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.”
As part of Parenta’s commitment to quality, we regularly call childcare workers after they achieve their Children and Young People’s Workforce qualification to ensure they are happy with the service they received.
In our most recent survey, we were delighted to achieve 100% satisfaction rating with some extremely positive comments.
Colleen B. Level 3: “My assessor was brilliant! I have developed new skills – particularly around safeguarding and Health & Safety.”
Georgina P. Childminder: ” The learning was fantastic, really well delivered. I have learnt lots of new skills throughout the whole course and no improvements could be made to the service at all! The tutor support was fantastic and support was second to none, I would definitely recommend to other people!”
Michelle K. Childminder: “My tutor was brilliant, extremely helpful. I will stay in touch with her after the course.”
Paulete T. Nursery Nurse: “I hadn’t done any learning for 30 years, but I really enjoyed it. My tutor helped with any problems but there wasn’t really any issues at all and I learned lots of new skills.”
The government’s publication ‘More great childcare’ (January 2013) set out the vision for quality in early education and childcare. The goal was to make sure there is more great childcare available for parents and children. The introduction of early years educators (level 3) will ensure those who work with babies and young children are increasingly skilled and professional, and early years teachers will be expected to be educated to the same level as a primary school teacher.
Charlie Taylor, chief executive of the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), said: “There is nothing more important in early education and childcare than the quality of the staff who are delivering it. The workforce supporting our babies, young children and their parents should be well qualified, well respected and well led.”
From September this year, early years teacher trainees must have at least a GCSE grade C in English, Maths and Science, or their equivalent. From September 2014 they will have to pass the same skills test as classroom teacher trainees. (Download the teacher standards here)
Following an 8 week public consultation undertaken by the NCTL, which ended on 22 April 2013, the early years educator criteria were published last week, to some criticism from the industry. Early Years Educators will be expected to hold GCSE Maths and English to start the course, which is equivalent to an A-level. (Download the qualification criteria here)
Education minister Elizabeth Truss said: “Good quality early years education, which is teacher-led, has been shown to be beneficial for children, especially those from low-income backgrounds. It makes a difference to young children’s lives and enables them to learn and grow.”
The Pre-school Learning Alliance has, however, expressed disappointment that there is no explicit commitment to learning through play in either qualifications, or reference to working with children with special educational needs.
Chief executive Neil Leitch said: “We are dismayed that the government has chosen to ignore the advice of qualified and experienced early years and childcare practitioners and make no explicit reference to learning through play in both of these qualifications.
“In our consultation responses to the government we stressed the importance of referring to learning through play in these qualifications as this is the cornerstone of high-quality early years provision in this country. That the government has chosen to ignore such a key foundation of early years practice is a grave concern.”
He also disagreed with the government’s claim that the creation of the early years teacher and educator qualifications would improve the status of the sector, noting that although early years teachers will have to undergo the same skill tests as classroom teachers they will not be granted “qualified teacher status”.
By Ryan Shorthouse, a researcher at the Social Market Foundation.
If we are to improve social mobility, increasing access to high-quality early years education is critical.
The government-commissioned report from MP Frank Field on poverty and life chances recommended shifting investment into services in the foundation years of a child’s life. But I don’t think the recent Spending Review shows the Government is following this advice.
Human capital experts Professors James Heckman and Pedro Carneiro show that the best returns to investment in education are earlier, as skills formation is based on two crucial concepts.
Firstly, early childhood is characterised by rapid brain development, meaning it is more responsive to external stimuli. Secondly, educational attainment improves much more rapidly for those who already have higher levels of attainment, so investment later in life to remedy poor social and cognitive development will be less effective than early investment. (more…)
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