Acorns Nursery is a 50 place setting based in the grounds of Oaklands College, St Albans. The nursery provides day care for children from 3 months up to 5 years of age.
We interviewed Wendy Taylor, the nursery’s manager, to find out how the setting is managing the roll-out of the Government’s 30-hour offer.
How easy has it been to manage the roll-out of the 30 hours at your setting?
It has been difficult to manage the roll-out of 30 hours, mainly in predicting the full impact and determining how to manage the shortfall in funding. It has also required a lot of extra work particularly in helping parents apply for their eligibility codes, applying for funding and liaising with other settings.
What tools or software have helped you do this?
Our Parenta software, Abacus, has been useful in predicting income and in ascertaining eligibility for funding. Senior staff attended information workshops and business support arranged by Hertfordshire County Council. Both of these were helpful, also information provided by the NDNA and PSLA.
What positives for your setting can you see from the 30-hour offer?
It is difficult to see the benefits at the moment. If the extra funding had been targeted at vulnerable or struggling families, we would have felt the upheaval and extra work were justified.
Are there any add-ons or services that you’re now charging for that you weren’t before?
We have started charging for food costs for the Under 3s, which we have never had to do before. This led to three parents withdrawing their children from the nursery, as they couldn’t manage the extra costs.
How do your parents feel about receiving the additional 15 hours?
Parents haven’t really commented although I am sure they welcome the extra funding. However, they have had trouble with the website for accessing eligibility codes. Many of them found this a very stressful process. There is also a lot of confusion regarding updating their eligibility codes.
What are the ongoing challenges you must face regarding the 30-hour offer?
Obviously, minimising the financial impact is the biggest challenge. If more parents take up the full offer we will be making a larger loss. We feel that the next few years will be very testing for our nursery.