Members of the campaign group ‘Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding’ (CNLF) have made a formal complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority (formerly known as the Monopolies and Mergers Commission) about the Government’s abuse of the childcare market.
The complaint outlines how the Government has abused its legislative powers by regulating the childcare market, stating that “[the] price fixing of both the purchase and sales price is an abuse of market control”.
In September 2017, the Government will roll out its 30-hour offer to eligible 3 and 4-year-old children of working parents in England. However, due to the shortfall between the true cost of providing the ‘free’ hours and the deficit in funding from the Government, many childcare providers believe they will be unable to deliver childcare in a sustainable manner and will be forced to close.
This effect is in direct opposition to the Government’s aim of providing more childcare for the estimated 400,000 families who will become eligible for the additional 15 hours in September.
The complaint by CNLF, which has almost 7,000 members, states that the childcare sector is already in jeopardy due to factors such as the introduction of workplace pensions, consistent increases in the National Minimum and Living Wages and Business Rates revaluations.
It goes on to state that the Government has “ploughed on with its political agenda based on non-representative data” in reference to a survey commissioned by the Department for Education to establish the true cost of childcare, which only received 284 responses.
CNLF’s action comes in the wake of a recent survey of councils in England by the Family and Childcare Trust which found that over half (54%) said they did not know if they would have enough childcare available for eligible pre-schoolers using the 30 hours.
A spokesperson for the CNLF campaign group, said:
“We looked at various ways to challenge the Government on the issue of underfunding in Early Years. This route is a direct way of getting the legislation around funding investigated.
“As private businesses, PVI’s (private, voluntary and independent childcare providers) have been absorbing and trying to manage the costs associated with delivering the ‘free’ Early Years Education since its introduction. The extension to 30 hours for working families brings with it the real threat of closure for some settings who simply can’t absorb or manage further losses.
“As providers, we fully support the Government helping families with childcare costs, however, the policies around funding mean that we have no choice but to cross-subsidise by charging inflated fees for hours outside of funded hours and charging for additional services for things that the Government say should not be provided within the funding.
“This is not something we want to do and not something we feel parents should be faced with. It is a consequence of a policy which the Government has not funded properly and which childcare providers cannot afford to subsidise but know that they run the risk of being forced out of the market if they do not offer the funded hours.
“Research showed that only 51% of nurseries in England were expecting to make a profit in 2016, with the average nursery losing an astonishing £957 per child, per year on the 15 hour offer.
“This level of loss on 15 hours of funding means that the increase to 30 hours is simply untenable for the whole sector at the current funding rates, the only way to ensure the ongoing viability of the whole sector is to remove the word free and allow the funding to be used as a subsidy.
“We are confident that the CMA will carry out a thorough investigation and we await their response.”
Research from the University of Surrey claims that children attending an ‘Outstanding’ nursery or one with highly qualified staff has limited benefit for them.
The research, published on the 13th February, outlined how the Government spends £2 billion a year on providing part-time nursery education for 3- and 4-year-olds in England. In the sample used for the research, 1 in 10 children attended an ‘Outstanding’ nursery, two thirds attended a ‘Good’ nursery, 1 in 5 attended a ‘Satisfactory’ one and 2% attended an ‘Inadequate’ nursery.
The research was conducted by teams from the Centre of Economic Performance (CEP) at the London School of Economics, University of Surrey and University College London.
Dr Blanden, a senior economics lecturer at the University of Surrey, said: “Successive governments have focused on improving staff qualifications, based on the belief these are important for children’s learning.
“Our research finding that having a graduate working in the nursery has only a tiny effect on children’s outcomes surprised us.
“It is possible it is driven by the types of qualifications held by those working in private nurseries, they are not generally equivalent to the qualifications of teachers in nursery classes in schools.”
He added: “Some nurseries are helping children to do better than others, but this is not related to staff qualifications or Ofsted ratings.
“It is extremely important to discover the factors that lead to a high quality nursery experience so we can maximise children’s chances to benefit developmentally from attending nursery, particularly as the government extends the entitlement from 15 to 30 hours.”
The teams compared data on children’s outcomes at the end of reception with information on the nurseries they attended before starting school for 1.6 million youngsters born between 2003 and 2006.
The research found that commonly used measures of pre-school quality in England were not able to explain much of the variation in children’s outcomes at school.
There’s no shortage of reports highlighting rising childcare costs. Recently, a study by the Family and Childcare Trust (formerly the Daycare Trust) showed that part-time childcare is now costing most families more than their mortgage or monthly food bill.
A few weeks earlier, we reported that the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) had published findings showing that 500,000 mothers could be out of work because the childcare on offer is expensive and inflexible.
Parents are struggling to afford care for their young children and childcare settings, in the majority of cases, certainly can’t afford to cut prices.
That’s why the announcement that entrants to Early Years’ Level 3 educator training courses will need to hold GCSE’s in English and Mathematics at grade C or above, has come as somewhat of a surprise to many in the industry.
In theory, the aim to raise the overall quality of literacy and numeracy of those joining the workforce is a good idea. You’d hope that competency would be passed down to the children.
In practice, however, it’s hard to see how this won’t cause some problems. At Parenta, the overwhelming majority of entrants to childcare courses (we have around 1500 learners at any one time) take functional skills tests because they don’t have A-C grades.
These functional skills tests still ensure a level of competency, but also give a second chance to those who may have not performed well on the day they took their exam. And, in a number of cases, that exam was taken years ago.
As those that work in settings will know, there is a lot more to caring for and nurturing young children than can be assessed in an academic qualification. And there’s a lot more to education than English and Maths.
With higher-qualified staff come higher wage bills. Instead of developing staff, those with GCSEs will be more sought after and command higher salaries. This, in turn, will lead to higher fees for parents. Some nurseries already look for strong academic grades and, in an ideal world, it’s understandable that a combination of personality and academic achievement would be sought after. Others, however, aren’t in the financial position to do so, or simply don’t have enough of these types of candidate available locally.
Surely, the key for parents is to know that their children are in safe hands, on their way to a good education and to becoming well-rounded human beings. Is this new requirement the way to achieve this? Or will it just prevent some fantastic child carers from developing careers? Leave your comments below.
National Apprenticeship week is in it’s seventh year and aims to raise the profile of apprenticeships and celebrate talent. It is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service and is designed to recognise Apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.
It sets out to demonstrate that Apprenticeships are great for businesses, personal careers and creating opportunities for both employers and apprentices.
We are supporting and will be attending an Apprenticeship Opportunities workshop at Maidstone United Football Club, on Friday 7 March between 10am-12pm. Having been invited by the Department of Work and Pensions to speak with a wide cross-section of young people about how training and careers can be developed in the Early Sector, we are delighted to be involved.
The event is aimed at anyone aged 18-24 looking for work or training and is going to attract a large number of employers and training providers working across many industry sectors. So, if you know anyone locally who could benefit from talking with professionals and find out more about developing their potential make sure they come along!
Have you got an experience to inspire people to take childcare apprenticeships? Let us know in the comments section below!
The AGE 16 to 24 Grant for Employers aims to support nurseries, who would not otherwise be in a position to do so, to recruit individuals aged 16 to 24 into employment though the Apprenticeship programme.
The National Apprenticeship Service will provide AGE 16 to 24 year olds to eligible employers, in respect of qualifying apprentices, with an individual value of £1,500. Employers can be paid ten grants in total during the lifetime of the initiative.
AGE 16 to 24 is available to any nursery (with less than 1000 employees), who are new to Apprenticeships or haven’t enrolled a new recruit or existing employee onto an Apprenticeship programme in the previous 12 months.
An enhanced London AGE 16 to 24 Grant of £3000 is available to employers with London postcodes from 10 June – 31 December 2013. The enhanced London grant comprises of the £1500 available as part of the existing NAS AGE 16 to 24 Grant, which has been matched by another £1500 from the London Enterprise Panel (LEP) to make a total enhanced grant to eligible employers of £3000.
Looking for an Apprentice? Parenta can help.
If you are considering hiring an apprentice, speak to Parenta as we receive CV’s every day from young people looking for an opportunity to work in childcare. We will spend the time to understand exactly who you are looking for, and will match any suitable applicants for you.
We will then arrange an interview at a mutually convenient time, and prepare the applicant in advance. If you decide to recruit an apprentice, we will enroll them onto a level 2 or 3 apprenticeship (according to previous experience) and carry out observations within the workplace.
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