On Tuesday 21st June, a local nursery welcomed Michael Tomlinson, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, to a meeting to discuss their concerns over the childcare funding rates currently being offered across the South. Cheryl Hadland, Managing Director for Tops Day Nurseries, was joined by Jeannette Pike and Louise Speer from Merley Pre-School and Caroline Marks from First Steps Nursery, to discuss the future for Early Years providers.
Mr Tomlinson MP was invited to the Wimborne setting of Tops Day Nurseries, which currently has 17 nurseries across the South. He was first given a tour of the busy nursery, helping the children play, paint and also read a story to one group of children before moving on to discuss the current restrictions nurseries are facing in terms of funding rates.
“We were delighted that Mr Tomlinson was able to join us so we could take the opportunity to explain the situation early years providers are facing,” explains Cheryl. “Currently parents of 3 and 4 year olds receive a maximum of 15 hours free childcare each week for 38 weeks of the year. The government subsidise these free hours, however their rates do not come close to covering the costs we have, which works out as an average of around £5 per hour per child. This includes staff costs, rent or mortgage payments, utilities, resources, food; the list goes on. An announcement was made in April regarding new funding from local authorities and in some cases the amount of funding we receive has been reduced from before, with our Poole nurseries hit the worst where the funding was reduced from £4.16 per hour to just £3.71 per hour.”
Since April’s announcement, Cheryl has spent the last two months seeking support from other early year’s providers affected by the rates, as well as canvassing the local MP’s, which led to the visit on 21st June from Michael Tomlinson MP. “Things will only get worse later in the year with the introduction of the 30 hours free funding, with several nurseries around England already stating they will not be offering this new structure of funding as they will not continue to be sustainable businesses.”
As well as discussing these two points, other topics included the impact that paying VAT and business rates has, the repercussions should the apprenticeship levy be implemented as planned, and the block to professional development for nursery practitioners being made by the government insisting on GCSE C grades in Maths and English before doing a Level 3 course. Cheryl concluded, “As well as these areas of concern, Mr Tomlinson will also be taking our petition to the Minister. We created the petition following the announcement in April to encourage government to review the funding rates now and not wait for the next round of changes in April, and to date we have over 27,000 signatures. This is the time for Early Years providers to come together and fight for what we deserve as childcare providers to be able to provide the best for our future generations.”
Michael Tomlinson MP said of the visit, “I was delighted to be able to meet with local childcare providers to hear their concerns. Tops Wimborne is an excellent local nursery and I was pleased to be able to see the facility for myself. I am meeting with Ministers and will ensure that the views of childcare experts are well known and listened to. Early years funding is hugely important and I am working for a good deal for Poole & Dorset.”
To find out more details about the petition from Tops Day Nurseries you can visit their website www.topsdaynurseries.co.uk.