Exactly how long will the childcare sector last as we know it?
Fee increases across the sector, closures going up, and now a major inquiry launched by the government to find out just how we got into this mess.
All those stories and plenty more in this month’s 10-point breakdown of all the childcare news that matters.
1. Is the childcare sector sustainable?
An all-party parliamentary group (APPG) of MPs has already started to investigate the challenges facing childcare providers. Chair of the APPG, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, has said there is ‘clear evidence that the financial sustainability of the childcare sector is at risk’.
At the launch of the APPG, heads of nursery groups and the main associations told MPs of the problems with underfunding and poor pay across the sector.
+ The Education Secretary Damian Hinds found himself under pressure this week after Labour MP Lucy Powell brought up a recent daming report from Nursery World in Parliament. A Nursery World Freedom of Information request found that 27 schemes targeted at disadvantaged children are either in the process of being cut or already have been.
+ Early Years Minister Nadhim Zahawi has set out the next steps for the £20m early years fund, explaining that the DfE is looking for a national training partner to develop and train early years ‘Champions’ in over 50 local areas.
2. Fees are going up
53% of private nurseries in England have increased their fees in the last 12 months, according to new figures released by the Department for Education (DfE).
Is anyone really surprised by these new figures? “Systemic underfunding has left many providers struggling to break even,” explains PLSA CEO neil Leitch, “forcing them to choose between increasing fees and risking closure.”
The figures from the government also revealed statistics on the total number of providers, where they spend their money, and what occupancy looks like across the sector. They also revealed that nearly 9,000 providers have closed since 2016.
+ A Nursery World investigation has revealed that there is a huge divide in nursery closures, highlighting both the disproportionate closure of smaller settings and a huge difference in closures vs openings across different areas of the country.
+ An interesting time for the results of one of the biggest ever childhood education studies to come out. Spoiler alert – early childhood education works.
3. £18m for disadvantaged learners
The government has announced £18m in funding for projects to help disadvantaged families to nurture their child’s early development at home.
Already announced initiatives include £6.5m for projects to close the disadvantage gap at age five and support children with SEND, while £5m is for trials in the north of England to understand how best to support parents in disadvantaged communities.
+ Is it enough? A recent survey from the National Deaf Children’s society has shown that 82% of parents are concerned that there is inadequate funding to support their child’s learning. 40% said the reforms made in 2014 have made the situation worse, with only 5% saying the sitaution has improved.
4. Who is looking after childminders?
There has been a lot of childminder-related news out this month. Here are just some of the stories:
- The DfE has axed the childminder funding scheme – The only national funding scheme helping new childminders to start their business is no more, after the government announced it will end in March 2019 due to low take-up.
- Less childminders with level 3 – New research from PACEY has shown that the percentage of childminders with a level 3 qualification has fallen for the first time in three years. Only 1% are currently studying.
- Campaign to dispel childminding myths – A campaign from five childminding organisations across the UK and Ireland is aiming to dispel some myths about childminders, including that they are just babysitters, not regulated, and that the job is just for women.
- Childminders left unpaid after technical glitch – In the latest glitch with the tax-free childcare system, childminders were left up to £1,000 out of pocket this month.
5. The month in child development
Here are the studies worth paying attention that have come out in the last month:
- A storytelling kit has been proven to close the gender literacy gap by 62%, after studies on the Tales Toolkit were done at Goldsmiths, University of London.
- Preschool children are still listening even when they’re napping according to a study that looked into whether children had memory traces of sounds they heard while napping.
- Teaching parents how to speak ‘parentese’ impacts how their children learn, as this study shows that infants whose parents were taught to speak clearly and slowly, with exagerrated vowels and intonation, have improved vocabulary.
- Babies can understand complex grammatical structures at five months, according to this study by the Max Planck Institute.
- Avoiding showing negative emotions or conflict around children is not the best idea, and you’re better to express negative emotions in a healthy way than attempt to hide them from children.
- Air pollution and child obesity linked as parents call for nurseries to be banned in pollution hotspots.
6. Funding rates going nowhere
The funding rates for 2019-2020 have been been labeled ‘downright irresponsible’, after it was announced only two local authorities will see an increase.
With 100+ LAs receiving the same funding and 13 council funding rates actually dropping, it’s increasingly apparent that the government have no plans to improve their disastrous scheme.
Just how disastrous? This month we spoke with Neil Leitch from PSLA and Jo Morris Golds from campaign group Champagne Nurseries on Lemonade Funding to find out why 30 hours free childcare is a lie, and what we could possibly do to improve it.
+ The £600m underspend on tax-free childcare will be returned to the Treasury, sparking fury across the early years industry that the leftover funds from the disaster-ridden scheme will not remain in the sector.
7. ELGs branded ‘criminal’
Early years experts attacked the new Early Learning Goals at a Westminster Education Forum event this month.
As we’ve previously reported, the proposed ELGs are unpopular due to too narrow a focus on reading books, while maths, communication skills and creativity have been downgraded.
Director of Quality Improvement at PLSA, Michael Freeston, claims that being imaginative has been ‘reduced to performing’, branding the move ‘criminal’.
8. Do men in childcare matter?
At the LEYF annual Margeret Horn debate this month, the LEYF team looked into whether increasing the number of men in childcare is a goal worth aiming for. Following a study of children in a number of their settings, it seems that the children certainly do think it’s worthwhile. What’s more, the article makes the crucial point that children need to see our diverse society reflected in their pedagogy.
The study conducted by LEYF also found that nursery workers unconsciously reinforce gender stereotypes, which can be really harmful to a child’s development. If you want some tips to find out how you can watch out for gender stereotyping at your setting, check out our article with 12 simple places to start.
9. The business bit
November has brought with it a rise in the amount of business news coming from the sector after a slow October. Here are the highlights:
10. In other news
+ A frustrated father has started a social media campaign called #squatforchange, around the lack of proper baby change facilities in men’s toilets.
+ Nursery staff leave their warm beds and sleep rough for one cold night to raise money for Children in Need.
+ Looking for your next favourite book? Check out the New York Times list of the Best Illustrated Children’s Book of 2018.
+ A heartwarming story of a Hull school that asked the government for £500 for a free breakfast club, but got £250,000 instead.