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The owner of an Ofsted-rated Outstanding nursery will charge working parents 75p an hour extra when their child becomes eligible for the Government’s 30 hours ‘free’ childcare and says other nurseries are taking similiar steps to avoid being out of pocket.
Ken McArthur, owner of Pollyannas Day Care Nursery in York, says when a child becomes eligible for the Government scheme for three to four-year-olds, their working parents can choose to keep using the nursery’s ‘exceptional’ service for 75p an hour extra or can apply again to join the nursery and receive the Government’s “basic” free service.
Pollyannas Day Care Nursery based in York is one of eight UK local authority areas road testing the Government’s 30 hours ‘free childcare’ policy this September. Ken McArthur says parents who pay the charge at the nursery can secure a place for their child until he or she reaches school age but those who want only free care will have to apply again for a place and would not be able to dictate their hours.
“Nurseries cannot make any charges for funded places compulsory but there is nothing in the regulations that says parents can’t get extra services and be happy to pay for them.
”All staff are paediatric first aiders”
“The service we provide is much higher than the basic service the Government is paying for. Most of my parents' children come 52 weeks of the year, all my staff are qualified to Level 3 childcare, all staff are paediatric first aid trained."
Mr McArthur also pays his staff “slightly in excess” of the national living wage and many of his parents’ children joined the nursery at nine to 12 months old.
"High level not basic services"
“My parents want a high level of service not basic services. They want their child’s nursery place to be secure. Working families do not work 38 weeks of the year, they work 52 weeks.
"Most of my parents have 25 hours a week at the nursery at £4.75 an hour for 52 weeks - that's 1,300 hours a year."
The Government is offering his nursery £4 per hour for 38 weeks to deliver its 30 hours policy. Former Prime Minister David Cameron first pledged to offer working parents 30 hours free childcare in his Conservative Party’s general election manifesto.
Mr McArthur said: “It is a poor policy. It doesn’t meet working parents’ needs. I’ve received calls from other nurseries looking to see how they can offer the Government’s ‘free’ policy and remain financially viable.”
September signals a new term and the start of the Government’s 30 hours free childcare pilots in York, Wigan, Staffordshire, Swindon, Portsmouth, Northumberland, Newham and Hertfordshire.
Vanessa Warn, who runs two nurseries called Little Green Rascals Children’s Organic Day Nursery in York, has asked parents to make contributions of £1 per hour for “additional services” in response to the 30 hours pilot. Her request has prompted positive feedback from parents.
She said: “Many children started coming to the nursery at birth. We discuss costs when children join. We have ballet and a whole range of services available. Parents are happy to pay it.”
Ms Warn stressed free childcare for disadvantaged two-year-olds, would see these children continue to receive free childcare when they reach the age of three.
The pilot scheme aims to double the amount of hours paid to nurseries from 15 to 30 hours. £13 million is being invested by the Government to help eight councils across the country deliver 30 hours free childcare for working parents of three-and four-year-olds – a year before the scheme is rolled out across the country.
York is the only location where the policy will be tested in day nurseries, childminders, playgroups and schools with nurseries in the city. However some nurseries in York threatened to walk away from the pilot last May before they were offered an increase in funding to £4 per hour from the Department for Education.