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Amongst the few bright points in the Chancellor’s autumn statement was the announcement of further investment in free childcare for 2 year-olds, with 40% of families now set to benefit. The Coalition will provide an additional £380 million of early investment a year by 2014/15 to cover a further 130,000 free childcare places.

The Coalition’s continued support for early year’s education is pleasing and reflects the genuine support the early years now receive across the political spectrum. Ensuring enough high quality provision for 130,000 and then 260,000 children will be a key challenge for local authorities, particularly as access to childcare remains limited in some areas, but we are confident that this challenge can be met.

The Chancellor’s announcement follows on from last year’s comprehensive spending review where free childcare for all 3-4 year olds was increased from 12.5 to 15 hours a week and extended to cover 130,000 places for 2 year-olds. The announcement of expanding the 2 year-old offer beyond the 20 per cent most disadvantaged – largely those in families on out of work benefits – means it will now be accessible to the children of low income working families, providing them with a subsidy to the value of between £50-75 per week which will be a welcomed boost in difficult times.

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  1. Ken McArthur on January 4, 2012
    Whilst it is very good news from the coalition government for children & families that there has been an increase from 12.5 hours to 15 hours per week for 3 & 4 year-olds in 2011 and from the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement that there is to be an increase from 20% to 40% of all 2 year-olds in 2013 eligible to receive 15 hours of free early years care. The concern for many private Early Years Daycare providers is to do with the value of these 'free' hours under these schemes and the problem of a myriad of Early Years Single Funding Formulas (EYSFF). According to a survey conducted by the Nation Day Nurseries Association amongst is members in June 2012, it give a range of values depended on the local authority area from as little as £2.05 to £5.00 per hour with the national average hourly rate being £3.51. With staff costs representing approx. 70-75% of the cost of running any early years setting, it can be clearly seen that there is a need to address the long term financial viability of many daycare early years settings particularly those that operate at the higher range of the quality spectrum. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is both the regulatory document as well as practice guidelines book a set by government and what Ofsted inspects settings against. Even with the current Dame Tickell review changes to the EYFS there has been no movement on the fundamentals of minimum qualification of setting management or qualifications for staff, no changes to suitable property, provision of meals and Quality Assurance schemes. It does contain many references to quality and quality improvement but the measuring stick is left to Ofsted and that judgement is made on one short day every 2 or 3 years. Within the EYSFF some local authority areas have a ‘quality supplement’, unfortunately these have proved to be very ineffective in both rewarding those setting offering a high quality service and in driving up quality levels within those areas. Research on this is patchy as the EYSFF has only been in operation nationally (England) since April 2011 but anecdotal evidence does point to this as problem not solved by the current levels of supplements. There are many arguments surrounding quality supplements, the two extremes being: we should be rewarding those that invest in providing a high quality service; to, we should not be taking funding away from settings that are struggling to improve as lower funding will result in poorer services. If operators of Early Years settings accept the governments mantra ‘No more Money’, they must allow those settings that have high operating costs to continue to offer those welcomed ‘free’ additional hours for all 3 & 4 year olds and the increased number of 2 year olds in a manner that does not cause their financial security and ability to invest in continued quality improvement to be put in jeopardy as the people that will suffer the greatest loss will not the owners of these setting but the nations youngest children and best asset for the future of this country.
  2. Ken McArthur on January 4, 2012
    NB The NDNA Members survey was June 2011.
  3. Pingback: The Queen, the Prime Minister, the Mayor and three Romans « June's blog 11 May, 2012

    […] any attention paid to small children in the SEN changes.  This will be critical as we roll out the Two Year Old Offer, not least as we try to get speedy assessment and family support for the youngest children with […]

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    […] a Government with good intentions but no money. The main Government initiative at present is the Two Year Old programme, only the challenges remain the same: inadequate funds for the free offer, cost of training, demise […]

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  6. louise Dillon on September 25, 2012
    would the new funding only be for Childminders who are accredited?