The Department for Education has produced a policy statement about the Childcare Bill today which details more consultation ahead in the New Year. It also clarifies some of the speculation about the averaging of rates and most importantly refers to transitional arrangements for local authorities ‘most affected’ by the changes to the historical differences. The £4.88 IS the new £4.56 average but as the distribution formula is changing, more will come to those who are currently more underfunded.
The clarification of the qualifying criteria for the 30 hours is made and some small differences have been noted, the most notable one is the doubling of this benefit for parents of disabled children. We have updated our Tax Free Childcare Parent Leaflet in our downloads area to recognise these changes.
It seems there will be around 390,000 three and four year olds eligible for this 30 hours offer and its highly likely that many of them are already accessing close to 30 hours. We will have to wait and see what system the HMRC come up with for parents to apply for their 30 hours online. But it will involve a ‘main reason’ test to ensure childcare is to support employment but allows a grace period to give continuity for parents who may be short-term out of work. Parents who are studying will not usually qualify, although I see there is an amendment tabled for this in the next reading. Younger parents in education already receive subsidies from the Care to Learn programme, so don’t qualify.
Confirmation of the retention of the same ratios is made and an interesting reference about the Common Inspection Framework says ‘it is too early to assess how much this (the CIF) will decrease the bureaucratic burden on providers’ – I didn’t even know that was one of its aims! Local authorities will continue to deliver funding although the possible creation of a ‘national model agreement’ has been mentioned to reduce the vast differences in agreements with providers.
Expansion of childcare is also highlighted in this statement. The £50 million capital allocation will be something to watch, where will this be targeted? I have my own ideas on this and it doesn’t involve the PVI sector, but hope I’m proved wrong !
A whole section looking at SEND reforms, old and new, includes their future aims to further improve on provision for SEND children. Previously I have read there may be even more funding, or more flexible use of funding to support our SEND children and here it talks about ‘wider consideration on allocation’ in the fairer funding system to be put into place, so fingers crossed for some better support in this area.
What I didn’t see mentioned though was a few of things that are in the Notices of Amendments to the Bill that have been tabled and was published earlier this week.
- to remove the provision in regulations to ensure childcare is made available for parents who have alternative working patterns, and during the school holidays
- Government to set out the qualifications that staff would be required to have or acquire when providing childcare for disabled children
- to require priority to be given to children who have been assessed as disadvantaged int he allocation of childcare places in childcare settings that have been classed as outstanding following inspection
- a new clause on ‘developing the early years workforce’ to include targets for children being taught by early years graduates and the proportion of staff with a level 3 qualification within certain timescales
- a new clause suggesting setting SEND co-ordinators have prescribed qualifications or experience or both and a requirement for the Local Authority to retain their SEND co-ordinators and at a ratio of 1:20 settings in the non-maintained sector
The Bill is at the Committee Stage where these things will get reviewed and discussed. But we all still have a chance to ‘have our say’ by writing or emailing in to firstname.lastname@example.org up to 15th December but the earlier the better as they can report earlier apparently. This may be your last chance to put a point across – so please do take advantage of your voice!
About the author: Tricia Wellings
Her passion for and knowledge of owning and running a nursery group and the issues within the sector that affect them is second to none. She continues to keep herself updated through regular meetings with PVI groups, Local Authorities, Ofsted Big Conversation and Conferences.
You can find our more about Tricia on her website www.triciawellings.co.uk