The Lords and the 30 hour funding debate …….   5 comments

……. my personal thoughts

On 14th October 2015 The Lords debated the Childcare Bill, and have made some amendments.

I am grateful to the Pre- school Learning Alliance for producing a summary of this debate, and what was passed and what was not, and it is this document that I am going to base my comments on.

If you have not read the Alliance’s summary yet you can by clicking on the link

First successful amendment

Government must complete an independent review into early years funding and find a sustainable funding solution.

Government were criticised for not publishing the results of its funding review.

My comment

What surprised me was how close the vote on this was – 222 for and 209 against. It just goes to show how much more needs to be done to get the message out to those who are making these decisions. Just 13 votes difference is not enough, and could of so easily swung the other way. One way we can do this is to make sure we write letters to our MP’s and the Lords, fill in consultations, urge our membership organisation to speak up for us, enter into debate in person and on social media, write letters to the media, and support those who are trying to ensure the message is getting to those who need to understand the complexity of the issues and what it is like ‘on the coal face’

At the moment a lady called Mel  France is trying to gather information, as she has opportunity to pass it on to the Lords. She has posted her questions in a number of social media groups including one of the ones I run. Please take the time to respond

Link to my Facebook group – Childcarers Professional Advice and Support group

On the issue of not publishing the response to the review of the funding – I find this very disappointing, and do not believe that those in the DfE can not work out for themselves how much it really costs to provide early education places. After all if they can’t do this, how do the government work out other things such as how much it costs to run schools. (Oh but they do don’t they – and have come to the conclusion that it is more than they want to pay to early years – just look at the difference in pay for staff, hours worked and so on. And before anyone thinks I am saying teachers get paid too much – I am not – they deserve more pay and a lot more professional respect. However compared to early years staff – early years staff are the Cinderella’s).

Second successful amendment

Government must ensure there is enough flexibility for parents in each local authority area, who work atypical hours, and for school holidays

My comment

As a childminder who has offered these atypical hours over many years and provided school holiday cover with the same atypical hours, I wonder if the government have done any real research into if parents actually want or need this? Certainly in my area there is not a lot of demand – over and above the extended hours that most childminders provide of 7am – 6pm

I offered a 5.30am start, and a 7pm finish (with opportunity to provide babysitting in child’s home after that) – but in 5 years only one parent has used these atypical hours. I am wondering what do the government mean by atypical? And maybe they need to look at what is on offer in areas before encouraging settings to increase hours offered – when there may not be the demand.

Again the vote on this was quite close 195 for and 169 against – just 26 votes difference. We need to ensure that people like the Lords (and also the MP’s and officials working for the DfE) understand all the facts and the views of those doing the day job.

Third successful amendment

This is a new requirement – that the 30 hours should not be implemented or amended UNTIL it has been debated in Parliament

My comment

Thank goodness – we need to stop these things being rushed through without proper discussion and consultation.

However once again the vote was very close 159 for and 137 against – why do so many Lords think that nothing needed changing?

And that is it for the successful amendments!

However there were a number of unsuccessful amendments – which I would also like to comment on

First unsuccessful amendment

Requirement that each local authority should be held responsible rather than the Secretary of State.

My comment

I do understand that the Secretary of State is ultimately responsible but many parents would approach their Local Authority first with any concerns, and so I think it needs to be much clearer what the procedures are at each stage and what parents can do themselves to raise concerns at all levels. I think parents are often too worried or even intimidated to ‘hold the Secretary of State to account’

Second unsuccessful amendment

This was about removal of the clause about ‘criminal offence’ for sharing certain information.

My comment

Whilst I fully respect that people should not be sharing information inappropriately, it is sometimes very difficult to know what can share professionally and what can’t – and there is often conflicting information. So as this amendment was not successful, I think there needs to be very clear (black and white) consistent information from all agencies.

Third unsuccessful amendment

This was about ‘high quality’ and around qualifications and ratios

The Lords thought that high quality was paramount and that there was already things in place dealing with qualifications, and that the government had no plans to change ratios

My comment

Without wanting to appear rude, I think the Lords need to do a bit more research. Yes qualifications are the subject of discussion and changes – but it is a mess – even the government keep changing their position on qualifications. We have a complete unnavigable system of old and new, some things  applying in such situations but not in others, different dates for different things being implemented, and different focusses with different qualifications.

It would have been nice if the Lords could have reinforced the message that this all needs sorting so that ‘high quality’ in qualification level, content, marking is at least standard. And furthermore those already holding qualifications are not constantly worried about if their qualification counts or not, not just now but in the future.

There is also an urgent need to find a way to quantify the vast experience and knowledge with those without paper qualifications, and to find a way to ensure those that find gaining paper qualifications difficult a way to be accredited for what they know (and do).

As to ratio’s – first it was not this government, it was the coalition government that made the ratio commitment. Also are the Lords not aware of all the ‘signs’ that the government are bringing in increased ratios through the back door?  At the recent Childcare Expo VIP breakfast summit that I attend, along with many other leading people in the early years sector, one of the biggest concerns was that the government would solve the funding issue by allowing increased ratios in some circumstances. Furthermore people thought that government might suggest the way to increase income was to increase ratios and would say settings had that choice but there was no further money available to increase the funding rate.

Of course I am now a bit more hopeful (but not that much) that with a proper review and debate in Parliament that increase ratios will not be the way the government solve the issue of funding the 30 hours.

Fourth unsuccessful amendment

This one was about the actual funding rates and capital funding. It appears The Lords think that the government are committed to increasing funding rates and that there is already sufficient capital funding via two year provision.

I am afraid I do not share their optimism on this. Two year old capital funding is of no use if you do not offer two year old funding / your building needs extending or changing to meet the needs of 3 and 4 year olds – not two year olds.

And as to the government being committed to increasing funding – I am sure they are BUT will the increase cover the true costs or just be a ‘token increase’?

To conclude I am grateful to The Lords for the amendments and therefore the extra time that this will create for the matter to be discussed. However I am concerned at the very narrow difference in votes in favour and against, and also in The Lords confidence that the government will a) resolve the funding issues b) not increase ratios c) even begin to understand the root causes behind the problems now surfacing not only within early years but within the whole education system.

And on that note I would urge everyone who has any concerns about any issues within current education policy to express those concerns.

Posted October 17, 2015 by psw260259 in My thoughts on current childcare issues

5 responses to “The Lords and the 30 hour funding debate …….

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  1. Thanks Penny for highlighting the key points and raising your concerns quite rightly about how marginal the vote was. If anyone wants to send me comments direct to the questions I have posed on your Facebook group then please do so to and mark the subject header HOUSE OF LORDS. Many thanks Mel.

  2. Thank you Penny for your extended discussion of the Lords debate. At least it gives us a pause. Are you linked to the Pre-School Learning Alliance? They have mounted an informed critique of the 30 hours and have political clout. They were quick to note that the DfE response to the call for evidence on funding seemed to undermine the responses by criticising many responders for not giving accurate figures. Plus ca change! I was contacted by them to write about my own experiences, which are very typical, and I think my letter may be in next month’s Under 5 (their magazine). Hopefully a contribution to the many voices we need to come together. I’ll contact your associate who is collecting evidence too.

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