teachers, they still remain without any professional recognition, as they are denied qualified teacher status and the graduate salaries that would go with it.”