My current personal thoughts on More Affordable Childcare (to be updated once more detail known)   Leave a comment

Text in bold taken direct from the government document Link to More Affordable Childcare document Comments under bold statements are my personal opinion.

Reliable and affordable childcare is vital to giving parents the choice to get into and remain in work. We know that for many parents, before and after school and holiday care is the most difficult and costly to find.

In some areas it is hard to find childcare but in other areas there is availability. The difficulty is the ‘affordable’ bit because high quality childcare for all ages does cost a lot of money – no getting away from that fact.

However it seems that the government is determined one way or another to make childcare providers bear the brunt of the costs in making it more affordable to parents by asking them to do more for the same or less money – and by removing support, and quality benchmarks – the very ones that ensure that settings provide that high quality care and education; rather than taking any responsibility themselves to provide upfront for childcare costs which would in my opinion repay the initial outlay many times over in the future.

‘More affordable childcare’ sets out the government’s plans to help working parents access the childcare they need when they need it, in particular by:

  • helping schools to offer affordable after school and holiday care, either alone or working with private and voluntary providers
  • enabling nurseries to expand by reducing red tape and removing planning restrictions
  • ensuring that childminders and nurseries that are good or outstanding can automatically receive government funding for 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds
  • supporting parents to access more informal care

We want to encourage more schools to follow the examples of trailblazers like Harris Academies and the Free School Norwich by offering parents childcare before and after school and during holiday times, working with private and voluntary providers if they want to do so.

Today Harris Academies has committed that every new Harris primary academy that opens will offer a wrap around care service from 8am to 6pm as a minimum for the children that attend. The Free School Norwich offers childcare for parents before and after school and for 51 weeks a year, all on a self-funding basis.

Government wake up – childcare from 8am to 6pm only meets the needs of some parents and some children.

And I know you are creating hubs where you hope childminders like me will cover the anti social hours and provide a pick up and drop of services to before and after school clubs.

However have you thought how this would sustain childminder businesses? Or how it would fit in with the family needs of childminders with their own school age children? Or the needs of any under fives who could spend most of the day in a buggy or a car seat doing these drop off and collections – to before and after school club, to and from school itself, to and from nurseries and pre schools for those children whose parents want them to access their Free Entitlement in a group setting?

The government wants to make it easier for nurseries and childminders to expand by extending the planning relaxations recently introduced for state-funded schools to nurseries, such as using vacant office space.

In theory this may have possibilities – but most childminders work from their family home and want to provide a homely environment. I needs more detail before I comment further

All good and outstanding childminders and nurseries will automatically be eligible to receive government early education funding from September. At the moment local authorities act as gatekeepers to this funding. This change will mean that over 80% of nurseries and over 70% of childminders would be able to receive this funding. Less than 10% of childminders currently offer funded places. This reform will help create a fairer market for childminders, which alongside the introduction of childminder agencies should see increased choice for parents who want high quality home-based care.

I approve of this proposal and already benefit myself from my LA already implementing this – and have argued that whatever is in place should be standarised across the country.

BUT who is going to support these childminders and nurseries, as no one is going to be providing support to those graded good and outstanding in the future – and as everyone knows an Ofsted grade is a snap shot of one day – and can be awarded when only there are not children of that age present – so where is the quality judgement on that age group. And who is going to ensure that those childminders maintain that standard?

This change will free up local authorities to work in concert with Ofsted to improve weaker providers and attract new strong providers to their areas.

Having worked for a Local Authority and as I maintain strong links with my Local Authority – I believe this is not a positive move – it is the local knowledge of all settings that enable local authorities to provide the support needed and when it was needed, to ensuring training met the needs of all its providers and passed on good practice seen in good and outstanding settings to those with lower grades: thus knew who was struggling (and even Outstanding providers can struggle every now and then), and who did not need support at that moment in time.

In my opinion this proposal will in the long run lead to lower quality across good and outstanding settings – and a lack of local knowledge.

And for the life of me – I can not see how this will attract new strong providers to an area

We will also seek to address historic unfairnesses in funding by looking to introduce a national funding formula for early education in time.

This does need looking at – but again until I have more detail – I don’t feel I can comment

In addition, we are proposing to streamline regulations, so that:

  • schools have flexibility to provide childcare beyond term times and beyond the school day, making it easier for schools to offer provision from 8am to 6pm for 3- and 4-year-olds and primary school children, in addition to enabling school nurseries to accept 2-year-olds

It would make sense to use school buildings in school holidays – and before and after school – however as already stated the hours do not suit a lot of parents – and some children do not flourish in large groups or want to spend their holidays doing structured / planned activities.

2 year olds in school nurseries continue to cause me great concern because the environment and routines that are necessary due to school timetables and building restrictions just are not suitable for 2 year olds.

  • we will remove the unnecessary after-school learning requirements for children of reception age, who are already being taught during the school day

This proposal makes sense and has my support

  • there will be a single set of safety requirements for all children, with separate learning requirements for those not at school, in place of the 3 separate sets of requirements that currently apply

I need more detail about what these ‘safety requirements’ are – but in principle it makes sense to remove contradictory requirements and to only have one set of requirements. However I do have concerns that underneath is a money saving objective – and a means to allowing unqualified / unregulated people to provide cheap childcare

  • nurseries and childminders do not need to complete paperwork such as ‘learning journeys’, meaning more time with children

Learning Journeys are not actually a requirement of EYFS 2012 – so I have to ask – ‘what other paperwork?’ Are we going to be drip fed some more information in due course?

Plus as any practitioner will tell you – on the whole paperwork does not mean  time away from the children – it means giving up personal time – and usually for free

  • we will support parents to make common sense arrangements with their friends and neighbours by increasing the amount of time that a child can be looked after informally from 2 to 3 hours per day.

So will the requirement to register with Ofsted also increase from 2 to 3 hours  for everyone. Surely anyone could say they were a friend or a neighbour, and have seven, eight, a dozen children in their care for 3 hours and be rewarded. And what stops’friend or neighbour’ then dropping the child to another ‘ friend or neighbour’ for 2 or 3 hours – in fact a whole dayof childcare  could be arranged on this basis.

In theory it sounds like it will be possible that instead of having 3 children for 10 hours and have to comply with all the regulations and associated expenses – I could have 9 children for 3 hours a day with no regulation and no associated expense! This can’t be right and so yet again more detail is required

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