So it’s NurseryBook’s final week of looking in detail at 30 hours free childcare in our blogs and newsletters. However, with just over a year to go until the Government plans to launch the scheme, with their funding review now closed but no recommendations yet communicated, and with Nicky Morgan’s challenge this week asking “innovative” early years providers to step forward and be the first to deliver these additional hours, the issue is clearly going to remain front and centre for the early years sector.
It’s definitely positive that childcare is firmly on the political agenda, with Nicky Morgan and Sam Gyimah visiting Rolls Royce in Derby on Wednesday this week to discuss the impact the increase in free childcare would have on parents at all levels of that organisation. They also released new findings from a survey the Government carried out with the help of Facebook (to access parents who wouldn’t usually respond to a Government survey!), which revealed that over 80% of parents would take up the free hours if they were available today.
But, for those of us in the sector (and for parents), we already know that childcare is an issue of major importance – and it’s no surprise to hear that getting additional help for free is great news for parents – if it’s that simple. However, maintaining the quality of accessible free childcare for parents in the face of funding constraints for childcare settings continues to be a challenge for the sector.
In response to this, Ms Morgan referred to the Government’s funding review, which closed last week, and reiterated the Government’s commitment to both listening to the sector on these challenges and increasing funding. However, against this backdrop, NurseryBook is very interested in hearing how providers, managers and practitioners feel when issued with a challenge to be amongst the first to deliver the extra hours.
The quote from Ms Morgan is, “Today, we’re calling on providers to tell us how they can offer innovative, high-quality childcare that helps parents return to work while keeping more of their hard-earned money in their back pocket.”
We already know that providers have been forced to pass on costs to fee-paying parents because the current levels of funding (for 15 hours of free places) are considered insufficient, so without yet understanding what any promised funding increase is going to be, it seems a big ask for the sector to rise to this challenge.
Adding to this challenge, a further detail that emerged this week, is Ms Morgan’s belief that some unnamed Local Authorities are potentially retaining a proportion of the funding given by the Government for the provision of these extra hours. This, when the amount in question is already widely cited by the sector to be insufficient. She committed to investigating further and dealing with this issue as well. We look forward to seeing the results of Ms Morgan’s review.
Overall, we feel that the outcome of the funding review is the crucial missing piece in the 30 hours debate. Next month, we’ll be tackling the Early Years Pupil Premium but we’ll continue to watch this space with great interest – and we’d love to continue the conversation with you. Let us know what you think on Twitter, Facebook or by commenting below.