Liz Truss labels school nurseries inflexible, and calls for longer opening hours

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School nurseries should routinely open for 10 hours each day, from 8am to 6pm, to offer working parents more “flexibility and choice”, the Education Minister has claimed.

Liz Truss has highlighted that schools make up a third of the childcare provision, at 800,000 places, but claims that they are too inflexible in terms of opening hours.  She pointed to the current opening hours of 9am to 3pm, for most school nursery provision and said that if they extended opening hours it would revolutionise choice for parents.

Speaking at the Family and Childcare Trust, Ms Truss said: “Schools nurseries are an underappreciated part of childcare.

“Half of London places are provided in schools, and they make up fully one-third of the national childcare market – some 800,000 early years places.

“But the hours are sometimes inflexible. Most only do 9am-3pm. That’s if parents are lucky. Just imagine if they did 8am-6pm. That extra four hours a day – two-thirds more time – it would revolutionise parents’ options. We want to encourage that model.”

She added: “We want to see more school nurseries open from 8am-6pm, giving working parents greater flexibility and choice. We also want good private sector providers to expand, with councils taking advantage of new planning freedoms.

“School nurseries already provide one third of the childcare market but often sit empty for parts of the day when they could help. This new approach will help more schools, nurseries and childminders offer places at the times we know parents need them.

“I want parents to get the childcare they need, where they want it, at the time they need it, provided by people they trust, at a cost they can afford. I want it to be a real choice so that each family – of any shape and size – can work out what’s best for them and their children.”

The Department for Education confirmed that schools are able to charge parents for the additional hours to recover costs but many do not take advantage of this option.

Deborah Lawson, General Secretary of Voice, the union for educational professionals, said that the idea of school nurseries offering longer hours was introduced by the Labour Government under the every child matters scheme.

She questioned why schools would take up the idea now with no new incentives when they were facing changes in funding and increasing pupil numbers which threaten the accommodation currently used by the nurseries.

“It could provide more flexibility and access to provisions for parents and children,” she said.

“But it won’t make the childcare any cheaper because it will have to be a full costs recovery model and staff will have to be paid accordingly.

“We are very clear that our nursery workers who are delivering the care element as well as the early education element are already taken advantage of in their terms of employment which are quite different to teachers, and we want to see an improvement in their terms and conditions.

“Under this announcement staff could end up working longer hours and more weeks in the year and there will be employment implications.”

She said that the Department for Education needed to put “an awful lot more meat on the bones” and make clear how the scheme will work for schools and families, adding: “If they weren’t taking this up when there were new incentives through the Early Years Single Funding Formula, why should they take it up now when there are so many changes to school funding?”

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3 thoughts on “Liz Truss labels school nurseries inflexible, and calls for longer opening hours

  • December 17, 2013 at 4:52 pm
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    Like most politicians Ms Truss is far removed from reality. This is a classic Liberal dilemma facing many politicians in trying to please the voters (so they can elected again) and wanting to force change. Yes schools can provide this service (at a cost) and what Ms Truss wants is for them to compete with the Private Sector providers. Some of the private nurseries will be driven out of business because the school based settings do not have the same cost structure. If the schools are willing to provide the service then so be it! What happens during the school holidays?

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  • December 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm
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    I am a teacher in a school nursery class. We work with local providers and childminders to offer a “wraparound” facility for families who want it, with daycare providers offering pickup and drop off services.. There is also an on site school breakfast club and after school club run by a partner provider.Nursery classes are offering a different kind of experience from other providers and we can all work positively together. I work from 8 a.m. till 5.30 or 6 p.m. most days, even though the children are only with us between 8.50 and 3.10. so who will be working with the children? Additional staff will mean additional costs. Who is going to fund this? My school has recently become an academy, so funding for the nursery has changed. I am not sure whether the board would consider it worthwhile to continue running a nursery class if it became a drain on academy resources.

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  • December 16, 2013 at 1:37 pm
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    Then she will be putting the final nail in the coffin for day nursery owners like myself and childminders! Why is it that these people in ‘power’ never actually ask the the people that matter these questions before they make the changes that wreck everything? Parents that send their children to school nurseries are having to send their children earlier and earlier and taking more and more business away from the private sector and childminders. Why do schools have to offer more flexibility? Nurseries and childminders offer the same service as schools but with a higher ratio of staff to children and are still using the EYFS as are schools so why does Elizabeth Truss condemn us to having to fight for any clients we can get. She needs to come and speak to us and realise how difficult it is in this climate and that we are finding it difficult as it is with rises in day to day living, changes in legislation and frameworks but now she’s throwing this in to the mix. She needs a reality check!!

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