30 Hours free childcare

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Monday, 18 December 2017
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Dear Parents,

We are writing to you with regards to the 30 hours “free” childcare which the Government will roll out nationally in September 2017.

Many of you will be aware that the Government’s headline titles are not always the full picture and maybe unsurprised to know that “30 hours free childcare” is one of these! The 15-hour universal offer currently in place will stay. The additional 15 hours extended offer will depend on eligibility.

We apologise in advance for the length of this letter, however the issues are so far reaching we feel you need to be aware of the full facts.

We are in favour of the government financially assisting parents to access childcare. We are all acutely aware of the benefit access to good quality childcare has on a child’s potential outcomes in life. We know that by making a choice to send your child/ren to 4 Street or Northwood Nursery, you too understand and value the provision both of our settings provide for child’s potential.

We know you as our parents don’t need us to remind you of the role we undertake, however do ask you to bear with us whilst we list, some but not all, of the aspects of our job. We feel the need to do this as a mark of our strength of feeling on this matter.

As a starting point, we welcome all families encouraging ownership in our nursery from the first time you visit. From admission until a child moves on, we cater for each child’s individual development, learning and care needs. We do this whilst giving the highest regard and respect to each families ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We make provision for children’s learning and are expected to be trained and hold a level of experience to be able to identify concerns in a child’s development. We liaise with parents and professionals, abide by the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice, write Individual Education Plans and undertake 2 Year Progress Checks. We ensure that all qualified staff update their first aid training regularly, cater for dietary and health requirements, manage complex medical issues as well as managing complex family issues. We regularly update safeguarding children training, attend child protection and child in need meetings, look for signs of extremism and terrorism, deal with safeguarding  and child protection concerns. We are also aware and act on drugs & alcohol issues, notice and support any emerging mental health issues, notice, report and support cases of domestic violence. In addition, we adhere to health and safety requirements, Environmental Health and Health Protection Agency requirements, infection control requirements and food hygiene requirements, as well as undertaking regular risk assessments.

As nurseries we are also heavily regulated and have to adhere to OFSTED Welfare Requirements & Learning and Development Requirements, take part in Local Authority audits, administrative as well as in care learning and development, inclusion and teaching. We support the development of wider strategic childcare plans within the local authorities by representing the private and voluntary sector thus influencing the future of Early Years nationally. We plan, observe and assess children based on their Characteristics of Effective Learning; benchmarking their learning towards the Early Years Foundation Stage Early Learning Goals. We see schemas in children’s play and plan appropriate next steps to ensure they are ready for their next stage of learning. We care for these children as if they are our own, we nurture, we reassure, we praise, we celebrate their achievements. We ensure children learn to share, take turns, be kind, have excellent manners, socialise with their peers and move onto the next stage of their learning as confident self-assured and independent learners with a thirst for knowledge and a “can do” attitude. We go the extra mile for parents wherever we can, we are there for them when they are experiencing difficulties, struggling to cope, when they feel there is no one there to help or listen.
We are also employers of a quality Early Years team of staff. We comply with Employment Law and respect employees’ rights in all aspects of their roles. Being a small business this means we are also subject to current government changes on business rates, for some providers doubling their monthly rates bill. We abide and exceed (as we value the work our staff undertake) legislation requirements on the national minimum wage, National Living Wage and give consideration to the London living wage. Auto enrolment with pensions has placed a huge additional draw on finances. As an added piece of information for you, childcare businesses cannot be VAT registered so therefore cannot claim back any VAT that is paid on everything we purchase! We are exempt from claiming but not exempt from paying.

Thank you for your attention to this, by far not exhaustive list, of the role we undertake in childcare. We understand and respect that we are not the only sector in society that work hard and takes pride in its role and achievements, however can you think of any other industry that must offer their services “free” as dictated by the government? Wouldn’t we all like to be told by the government we can access 1 tank of petrol free, which will increase to two tanks next year!!! Oh and also that although it cost £54 to provide that tank of petrol the government will reimburse the garages just £30! Could you see BP, ESSO, Shell and all the supermarkets accepting this?? We don’t think so!

As a business we are lucky if we currently achieve a 10% profit margin in a year. This is the capacity we have to reinvest in staff training and resources within the nursery.

The government has charged Local Authorities with the task of setting an hourly rate, within restricted guidelines, for the payment to childcare providers for the “free” hours they offer.

Nurseries have not yet been told an exact hourly rate which will be paid by the Government. Elaine, the Manager at 4 Street Nursery is part of Schools Forum in Hillingdon, representing the Private and Voluntary sector of Early Years. Schools Forum have strong representation for the Early Years sector in Hillingdon and it is expected that the rate allocated will be higher than most local authorities. We do however know that this hourly rate will not cover our costs. Furthermore, the reduced hourly rate will be fixed for the next 3 years. Hillingdon is expected to be around £4.86 per hour. Our hourly rates on our civilian fees for care are between £7.12 and £10.25 depending on the sessions. On the lowest session rate this equates to a shortfall of £2576.40 per child per year. On the higher rate it would equate to £6,144.60. On average, we have approx. 30 3 & 4 year olds a term. This gives an annual loss of between £77,292.00 and £184,338.00. Nurseries now face a critical dilemma as the Government has grossly miscalculated the true costs of childcare to Early Years providers and many could face possible closure in the near future.
Some nurseries nationally are opting out from offering the 30 hours ‘free’ childcare as it is not financially viable for them. Other settings will be charging parents extra for ‘additional services’. If nurseries do not charge for these extras, they will simply not be viable and will have to close!

4 Street & Northwood Nurseries need to remain financially viable and therefore we need to consider ways to support parents accessing the scheme whilst balancing the need to stay financially stable. As illustrated in the figures above if we offered all of our places as free entitlement places this would not be the case.

The option suggested by the government of charging for ‘additional services’ would see us change our strong belief and ethos of the nursery setting being completely inclusive, where all children are safeguarded. The minister suggests we charge you for food, consumables like paint, paper and access to toys, nappies and wipes, as well as for extra-curricular classes provided. This isn’t currently an option under the 15 hours universal offer. Although the Government has now clarified under the extended offer (30 hours) we are able to charge for these extra services, the Statutory Guidance states that we cannot make it a condition of the place, that parents buy these additional services. This allows parents to say no to taking these additional services. This would then in reality see parents bringing in their own food, which could put at risk the life of children with a serious allergy and could water down our healthy eating regime. It would see us letting some children have access to nursery toys and consumables, whilst others will bring their own! It would atCaroline Dinenage’s (MP for Early Years)suggestion in an interview she did recently, see us moving children whose parents chose to pay for, as an example, football, tennis or French in one room, and those parents who chose not to or simply couldn’t afford to, in another! This would just not be for us. We could not operate our nurseries in this unequitable way and know from past feedback that parents value the fact that all of our services are included in one monthly price.

We are as other nurseries are, in the process of planning what, if any, our offer to you might look like within this scheme. To support us with this process we will be sending you a link to a survey we would be grateful of your input into. We don’t want to prevent access to this scheme, as we believe our parents are entitled to this financial support, however have to ensure the longevity of our nurseries that we treasure and hold so dear.

If only the government had introduced this scheme as a “supplement” towards the cost of childcare not “free” childcare. You as parents could have had the allocated hourly rate and made a choice as to where you spend it. You could have then made a choice to find a provider that the subsidy covered the full cost of (good luck finding one) or made an informed choice to use the subsidy and pay the difference of the cost of the nursey you would like your child to attend!

I am aware that reading all of this has already taken much time, however if you have a further 3.5 minutes to spare please watch the short YouTube video created by a group, which we are members of, called “Champagne Nurseries for Lemonade Funding” They are undertaking some interesting work to bring about some changes in this scheme. One direction they are in pursuit of is a complaint to the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA). If anyone is interested in how they can support this plight, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Management Team.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0Zm-mYA6XpQ

To support us with this task please could I ask you click the link or paste into your browser and complete the survey.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/MDWMKBY

We will update you as soon as we have a strategic steer on what our offer might look like to you.

Kind regards

The management team at 4 Street & Northwood Nurseries.

 

        4Street Nursery                          Northwood Nursery
     Tel : 01895 623288                        Tel : 01923 957028
info@4streetnursery.co.uk      info@northwoodnursery.co.uk
                 Web :  www.4streetnursery.co.uk

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