Nurseries pull out of 30-hour free childcare pilot over funding dispute

By Jess Brown

| 04 May 2016

The majority of childcare providers in York have refused to trial the 30-hour childcare expansion because the rates being offered are insufficient, it has been revealed.

Eight areas are to trial offering 30 hours of free childcare to three and four-year-olds. Picture: Lucie Carlier

Around 30 of approximately 45 settings in York said they will not be trialling the 30 hours free entitlement at the current rate of funding.

Providers in the city are paid £3.38 for the current 15 hours of free provision – a rate which has been frozen for the past four years – and will receive £3.95 for the additional 15 hours under the pilot.

This averages out at £3.66 per hour for a funded place, well short of the average of £4.88 that government promised would be allocated to local authorities to pass on to nurseries.

Providers in York previously said they would need £4.50 to fund the 30 free hours, which will be offered to all three- and four-year-olds of working parents from September 2017.

Out of the eight areas to pilot the expanded free entitlement, York is the only one that planned to offer it across all early years settings.

Ken McArthur, chair of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) York network, held a meeting with the majority of York's early years providers, where it was agreed they could not afford to offer the pilot at the current rate. McArthur said that the pilot will not be a true trial without York nurseries taking part.

“How can you test something that’s nothing like it will be when it's rolled out? We expected the pilot to be a genuine attempt by the government to analyse what will happen when the pilot is rolled out nationally, and York is the only one to pilot the whole area,” he told CYP Now.

“Everyone was enthusiastic before the funding rates came out, and wanted to be involved in the early implementation.”

Chief executive of NDNA Purnima Tanuku, said that if nurseries are underfunded, the pilot will fail.

“If the starting point for 30 funded hours is too low there is no hope these pilots will succeed,” she said.
 
“This pilot was set up to be able to test how the delivery of 30 funded hours would work in practice, but with so many providers prevented from taking part, it won’t give a true reflection of how an authority-wide scheme will work across all settings.

“We are hopeful that a workable solution can be found before the pilot is due to start in September. It is an early warning signal that the government must take this seriously and address the issues before the pilot starts.”

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said there is a risk what providers across the country will also refuse to offer the 30 hours.

“The lessons taken from the 30-hour trials will be absolutely pivotal to the success of the scheme as a whole, and so it is incredibly concerning that the government is risking falling at the first hurdle by continuing to offer insufficient levels of funding,” he said.

“If the Department for Education doesn’t address these long-standing funding issues, there is every possibility that we will see what is currently happening in York happening on a national scale, with more and more providers opting not to deliver the extended entitlement."

A spokesman for the DfE said: “We are investing more in childcare than any previous government - £6bn per year by 2020 to support hardworking families. We have already invested £13m for early implementation in some areas which should benefit around 5,000 children.
 
“This claim is not a reflection of the final funding rate providers will get to deliver our ‎30 hour offer from next September – this interim funding rate is specifically for areas that are starting to deliver our offer earlier for the additional hours.”

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