The Pre – school Learning Alliance – Early Years Agenda: Interim Report   1 comment

The Pre -school Learning Alliance have been in the news over the last few days due to the publication of their Interim Report into the Early Years Agenda

If you have not seen it yet you can download it here Early Years Agenda:Interim Report

I admit that I have been a bit slow off the mark in writing my own personal review of this report – however since I received my personal copy at the Pre school Learning Alliance AGM on Friday 6th June – my life has been hectic to say the the least – and it was not until the evening of 14th June while in my caravan for a weekend a way – that I actually found the time to read the report in full – from cover to cover.

 

And so – a bit delayed but here are my personal thoughts on the Early Years Agenda: Interim Report. I am not going to go through it page by page or word by word as I do sometimes with other reports – instead I am going to dip in and out of the report, picking up on the things that stood out to me – and so this review will be a rather unusual!

As I am rather pushed for time at the moment – I have decided to provide my feedback on the Interim Report in stages – so this is Part One. More to follow as and when I have time – but hopefully in the meantime people will access the full report themselves and have a read.

I am going to start near the end of the report – on page 53, because the information on this page puts the report into context.

It explains that this report is the first of a number of in depth pieces of research that the Alliance is going to commission. Other areas to be covered will be

  • The true cost of delivering free entitlement places
  • Pay and conditions in the early years sector
  • Parent views on the current childcare sector and proposed government changes

All of this research – once completed will be used to underpin the Alliances ‘Early years manifesto for government’. This will be a realistic plan of action with these three key principles

  • The needs of the child must always be at the centre of all decision making
  • Policy should be based on an extensive body of evidence, not the personal views of government ministers (or other policy drivers, such as Ofsted.
  • Consulting with the early years sector should be the first step of policy development, not the last.

And in my personal opinion – quite so – I could not have put it better myself – those three key principles are what is sadly missing at the moment, and we are all now beginning to have to ‘put up with’ (can’t bring myself to say accept) the consequences of these three principles not guiding our current government.

 

I am now going to flick back to the beginning of the report for another crucial piece of information – on page 5 it says that this interim report is based on a survey (both online and via paper copies) conducted by the Alliance – to which 1270 people responded.

Flicking back to the end of the report on page 59, there is a break down of the providers type who responded – these are shown in % figures, and so with the aid of my calculator – I have tried to give approximate numbers of respondents – although of course I have had to round the figures and have chosen to round down, rather than up. So – there were;

304 nurseries

673 pre schools / playgroups

127 childminders

25 children’s centres

12 baby and toddler groups

114 other respondents

As those of you with calculators will work out a few numbers have been lost in the rounding down process – but it does give a clear picture of the number and type of respondents.

 

The questions in the survey were based on;

Funding

Schools (and out of hours care)

Childminder Agencies

Ofsted

and an area called ‘general’

I strongly recommend that you do click on the link at the beginning of this blog and read the report yourselves as there is a lot of background information that I am not going to reproduce here – but that is very interesting  – and useful.

However, for those of you with limited time, and those of you who would like a ‘heads up’ before deciding if should read or not – here are my personal thoughts;

Starting with the area of Funding;

Three and Four Year Old Funding

73% of respondents felt that the amount paid by the government for 3 & 4 yr old places was NOT adequate to cover the cost of providing those places. I find it interesting that 8% did not know if the amount was adequate – and think this must have something to do with the fact that settings are unsure of the true cost due to volunteers contributions, and staff and managers doing things in their own time.

Also interesting is the fact the those that did give actual figures – suggest that there is a average shortfall of 91p per hour per child. So if a child is accessing the full 15 hours of funding – there is a shortfall per child of  £13.65 per week, per child – or over £500 per academic year per child. For small settings it will be hard to absorb those costs – and for some larger settings – say with 24 places – the shortfall is an eye watering amount of  over £12,000 per academic year.

Of course for some settings the shortfall is not so large – but in these financially challenging times, any shortfall is difficult to cover.

Two Year Old Funding

In relation to funding for two years olds the responses indicate that many still feel funding is not adequate – but not as many for the 3 & 4 year old funding, and the average shortfall is less, at 60p per hour per child. Even so using the same example setting with 24 funded places this equates to a massive shortfall over the academic year of around £8,000.

 

The report gives a lot of background information in relation to the funding which is worth reading if unfamiliar with this.

One point that I agree with and have already mentioned is the ‘goodwill’ of those who work in early years settings, with many doing huge numbers of unpaid hours, or buying things to support the setting that never get claimed for because they get forgotten about, or were not pre approved expenses or the receipt was lost, or I had some at home – and so on, in general just well practised ‘excuses’ by those who know that actually the setting cannot afford these extra things.

Many practitioners do paperwork at home in the evening or at the weekend. Recently I carried out a mini survey on one of my Facebook groups – asking who was doing paperwork, or preparing for the following week – this was at 9pm on a Sunday evening! A huge number of childminders, some pre school staff and nursery staff were;- updating records, laminating stuff, emailing parents, doing their planning, – one was even sewing bean bags to use in the setting – all of this unpaid time – and often using resources from home – I am ‘guilty’ of doing this and I know that if I charged for these extra hours of work my setting would be unsustainable unless I put my fees up to parents – and I know that the amount of funding that I receive does not cover the real cost.

I will be really interested in the findings from the Alliances part of this research into the true cost of providing the free entitlement – and although not part of the Alliance research – I would be really interested in finding out what the true cost of provided a place at an early years setting is – if all staff were paid were paid for all the hours they work – and all resources were paid through the setting accounts not individuals bank accounts.

It actually goes a lot deeper than that – as many people give their time as a volunteer for early years organisations such as the Alliance, and in peer to peer support through social media and face to face meetings. If all this volunteer time had to ‘counted’ – I think the true cost of providing a place in an early years setting would surprise many – including myself – as how many of really know how much we provide for free in various wys?

 

 

One response to “The Pre – school Learning Alliance – Early Years Agenda: Interim Report

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  1. Pingback: The Alliance Early Years Agenda:Interim Report – Part Two of my thoughts | Penny's Place Childminding

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