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.
A union has made claims that a Midland school nursery has suspended one of its employees after a successful campaign to stop cuts to its opening hours.
The Britain’s General Union (GMB) launched a petition after discovering that Rowley Owls Nursery was consulting on a proposal to open for less hours, only taking in children over the age of 2.
The proposals were put forward after 2 inspections by Ofsted in the past 9 months criticised the nursery.
Rated as “inadequate” in February, they were bumped up to “requires improvement” in August.
The setting has contested that the proposals have been made in order to improve their standards, but the governing body pulled the plug on these plans after parents rallied, pulling together a petition with 350 signatures.
The GMB has now claimed, however, that one of its members, who is employed at the setting, has been suspended in the wake of the successful campaign to thwart plans.
A spokesman for the union has said that the staff member in question was deliberately “targeted and victimised” by the school.
Gillian Whittaker, GMB Organiser, said: “We consider that this member has been targeted and victimised due to the successful campaign run by GMB earlier this month.
“We consider that this is grossly unfair and are requesting that this member is re-instated as soon as possible. We will do everything in our power for this member to get this suspension lifted.
“We are hoping that the school see sense and re-instate the staff member without delay.”
Kevin Morris, chairman of governors at Rowley Hall Primary, where the setting is based, has said:
“Suspension is a neutral act and does not imply any wrongdoing.
“While investigations continue we are unable to comment any further.”
Headteacher of the school, Nicola Stanley, has said of the thwarted plans: “The proposal was put forward by governors in a bid to improve standards in the nursery following feedback from Ofsted.
“We have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback we have received from parents with children in the nursery.
“It seems parents and children really love what we are doing and want to keep the nursery as it is.
“Ofsted have recognised we are improving but we still have some way to go to make improvements to the nursery.
“Now this decision has been made, the nursery can get on with implementing changes to improve standards.”
Jellybabies Nursery based in Longbridge Methodist Church has recently got youngsters involved in bringing in donations of tinned food for the homeless whilst they were taking part in their annual Harvest Festival.
The service, conducted by Reverend Mary Shannahan, allowed the youngsters to find out about helping people in need through two harvest-themed songs and the story of The Little Red Hen.
A spokesperson for the nursery has said that they felt it was important for the children to learn about the needs of others and how they could help them.
A Larkhall toddler has returned to his former nursery before heading to the USA next month for life- changing surgery to say thank you to everyone there.
Donna Bittles, along with her three-year-old child Dylan, visited Happy Feet Nursery in Larkhall to collect a cheque for over £3000 that the nursery had raised for Dylan.
Dylan was born prematurely at 11 weeks and suffered a bleed to the brain; this led Dylan to be diagnosed with quadriplegia cerebral palsy, meaning he is confined to a wheelchair with limited movement and barely any independence.
Dylan is set to head to the USA next month to receive life-changing elective dorsal rhizotomy which, unfortunately, is a procedure he is not currently eligible to receive in the UK.
The family created the Do it for Dylan fund to help with the costs for this procedure and in just three months reached their target of £60,000.
Happy Feet Nursery throughout the year helped Dylan’s family reach this £60,000 by holding a large amount of fundraisers such as sponsored walks, 70s themed nights and even got the other nursery children involved by doing a green coloured theme day. The total amount of money raised by the nursery was £3,175 which the nursery would like to thank the staff, children and parents for helping to raise.
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