Education - Portability threat
WORKERS, DECEMBER 2008 ISSUE
Two years ago the government launched a consultation exercise on the funding of nursery education. The stated reasoning behind the consultation was to equalise funding between state-run school nurseries and the private, voluntary and independent sector.
Now, with all 3- and 4-year-olds due to be entitled to 15 hours a week free nursery provision, the government is tilting the scales against school nurseries.
Traditionally, schools have had nurseries funded on the basis of the number of places, covering costs of staffing on a minimum ratio of 13 children to each adult. Typically, a 52-place nursery could operate with 47 children taking up their places. The new funding arrangements will work out at £3.40 an hour. This is the key to the shift toward private provision. Instead of schools knowing how many places they can plan for over a full year, the private model of hourly rates tied to how many hours a child is signed up for each week will obtain.
Ofsted acknowledges that 56 per cent of private provision is “good”. The figure is much higher for state nurseries. The reason is that private providers typically employ much lower qualified, less experienced and cheaper staff than state schools.
Breaking the link between places and funding and replacing it with hourly, “portable” payments will pose a long-term threat to the quality of our children’s early education.