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Childcare and Education minister Sam Gyimah has outlined his plans to create greater partnerships between schools and private, voluntary and independent (PVI) providers to improve early years education in the childcare sector.
In his first public speech, at Government think tank Policy Exchange, Mr Gyimah said school-led nurseries will be ‘at the heart of (the Government’s) plan for education.’
During his speech he said: “We want to see schools teaming up with PVI nurseries, sharing the best ways to work.
“That way, families can have the flexibility of private nurseries and the expertise of schools. The best of both worlds.”
More for PVI
Responding to the minister’s plans to put school nurseries at the centre of Government plans, the chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has called for more recognition of the work of PVI providers and highlighted the continuing funding gaps these nurseries are experiencing.
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the NDNA said: “PVI nurseries are experts in delivering high quality, flexible early education and childcare. As sector leaders they have a lot to offer schools about early learning and childcare for very young children.
“Early years practitioners are experts in caring for very young children 52 weeks a year in an environment that is built for purpose; this is reflected in the 96 per cent of two-year-olds currently taking up their places in PVI nurseries.”
Ms Tanuku wants to see any expansion of two year old places into schools to be led by PVI providers as opposed to the school. She highlighted figures showing while 78 per cent of schools with two-year-old provision were graded ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, the same has been achieved by more nurseries, with 85 per cent of nurseries receiving the highest gradings.
'Pocket money' funding
She continued: “While Mr Gyimah spoke about wanting more clarity around how much funding gets from local authorities to the frontline, there was no indication there were plans to revisit the funding system. We know nurseries are not receiving the full amount per hour from local authorities with our annual Nursery Survey showing some settings getting little more than ‘pocket money’ funding for free entitlement.
“We would strongly urge the Government to look again at a national funding system for nurseries and schools as a priority.”
Pre-School Learning Alliance chief executive Neil Leitch also added: “If the minister wants to build a sector where maintained and non-maintained providers work together in partnership, he needs to make sure that they are on an even footing – but this is clearly not the case at present.”
The Alliance raised its concerns about comments made by Mr Gyimah’s during his appearance where he stated providers need to be more creative with how they use existing funding, when he was questioned about the sustainability of PVI nurseries.
Mr Leitch said: “We are extremely concerned that the Government is still ignoring the fact that the free entitlement offer is severely underfunded. To suggest that providers can address this issue by simply being ‘more creative’ demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the severity of the problem.
“Many early years providers have seen little to no change in funding levels for several years now, and are heavily reliant on fundraising, volunteers and staff working unpaid additional hours to stay afloat.
“The Government can’t continue to expect more for less.”