Evaluation of 30-hour pilots concludes scheme will be successful
The Department for Education (DfE) has published a report into the 30-hour pilots ahead of full roll-out in September.
Read the full report here
Purnima Tanuku, Chief Executive of NDNA, said: “This report highlights the challenges facing nurseries in delivering 30 funded hours, but then fudges the whole issue concluding that there is no reason the scheme ‘will not be a success’.
“It suggests that the ‘perception of problems’ is causing difficulties, rather than acknowledging that the policy is chronically underfunded. This is not a perceived problem, but a real one that can only be resolved by working with the sector.
“NDNA has urged the Department for Education to allow nurseries to charge parents for meals and other extras as a condition of a place in order to make this work, but so far has been rebuffed. Instead, providers and local authorities have to walk a tightrope to keep their businesses sustainable. They balance precariously between following the confusing DfE guidance and keeping parents on board with additional charges.
“This evaluation acknowledges that many providers need to charge parents for additional items and those who used to offer an all-inclusive fee need business support and guidance to do just that. It makes no sense that the government is not allowing these charges to be mandatory. Providers need clarity on this and need to be allowed to deliver funded hours in line with their own business model.
“Pilots say they had very little time to adjust to the extension, so surely the national roll-out needs more time and money invested in it. The government needs to take stock and not rush this out.
“The government admits the pilots were a limited test of sufficiency, so we welcome the plan to evaluate the national scheme in April. We agree it is too early to know the impact of this policy on funded two-year-old places, but fees for under threes are likely to rise because nurseries will need to recoup their losses.
“Private nurseries which make up the biggest proportion of the sector had the most nurseries reporting their profits had decreased and that their costs had increased. The report concludes that nurseries needed more business support to address this issue, rather than a fair hourly rate. This is an insult to experienced nurseries which have been providing high-quality childcare for years.
“Central government is again passing the buck to local government to make this policy work in suggesting providers need more local business support and expecting them to police the fuzzy guidelines.”
The report also states:
almost half of nurseries are limiting places in order to be able to offer extended hours
many providers will need to access capital funding in order to expand to meet demand. As the vast majority of places will be provided by private, voluntary and independent nurseries, that is where the government needs to focus resources and not on schools as suggested in the Conservative election manifesto
nurseries have also been left with the responsibility for promoting this policy to parents despite government promises of high-profile promotional campaigns
among the challenges is using the word ‘free’ which is misleading – NDNA has been saying this for years, these hours are not free but subsidised
a close dialogue with LAs is very important and NDNA networks across the country have also been providing support and best practice